Plexal alumni find success with Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards 2024 nominations


Plexal have announced that 14 of its esteemed alumni have been recognised with nominations at this year’s Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards. 

The event, held at the BT Tower on the 27th of February, aims to celebrate exceptional women from across the cybersecurity industry. 

The Plexal alumni nominees are: 

–         Shelley Langan-Newton, CEO of SQR Group
–         Emma Humphrey, CEO of KURO 
–         Jemma Davis, Founder and CEO of Culture Gem 
–         Jean Mcleod, Founder and CTO of Abri CS 
–         Vivian Dufour, CEO and Co-Founder of Meterian 
–         Melissa Chambers, CEO of Sitehop
–         Rebecca Taylor, Threat Intelligence Knowledge Manager at Secureworks 
–         Amy Stokes-Waters, CEO of Esc (The Cyber Escape Room) 
–         Dr. Andrea Cullen, CEO and Co-Founder of CAPSLOCK 
–         Lorna Armitage, COO and Co-Founder of CAPSLOCK 
–         Dr. Iretioluwa Akerele, Co-Founder of CyBlack 
–         Clare Ryan, CEO of ITUS Security
–         Valeen Oseh-Ovarah, Founder and CEO of TISOVA
–         Jasmine Eskenzi, CEO and Co-Founder of The Zensory

Many of this year’s Plexal-affiliated nominees are alumni of the Cyber Runway Ignite cohort of 2023-2024, which is designed for the most exceptional leaders in cyber who also want to make a positive impact on the sector.

The cohort’s startup founders, half of whom are women, come from a range of diverse backgrounds with varied experiences, spanning everything from military to education. 

Part of this cohort is Emma Humphrey, CEO of KURO, who came to cyber from as a military veteran who specialised in open-source research and analysis.

As the CEO of KURO, her mission is to put secure cloud capability in the hands of those protecting our national and regional interests.

Emma wants to encourage veterans, women, and girls to consider careers in cyber and cloud technologies as well as encourage employers in the sector to consider how they might make their organisations more inclusive for those groups.

Andrea Cullen, CEO and Co-Founder of CAPSLOCK, and Lorna Armitage, Co-Founder and COO of CAPSLOCK, were also part of this cohort and nominated for a Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards. CAPSLOCK is an award-winning, female-led educational organisation that reskills adults into cyber security professionals. The company is all about increasing accessibility to life-changing education, with all welcome and learners not needing degrees to qualify for a place. 

Additionally, Shelley Langan-Newton, CEO of SQR Group, also part of the 2023-2024 Ignite cohort, was nominated for the prestigious award. Shelley started her career in performing arts and then secondary school teaching before changing her career entirely with a move to telecoms. Today, Shelley is the CEO of SQR Group, which is on a mission to create a safer world by enabling trust and eliminating fraud. 

Dr. Iretioluwa Akerele, Co-Founder of CyBlack, received over 30 nominations. CyBlack’s sister company Fezzant were part of the 2022 NCSC For Startups programme, which Plexal deliver in partnership with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). Iretioluwa received exceptional praise from her peers and was hailed as a ‘selfless leader’, a ‘shooting star’, and someone who ‘paves the way’ for other people wanting to get into the industry.

Also nominated is Valeen Oseh-Ovarah, Founder and CEO of TISOVA. Valeen is a graduate of the the Cyber Runway Launch programme and is currently enrolled in the Digital Security Hub (DiSH) initiative, based in Manchester, run by Plexal alongside Barclays Eagle Labs. TISOVA is on a mission to safeguard students from online scams and fraud, which is particularly relevant given that a third of UK students have been targeted by fraud

Other nominees, including Clare Ryan, Co-Founder and CEO of ITUS Secure Technologies, and Melissa Chambers, CEO of Sitehop, were graduates of the Launch cohort of Cyber Runway 2.0 2022. Clare continued her Plexal journey and is currently on the ‘Grow’ stream. Melissa also went through the ‘Ignite’ and ‘Grow’ streams. Both of whom are now thriving within the cybersecurity sector and actively championing women within the industry. ITUS Secure Technologies, for example, were named in ‘Ireland’s Top 100 Most Ambitious Companies’ (2022) list by Spark Crowdfunding.

Women currently enrolled on the 2023 ‘Grow’ and ‘Scale’ streamsof the Cyber Runway programme have also been nominated, representing organisations including Culture GemThe ZensoryMeterian and ITUS. 

“I’m thrilled to see so many familiar names from the Plexal ecosystem featured among the nominees,” said Diane Gilbert, Innovation Ecosystem Lead at Plexal. “The breadth of their individual businesses is validation of the entrepreneurial drive, innovative spirit and diverse skills possessed by these trailblazing women and further reinforces the need to shine a light on this often-underrepresented group.

The fact over a dozen leaders are from our alumni community is the icing on the cake and I speak on behalf of the whole Plexal team when I say we’re proud of their accomplishments.”

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