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Blogger Series, in conversation with...Amanda Amanda PickfordAmanda is passionate about finding new solutions to problems and started ThermaFY as a result. She’s been taking part in our AI for Good accelerator programme, designed to help advance her AI solutions. Run by Microsoft for Startups UK team and Social Tech Trust the programme provides access to the resources, knowledge, and people they need to help. The unique curriculum will also provide them with business development, marketing, and technical support alongside talks, seminars, and workshops.

I talked to Amanda to find out more about what drives her, her experiences as a female entrepreneur, and any tips and advice she can share.

Tell me a bit about yourself

I would describe myself as an entrepreneurial pioneer, identifying innovative business opportunities. I left school at 15 and set up my own business at 19. I love finding new solutions to problems and most of my businesses have been new technologies or new attitudes to things. Most recently, I was introduced to thermal cameras and wanted to see how I could turn it into a consumer product. I saw an opportunity to expand the world of thermography and it’s grown from there.

I spent the first couple of years selling cameras and understanding the customer base, before developing the software. I started selling in the equine market and went around all the horse shows, getting in front of competition riders and built a very big customer base.

One of the first things I did was working with a research company. I wanted to test our software and ensure it did what it said on the tin, so we did a research project with the Veterinary School at Edinburgh university. And they loved it!

I also met someone from Bosch, who were interested and ended up selling through their networks. It was this that led to our team developing software that analyses heat within radiators to measure if there is sediment making the radiators inefficient, therefore reducing the life cycle of the boiler.

This product was specifically for heat in appliances, but it’s much the same as analysing people, animals etc. It’s all just heat patterns. We have a trial at the moment looking at calves and aiming to pick up early signs of eye/rectal diseases. The next route is to prove it in the animal sector.

What would your advice be to the next generation of female founders?

I have a real passion for this topic, and I’m looking forward to discussing it further during our [AI for Good] graduation day as there is a massive opportunity to raise the profile of women in tech.

50 percent of the population are female and using technology designed by 80 percent of men. And it’s an even bigger percentage if you think about who is founding the business and coming up with the ideas.

There’s a huge gap there to solve societal issues by developing software that’s led by females. We look at things very differently.

I would love for there to be more women in the industry. I think I’m not always understood, and often because I’m female. I have such trouble getting my ideas across at times and, whilst I don’t know if this is the case for all tech companies, but it’s been a massive issue for me.

I’d love there to be more of an environment where women can discuss this kind of thing.

What have you gained from this [AI for Good Cohort] experience?

I come from a very rural place on the Scottish borders. What I have done here at Microsoft has been a different league.

My business and I have grown hugely in the last four months and I’m desperate for [the Cohort] not to finish. I’ve loved every minute of it and every session has had takeaways. I have so many more tools, resources under my belt now.

We came in as app developers. Now we have a suite of tools, training modules, metric dashboards…so much more. And it’s all thanks to the people Microsoft put in front of us.

Additionally, I couldn’t pitch for toffee, the tools and confidence that Mircosoft and their team have given me has transformed the way I now pitch, this will have a major impact on me and the business as we go forward.

What’s next for Thermafy?

I’ve have been successful in being awarded a number of grants to help us test and validate our software. We also have recently been awarded a new Innovation Voucher to improve workforces. We are using this funding to developing new training modules which will enable our software to be easily adopted by industry.

A couple of the session at Microsoft have been around partner strategy and what we would need to provide for our product to be adopted and integrated into their workflow. The training modules are a big part of this but also creating a clear metrics portal, so that they can see how our software is working and quickly validate their return on investment.

The skills and knowledge we have gained whilst at Microsoft will also have direct impact on the next phase of our software development, incorporating more cognitive services, making the gathering of data simpler for the heating engineer whilst also ensuring it is accurate. We will still be tapping into the resources and networks within Microsoft and hope this will be a long term relationship as our business grows.

What advice might you have for those starting their own business?

Go out and give it a go. Don’t be scared of failure. Go and try and tackle some of the big issues in society. Give it a shot…it’s good fun!

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