On International Women’s Day 2023, Becky Cotton (EMBA 2015) has been announced as a winner of an Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award, which recognises trailblazing women entrepreneurs.
Innovate UK Women in Innovation Awards recognise women with exciting, innovative ideas who will inspire others. The award includes a £50,000 grant and bespoke business support. Becky has been recognised for her work with Lumino, a company that is reinventing how mental health treatment is delivered by developing scalable, evidence-based digital therapeutic programmes, which will make better mental health accessible for people across the world.
Becky has always been passionate about social change and believes in the potential of digital technology to make people’s lives better. She co-founded Lumino in 2020. Lumino’s first mission is to better support women going through menopause and its inaugural product, Seren, is currently at the beta stage.
Psychological therapy as a scalable intervention
Seren is an evidence-based, digital intervention accessible via laptop, smartphone or tablet that will have a measurable improvement on the lives of women going through menopause. It is personalised to the user’s symptoms and based on clinical evidence. The programme’s content builds on hundreds of user interviews. Seren provides support for a range of mental and physical symptoms, including stress, anxiety, hot flushes and sleep. It operates on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy and third-wave psychological therapies and the aim is for people to have access to Seren via their GP and, potentially, their employer.
Becky describes receiving the Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award as “phenomenal”. She is delighted that, not only will Lumino benefit from the significant cash injection and business support, but there is also a one-year programme for awardees, which includes “an exciting opportunity to encourage young girls not only to start thinking about entrepreneurship as something that they could do but also to start thinking about careers in STEM because we need a lot more women coming into the startup sector and playing their part in the future of our economy.”
Lack of investment in female-founded businesses
Becky sees the startup world as still being very much “dominated by white founders, by privileged founders and by male founders”. Women face very real barriers when breaking into this world. Becky continues, “only about 2% of venture capital funding goes to female-founded businesses”. An enormous amount must happen in this sector to bring about real change. At the same time, “the opportunity to have an impact on the industries that people care about is absolutely huge. Nowhere else can you have that level of impact than in entrepreneurship.”
It’s innovation that’s going to drive change
Becky’s own entrepreneurial journey started with an Executive MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School. Becky says that the EMBA opened her eyes to entrepreneurship, taking off the “professional blinkers and making me think about what else I might like to do beyond my immediate world”. Before the EMBA, she had specialised in healthcare at policy and national government level and “hadn’t really associated entrepreneurship with necessarily much more than making a profit”. However, she came to realise that “you can have greater impact through entrepreneurship than you might have through professions traditionally associated with public service.”
After completing the EMBA and subsequently co-founding Lumino, Becky returned to Cambridge Judge in 2021. Lumino is a cohort member of the Cambridge Social Ventures programme, offered by the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation, and the Accelerate Cambridge programme for startup businesses, offered by the Entrepreneurship Centre. Both centres are based at the Business School.
“I’m delighted that Becky won the recent Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award,” says Mark Goodson, Head of Practice at Cambridge Social Ventures. “Becky is a dedicated social entrepreneur and Lumino has the potential to reinvent how mental health treatment is delivered, by making it more affordable, highly scalable and easy to access. It’s been a pleasure to work with Becky on the Cambridge Social Ventures programme.”
Cambridge Judge provides founders with a safe place
Becky describes Accelerate Cambridge as being committed to supporting what she would call “underestimated founders, people from diverse backgrounds who don’t fall into the Mark Zuckerberg kind of mould”. It is open to ventures that are started by anyone, irrespective of whether they have a connection with the Business School or wider University. Becky applauds its commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. In Accelerate Cambridge, Becky found a “community of founders of all ages, of all backgrounds. We’re all working on all sorts of amazing and mind-bogglingly brilliant things and it’s a hugely supportive community, which is there to help if people ever have questions about the best way to approach a hiring decision, where to find specialist legal advice, or simply if they want to share and talk about a negative experience.”
Female founders and entrepreneurs must find their community
Following on from her experience with Accelerate Cambridge, Becky’s advice to other female founders and entrepreneurs is to “find your tribe”. She stresses the importance of finding a group of supporters early on. She continues, “Trust your gut. You’re developing and building something that’s yours and it’s you that gets to decide what that will look like and what shape that will take. And that’s a really exciting thing to be able to do.”