entrepreneur

DEBBIE WATKINS

CEO & Co-Founder, Lucy I A Financial Technology Firm

(In her 50's)

 

 

Her story (as shared by her nominator)

Debbie had an unprivileged start in life – she grew up in a council housing estate in the UK, and left school at 16 to work at a provincial branch of a high street bank. She became the first woman in the bank manager’s memory to leave the bank for another role (“every other woman that has worked here left to have a baby”) and progressed through increasing levels of seniority in business and financial IT solutions providers until the start of the new millennium – when everything changed. An unexpected redundancy gave her the chance to re-evaluate what she wanted from life, and she took a year out and travelled to Cambodia to do voluntary work.

The destination actually became the starting point. She first founded two award-winning social enterprises that provided jobs for local people, and then started providing technology strategy consulting to micro-finance companies. This evolved into managing large complex inclusive finance projects and global teams, working in 35+ countries – and she realised that there was so much that could be done to improve access to finance for women and small businesses, but no-one was really doing it. So Debbie quit her job as Managing Director of Fern Software, and dove into the uncertain world of startups, and founded Lucy. Lucy is a financial technology platform built to serve women who are overlooked, underestimated and underbanked by the existing financial system. Lucy raised more than SGD700,000 in pre-seed funding from a variety of female leaders who see the same gap in the market.

Throughout her life Debbie has been focused on helping others, in particular underbanked populations. Quitting a well paid job when you have kids in School in Singapore is not easy. It is a huge risk that not many people take. Debbie did because she is committed to the mission.

Debbie is not simply a dreamer, she is a doer. Her belief in doing good while doing well is mirrored in her actions. Her leap in Lucy took a great deal of courage and her commitment, in the midst of a pandemic, to stay the course, is remarkable.

 

In her words:

Greatest achievement

In getting a startup off of the ground, every achievement is a case for celebration! But I think that raising more than $500,000 in pre-seed funding in the middle of a pandemic, from a group of 21 female investors who came on board because they truly believe in our mission, may be one of the best ones so far.

Biggest challenge thus far

I resigned from my previous Regional Director role with a team of 40+ and extensive international travel to co- found Lucy on 1 February, 2020, just before COVID-19 took hold. This ultimately meant I had two big changes to cope with at the same time - but I managed to stay cheerful, positive and focused, and am delighted to say that the Lucy app is already in closed live beta and will be launching imminently.

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what judges say

Great to see Debbie leverage her expertise to provide a service that supports women in their journey to financial empowerment.