Emma’s mission for tech start ups for social good

My piece in the Yorkshire Post business pages

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Entrepreneur Emma Cheshire has overcome big challenges in both her personal and business life. She spoke to Catherine Turnbull.

She played football in an all-boys’ team, has a feminist father and attended a school with a broad church of kids from the outback to the city.

These early influences of social equality have set the agenda for Dotforge’s co-founder and CEO Emma Cheshire; a woman with a mission to connect the North of England with the rest of the world.

Dotforge is an accelerator for early stage companies.

 It offers three months of mentoring and networking and provides £18,000 of funds for teams creating technology to extend social impact or tech start-ups working to improve society.

Born in Canberra, Australia, with two younger brothers, Ms Cheshire said: “My dad is a very strong feminist so as children we were all brought up in a similar way.

“As the oldest girl if I wanted to do something I did it, such as joining the soccer team. And Australia, unlike here, is a very positive competitive environment.

“Myself and my brothers grew up in this witty, friendly world full of banter and our school had kids with different aspirations but who had the same access to education, and some really exceptional teaching.”

“I couldn’t read at the age of eight. They did an IQ test and I was lucky they decided to invest in me and I had one-to-one tutoring for two years so I caught up,” she said.

“So having to strive and being at the bottom of the class taught me how to get ahead, I was determined to start high school in the top stream and at my core I am pretty competitive with myself.”

After thinking she would work in the arts but being good at chemistry she went to the ANU (Australian National University) to study a BA in chemistry, archaeology and art history with the aim of becoming an arts conservator, but learned she couldn’t sit all day painstakingly cleaning artefacts.

She left Australia in 1996 to travel and ended up in Edinburgh working for Portfolio Gallery and then York in 1998 for Impressions Gallery and Yorkshire has been her adopted home pretty much since.

Her roles have included national development work for Arts Council England and being head of industry development for Screen Yorkshire which both showed her the value of seizing opportunities and building connections on pan-northern projects around digital.

“During my Arts Council days I worked collaboratively with colleagues in the North East and North West and we could show how strong the north is in digital arts and influence London,” she says.

She fell in love with a Yorkshireman she met in Exeter, now her husband, and the Yorkshire landscape.

“I fell in love with the landscape as soon as I arrived, flying over England. I like the Yorkshire straightness and bluffness in the people; it’s very like Australia. Quick but very dry.

“I worked out that my core skills are how you bring good people together, how you support people to be able to deliver their vision for an audience or customer with a finite amount of resources.”

These are key messages for Dotforge Impact, a specialist programme which partners with the Key Fund community development finance institution. It invests £18,000 into tech start-ups and there is an opportunity for teams to apply for a further £500,000 at the end of the programme.

It also partners the teams with the RSA and a network of business and social entrepreneurs from around the world.

Its previous three accelerators have helped 26 truly innovative teams that do good, such as PiP Payments, which gives access to payment for online shopping for people without bank accounts.

The next round, which is open to applications, starts in September and will be located in Manchester at Central Working; a co-working hub at the heart of the tech community in the city.

”We give the teams office space for 13 weeks and the programme is focused on building a product with their potential customers. It’s all about identified need, not about building technology and hoping you can find a customer.

“It is isolating and hard work starting a business and being entrepreneurial is often seen a bit strange or risky by peers and friends, so part of the value of putting people in the same room is that they can learn from each other and build long-term friendships they can draw on when times get tough – which they do.

“The mentor layer is incredibly important because it helps the start-ups find people who might become advisers, or their first hires or become investors or even customers.

“It helps integrate the entrepreneurs into the business community.”

As Dotforge matured Ms Cheshire learned the accelerator needed to be more focused on the industries the teams are involved with.

Dotforge Impact supports “tech for good” teams trying to solve social issues.

It is the first of many industry focused programmes which build in the strengths of different locations in the North of England.

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Realrider PR drives 999 safety app for bikers

I am delighted to be working with Cause UK. And to see my PR used by UK media including BQ


A former BQ Emerging Entrepreneur winner has secured £80,000 in funding from social investment ‘bank’ Key Fund.

Co-founder and business development director for REALsafe Technologies, Andrew Richardson and founder Zoe Farrington

The funding will help the biker safety app developed by Realsafe Technologies team Zoe Farrington and Andrew Richardson connect to the 999 network across the UK.

The technology has already been piloted by the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and will now be integrated by BT to ensure alerts are treated as any other 999 emergency call.

Realsafe CEO, motorcyclist and mother of three, Zoe, said she is delighted that Key Fund recognized the positive social impact of the road safety tool, which uses the tilts and turns of a rider’s movement to detect problems.

She said: “We have a background in promoting road safety for the government and working with the NHS we have spent 24 months on the first phase and the pilot project for REALRIDER®.

“As a duty of care during that time we’ve ensured the technology is robust and it is performing usefully.

“Now with Key Fund’s validation and investment we can progress the next phase owing to a five-year contract with BT.

