Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Ecommerce Hero: Marie-Clare Fenech, Founder, Unicornz

Marie-Clare Fenech is Founder, Unicornz, a social impact business that works in partnership with companies to improve girls’ access to STEM careers, design and entrepreneurship.

Who is your ecommerce hero?

Anne Boden, founder and CEO of Starling Bank.

Anne started the first digital native challenger bank in the UK, combining digital with a positive customer experience, and removing the costs and obstacles that slow down banking for consumers. 

What has she done to win hero status in your eyes?

Despite a number of early setbacks, including some of the senior team leaving to set up a rival venture, she has remained consumer focused, resulting in a new and successful banking business model and experience. 

How has her heroism helped drive ecommerce?

Digital start-ups frequently chase customer share with heavily-funded marketing campaigns and cut-price offerings.

Where Anne has differentiated herself in the ecommerce sphere is her focus on customer acquisition versus user acquisition. After all, how many apps have we downloaded, never to revisit them again?

As Katherine Barchetti said “ Make a customer, not a sale”. Anne has combined that traditional relationship approach with digital to great effect. 

What the biggest challenges in ecommerce we need another hero to solve?

In addition to building relationships in ecommerce, one of the biggest challenges is cyber security.

It is already near impossible to tell the difference between a phishing email or fake website and an authentic one; we are now onto software that can imitate the voice of an authorised user and drain a bank account. And that is only the beginning of identity theft. 

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in ecommerce?

I run businesses that educate girls in the classroom and promote women to the boardroom. My involvement in ecommerce includes helping young girls see beyond coding as the only avenue into the digital space. 

Partnering with companies to deliver creative STEM programmes, we have helped girls learn that they too can contribute to the growth of ecommerce, whether they like Computer Science or Philosophy.  

I have literally watched young eyes widen as we show them just how many different skills are involved in the success of such businesses. 

Is there a diversity problem in ecommerce and how can we best address it if so?

Yes! Look at the top five ecommerce businesses – the same men that received billions of dollars of funding for those businesses then went on to invest in more male-founded businesses.  

89% of UK VC funding goes to all-male businesses, 10% to mixed-gender teams and 1% to women. The USA is slightly better at 2.2%.

Furthermore, not only do women make up half the world’s population, but they dominate consumer purchasing. You’d think it was only common sense to provide for products and services that cater to the world’s largest purchasing demographic.  

Fortunately, we are now seeing funding coming from more inclusive VCs. Those set up by, and focused on women, such as DC-based Construct Capital, co-founded by the ex-GM of Uber.  

And those such as ImpactX Capital, set up in the UK by ethically diverse professionals to support underrepresented entrepreneurs across Europe. 

With this widening financial focus, I look forward to more 23andMe, Stitch Fix and Glossier unicorns abound. 

My Ecommerce Hero is a series celebrating brilliance in ecommerce, in association with, an initiative from Entropy‘s Alex Tait to encourage more female speakers at industry events.