BBK Magazine 41

200th Anniversary Edition

Enabling Project Success with Tech

Emma Rees (BA Management, 2010)

Emma Rees is a tech entrepreneur and the CEO and Co-Founder of Deployed, a start-up designed to digitize and improve efficiency in acquiring and delivering complex services. After an unorthodox route to higher education, Emma recently won the global Melinda Gates Female Founders award and continues to lead the way for women in tech.

“The kids still talk about me screaming when I got the email.”

Living in a mining town just outside Perth, Australia, Emma left school at 16, describing herself as “a bit of a rebel, who wasn’t ready for a strict educational environment.” But she was ambitious and after working as a hairdresser for five years, bought her own shop and built it into a successful salon. 

By 25, she’d moved to London and was eager to develop her entrepreneurial skills: “I wanted a theoretical understanding that would enable me to build a business. I enrolled at Birkbeck and quickly ‘found my tribe’. It was brilliant being in a class full of ambitious, driven people who wanted to do something more.”

Just six months into the course Emma started her new venture — one of the first on-demand digital platforms for hair, makeup, nails and massage. She brought together 150 freelancers on her platform but following expansion setbacks decided to close the business: “It’s a cliché but I learned a lot from failing. It enabled me to take some time out. I immersed myself in family life and reassessed what to do next.”

One night in 2019, Emma and her husband met with a friend over dinner, who spoke about the challenges of project delivery for large firms and the archaic systems used. Having seen the potential for using tech to remove friction between buyer and seller, Emma saw an opportunity to address this issue. So that evening, the three soon-to-be Co-Founders set to work:

“I’ve heard that 70% of projects fail to deliver. A lot of companies spend a fortune on project-based work but don’t have a proper framework for determining outcomes or success. We wanted to build the infrastructure to support the rapidly growing project economy. The goal is to enable clear definition of the work, then track progress and collaborate in one system.” 

They launched Deployed with two government grants, and in 2020 won the global Melinda Gates Female Founders award for enterprise technology. “The kids still talk about me screaming when I got the email,” says Emma. “It was game-changing. It brought funding and investors and gave us belief in our product and the size of the market.”

Emma now runs a team of 15 people and is grateful to be able to help elevate other women in the industry. She has spoken publicly on the barriers faced by women in tech and how these can be overcome. Emma’s experiences demonstrate the value of unique perspectives and greater diversity when it comes to innovation, and of continuing to learn throughout one’s life.

Your support can help Birkbeck continue to make education accessible to people from all backgrounds and circumstances. Read more about The World Needs More Birkbeck campaign and how you can help transform lives through education.