EPISODE #16

From Wales to Silicon Valley and back again: the Welsh entrepreneurs combining beauty and tech

Helena Ford
  • Born in Wales, grew up in Wales, worked in Wales
  • Cardiff, Wales
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Fresh out of studying Computer Science at University in Bristol, I already had experience of working at one of the largest tech companies globally, IBM; where I learned a lot working in the team that reported directly to the CTO of Software in Europe. However, I still had an insatiable appetite for experiencing something more early-stage.

This led me to pursue startups and entrepreneurship. In 2015, I applied for the Silicon Valley Internship Program (SVIP), founded by fellow Welsh entrepreneur Michael Hughes. The SVIP gives software engineering graduates from top UK universities the unique experience of a 1 year internship with hot VC-backed tech startups over in Silicon Valley. 

"In 2015, I applied for the Silicon Valley Internship Program (SVIP), founded by fellow Welsh entrepreneur Michael Hughes."

Moving across continents, to San Francisco, a new country with strangers I had never met was definitely something new within itself. We were a group of 16, all wide-eyed and excited to experience life in the technology capital of the world. During my time in the states, I met a great group of friends, including my co-founder, Kirsty Williams. 

Kirsty and I were both on the programme, and happened to be the only Welsh and only two women in the group. We became instant friends and bonded over our love for beauty and tech. I noticed Kirsty had a heap of makeup lying around, barely used and asked why she had so much. The answer was “YouTube made me buy it”. Wasting thousands of pounds on make up due to ill-informed purchases, we both realised we had a shared problem and decided to work together to find a solution.

"I met Kirsty on the programme, and happened to be the only Welsh and only two women in the group. We became instant friends and bonded over our love for beauty and tech."

We worked tirelessly during the day for our startups and returned home at the end of each day and weekend to write even more code. Our social lives slowly disintegrated, and we were driven solely by the desire to shape our ideas into a platform. With only a prototype, we got significant industry interest from companies including, US beauty retail giant, Sephora. This was a sign we were onto something big.

"We quit our jobs to move home to Wales to work on DashHound. It’s an exciting time to be in our home country and we're really looking forward to the next stage of our journey."

Jump forward a few months, and we made the decision to quit our jobs in the states and to move home to Wales to work on DashHound. Our biggest fear was that we’d become cut off from the tech-scene in Wales and eventually forgotten. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Since we’ve been back, the welcome from our peers has been great - nothing less than a big warm Welsh welcome. It’s encouraging how much the tech scene here in Wales has grown since I left for university, and we’ve been fortunate to receive so much support from both the Welsh Government and fellow Welsh start-up founders. It’s an exciting time to be in our home country and we're really looking forward to the next stage of our journey.

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