“Our app will send alerts direct to emergency control rooms across the UK. This is a massive step as we’re the first company to produce an officially recognised emergency app.”

Last year, Zoe Farrington spoke to BQ editor Brian Nicholls about how she and Andrew were on a big lifesaving push to have their acclaimed and innovative app, a global first, taken up by half a million UK bikers.

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Greece says a big fat ‘no’


The party is in full swing in Syntagma Square in Athens where the ‘No’ campaigners declared a victory amidst boos at the name of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

There has been no sign of ‘Yes’ supporters and an absence of police as revelers danced to Zorba the Greek and waved flags., chanting: Oxi, oxi, oxi.”

Gregory Pierroutsakos (pictured)  of the E.P.A.M. party told a cheering crowd it was time to go back to the drachma.

Gregory Pierroutsakos

“This is the first step towards freedom for the Greek people. We are not for sale. This is a big no to Merkel.”

Another impassioned speaker declared: “We say no to a German Europe. We say yes to a Europe with solidarity with friendship. We have already said no three times with history. The first no was in 1821 to the Turks. The scond was in 1942 against Germans. Today is the third no.”

During the day Greek families travelling to the beach who had voted earlier said they were voting no though conviction that Europe would not turn its back on Greece.

“We can’t believe they would throw us out. It would be bad for everyone,” said grandmother of three Maria Perro. “Everyone has so much to lose. But no one can take any more austerity.

“The problem is so many people have cheated and not paid tax. We are in a complete mess whatever happens.”

Today small change has been running out and even the Acropolis Museum struggled to find change for a 20 euro note for a 5 euro entrance fee, as Greeks withdraw their daily 60 euro allowance from ATMs.

On the islands, such as Corfu, the majority of shops, restaurants and room landlords I spoke to are demanding cash, not cards, even though this is an illegal demand.

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You Sent Me Out 1: Blog for Caught by the River

You Sent Me Out

12 February 2015 //  On Nature


You Sent Me Out. Words and picture: Catherine Turnbull.

A cry of anguish pierced the wall between our rooms followed by uncontrollable sobbing. My mother was speechless with fury, her cheeks blotched red and tear-streaked like mine as a toddler four decades earlier. Back then she wiped my sorrows away and soothed me with stories. It was my turn now.

‘Just look at the weather while I am stuck in here like a prisoner,’ she said between wheezy gasps. ‘I should be striding out seeing the foals tasting the new grass, the crocuses lifting their heads to the sun, birds courting in the trees, Highland calves taking their first unsteady steps.’ 

The morphine had created a fairytale world beyond her threshold and her glittering eyes feasted on visions of springtime happenings. ‘Go girl, go and tell me what you see,’ she commanded.

Her cancererous world was bounded by walls and glass, apart from the time we bundled her into the car and that was so painful it outweighed the benefit. I could never bear to be in the classroom whilst the sun shone outside, so cannot imagine the anger she felt at permanent imprisonment.

Mum was a countrywoman who did her best on long walks to teach the young me and my sister the names of trees, plants, birds, fish but somehow they never stuck. I had a blind spot and risked her drug-induced wrath and disappointment if I didn’t return with the vital nature report.

I struck up an ancient sunken lane lined with nettles towards the patches of primroses at the edge of a copse. These were easy to identify. Brown sticky buds enclosed the conkers of the future on the horse chestnuts, there was a scrubby patch of wood anemones and ransoms were yet to unleash their garlic flowers and send me running to the omelette pan with handfuls of pungent leaves.

So far, so fairly dull. Then I got my story. A kerfuffle of feathers and the meek moorhens were squaring up for a fight on the pond. Flashing their white undertails amidst chuckles and trumpeting they turned and thrashing a storm, walked on water as they lunged and parried. No blood was spilled after quarter of an hour but honour was satisfied. And I had enough copy to go home.

I took the stairs two at a time eager to report on the stirrings of spring. Too late, Mum slept the sleep of one exhausted by her fight and pain relief. My stories would wait till later.

In the following months I took her thirst for nature news to the enth degree by walking the course of the River Wye alone from estuary to source and way above the plains and valleys on the ancient ridgeways from Dorset to Norfolk. My way of grieving. Her legacy to me was born in my early years when she took me foraging for brambles and bluebells as her mother did before (before we knew picking wildflowers was a sin).

That walk up the sunken lane spawned an award-winning short story and a poem, which won second place. But most of all my mother’s cry taught me life is for the living until we draw our last breath.

Catherine Turnbull is a newspaper editor by day and a scribbler of novels, short stories and plays at night. She has lived on a beach and a harbour-side in Orkney and on a cliff top on the Isle of Portland in Dorset. Now a landlubber she seeks out river and canal side walks to see the glint of sun on water.

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A real journalist working for you


Do you need an experienced journalist to help you promote your business in newspapers and magazines, on TV and radio or to audiences online?

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