Our People

We consider Dotforge to be an ever-growing family, a diverse community dedicated to helping our teams to build products and companies that change the world. There are many people not listed on this page, but here you will find the key personalities driving this forward.

Founding Team

Emma Cheshire

Emma is the CEO and co-founder of Dotforge. She has a wealth of experience in tech innovation, Third Sector integration and fund management, as well as being an industry representative on the Tech Cluster Alliance for TechCity UK.
Emma was responsible for raising the initial investment funding of £500,000 to launch the first Dotforge programmes, which she went on to deliver in 2013 and 2014. Her fervent commitment to the programme’s success resulted in a further £1.5million investment in partnership with Key Fund and the RSA to pilot Dotforge Impact, a Social Accelerator in Sheffield. She is now developing a wider portfolio of sector focused programmes building on the strengths of key cities in the north of England.

Lee Strafford

Lee Strafford co-founded the internet service provider PlusNet, leading the company from startup, through IPO, and finally to exit. He has extensive experience in business growth, development and fundraising.
Since leaving Plusnet, Lee has become passionately dedicated to supporting technology startups and transforming the North of England into a technology powerhouse.

David Carr

David Carr is a renowned business leader with experience working with both large corporations and start-ups. He served as the finance director for AOL Europe, before taking over AOL UK’s broadband business and raising £100m funding from Time Warner to expand operations. Since leaving AOL, David has gone on to co-found several companies and consult for the likes of Vodafone. He is particularly adept at identifying market opportunities, building teams and launching products.

Ian Goodall

Ian Goodall is the owner and managing director of Aardvark Swift, a specialist games, toys, licences and digital recruitment company based near Sheffield. He started with Aardvark in 2000 as a recruiter, before quickly progressing to a senior consultant and eventually buying the business outright in 2012. The company is now a preferred supplier to games giants like Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, EA, Capcom, Ubisoft, Square, Konami, Activision and Warner. Ian is also actively engaged in supporting young entrepreneurs to build and develop their businesses. He is particularly skilled in business development and growth.

Dotforge Impact

Colin Tan

Colin joined the Dotforge team in 2014 as Entrepreneur in Residence. He is the founder of Rentlord, a successful property management portal backed by both Seed Camp and 500 Startups. Colin brings with him a wealth of startup experience. He specifically supports teams to focus on refining their minimum viable product and building traction.
Colin was also a Cambridge Commonwealth Scholar, a poet and advocate of human rights at the United Nations.

Vimla Appadoo

Vimla, or more commonly known as Vim, is a community driven design thinker. Vim brings an array of skills to the table, she helps connect the tech startup community, runs tech meetups and enjoys baking cakes. You can often find Vim in a coffee shop, drinking tea and if you need an extra pair of hands with your startup you know where to go. Feel free to ask Vim about the Manchester tech community, digital marketing strategy, service design and women in tech.

Helena Habdija

Helena is a trained artist with an entrepreneur's drive. She has extensive experience working with diverse groups, ranging from those as young and creative as first graders to systems oriented founders of tech companies. She is an active team member of several startups and has been helping fellow entrepreneurs visualise their ideas and bring them to life since 2012.

Dave Thornett

Dave Thornett has worked in and around social enterprise for over 20 years. His diverse and extensive experience ranges from working closely with local and national government on supporting social enterprise across the UK and Europe to his role as Head of Business Development for the Key Fund, Britain’s largest regional investor in the social economy. He has held key roles in a number of high impact organisations including: 13 years with the SCEDU, a special social enterprise support agency, Social Enterprise Yorkshire and the Upperthorne Healthy Living Centre.

Rachel Barker

Rachel Barker, Regional Coordinator at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). Rachel works closely with Fellows and Fellow-led projects, providing support, communications and opportunities to engage across the North West, North East and Yorkshire. 
Within her role, Rachel leads the RSA’s partnership with Social Impact Accelerator Dotforge, exploring how the RSA and their Fellowship of 27,000 individuals can contribute to the tech-for-good startups. Rachel identifies and connects the skills and expertise of the Fellowship to contribute as mentors to the programme.

Dotforge Health

Tobias Stone

Tobias Stone is an experienced entrepreneur with a diverse background in both the technology and finance sectors. He is currently running EyeFocus Accelerator, a unique specialist digital health accelerator that focusses on creating value through building a sector-specific innovation ecosystem around an accelerator program. He is closely with Bayer Health Care, Carl Zeiss, Bosch, and leading global hospitals, universities, and investors in health care innovation. The accelerator is a commercial venture with a strong social undertone, supporting both early stage startups and developed businesses in the vertical. Tobias is also a Collaborative Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield, and an active advocate of the Northern tech ecosystem.