Oxford female-led deep tech businesses named finalist in global Female Founders competition

Photo shows: Dr Ilana Wisby, Founder of Oxford Quantum Circuits
Dr. Ilana Wisby Oxford Quantum Circuits

A spinout from the University of Oxford which has built the UK’s most advanced quantum computer and a company which is deploying bio-photonics and AI have been named two of ten global finalists in a major Microsoft competition, named the M12 Female Founders Competition.

Both are based in Oxford and both are working in the field of deep technology.

Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC) has built the UK’s most advanced quantum computer—the only one commercially available in the country. OQC is now developing a unique Quantum Computing as a Service platform to enable its partners and customers to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Ilof, which is based in Oxford and Portugal, uses AI and photonics to build a cloud-based library of disease biomarkers, initially focusing on one of the biggest epidemics of our time: Alzheimer’s disease.

The Female Founders Competition is a global contest to identify and fund top women entrepreneurs who are leading enterprise tech startups. This year, Microsoft’s venture fund, M12, is partnering with Mayfield and Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company founded by Melinda Gates, to help create a more equitable playing field for innovative female founders and the partnership will invest a total of $6 million in four female-founded companies. The two Oxford tech companies are up against other female-founded tech businesses from London, Hamburg, Tel Aviv and Israel, alongside a further ten from across the United States.

Dr Ilana Wisby, Founder of Oxford Quantum Circuits, said: “I’m delighted to meet other female founders, learn from their experience, and prove women’s ability to lead successful commercial ventures, even in deep tech. It’s also a formidable opportunity to propel OQC to the next level with support from world-renowned investors.”

Tamara Steffens, General Manager and Managing Director at M12 – Microsoft’s Venture Fund, said: “With 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley, I’ve seen first-hand how difficult it can be to grow a successful startup. Building great technology, recruiting talent, and landing customers are all difficult challenges that every entrepreneur faces. But for some entrepreneurs, there are additional hurdles that prevent them from realizing success.

“Access to venture capital—a sometimes critical lever for company growth—proves to be one of these “bonus” hurdles, for women in particular. Early stage female founders pitching for capital receive on average $1 million less than their male counterparts.”