A Day In The Life Of: Michelle Kennedy

The leading app to connect new mothers, Michelle Kennedy is the Founder of Peanut, something that has revolutionized motherhood. Swiping right for new mum friends, Michelle teamed up with Deliveroo co-founder Greg Orlowski to ‘build a community of women, who happen to be mamas. Because let’s face it, the more women in your life, the better it becomes’.

Also the Ex-CEO of dating app Badoo, Michelle is a woman on a mission, taking over the world and seeing record numbers of downloads. So how does she stay positive and what are her words of wisdom on starting out in tech? Read on to find out…

 

 

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF IN APPROXIMATELY THREE SENTENCES…

I’m the CEO and Founder of Peanut, the app for mamas to meet and learn from like-minded women. After having my son, Fin, and returning to work, I struggled to find other like-minded mums to connect with. So, using my background in dating, I launched my own app in February 2017.

WHAT TIME DOES YOUR ALARM GO OFF, AND WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU DO WHEN YOU WAKE UP?

My French Bulldog puppy is my alarm, because she starts crying at 6am every morning. So, wake up, remove ear plugs. (Yes, I sleep with earplugs. I am a terrible sleeper so anything to help me block out night noises!). Then a quick check of emails, respond to any I can, check in with the team on slack. After 30 mins, Fin will RACE in – “Morning Time Mama” he declares brightly every morning. Then we go down to deal with our puppy Matilda and discover what trail of devastation she’s left us over night…do not leave new shoes, or tubes of body lotion with new puppies – it is something you will bitterly regret. Everyone has breakfast, then I get Fin dressed and then I do my makeup on the way into work – yes, I am that annoying girl! I don’t want to miss time with Fin so that’s when I have to do it.

 

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORKING WARDROBE? WHAT ARE YOUR FASHION STAPLES – THE PIECES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING?

Right now, I am loving the Nineties. I like wearing relaxed, high-waisted Levis and my Gucci loafers. To me, that’s simple elegance.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

It starts early to check in with my business partner, he’s based in Chicago so is always going offline as I go online. Then I head into the Peanut office once Finn is up and off to nursery. We’re a small team so we all muck in and do everything, so there’s no typical day really. We might be working on the artwork for a poster or an ad, or chatting to a brand about a potential partnership. It’s very varied and everyone has a real sense of pride and ownership over what we’re creating.

 

HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY IN YOUR CAREER?

I started my career as an M&A lawyer at leading international law firm Mishcon de Reya. I later joined dating app, Badoo, where I rose to the role of Deputy CEO at the $100 million+ revenue generative market leader. I was also integral to the launch of dating app, Bumble.
Peanut was born out of two main issues: the first was the emotional aspect of becoming a mother. My girlfriends weren’t at the stage in their lives where they were having children yet, and even if some of my wider friendship group were, we all lived in different parts of the city (and leaving the house to go anywhere further than 10 minutes from home with a newborn felt like a military operation). I suppose what I felt most prominently, which isn’t particularly comfortable for a 30-something woman to admit, is that even though I had lots of friends and was successful professionally, I felt quite isolated. This was further compounded by the fact that I was working in an industry (dating), where it was my day-to-day to produce products people could use to find a match, or a date, and I was struggling to find a woman who was like-minded to go for a coffee with.
The second was my frustration with the existing products on the market aimed at mothers. I didn’t recognize the tone of voice the products used, or the UX/UI being used. They felt outdated, old-fashioned, and in some cases patronizing. To me, I didn’t feel like I’d suddenly aged, or become less modern, less cool, just because I’d become a mother, and yet, the products seemed to have that expectation. I found that confusing. I still had an expectation of great user experience, from products like Uber, or Instagram, but I wasn’t getting that from the products for mothers that were out there.The vision for Peanut is to create a platform for modern motherhood. Facilitating conversations women want and need to have, a safe space for women, who happen to be mothers.

WHICH ACHIEVEMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

The big stuff is really cool – like when when you get supported by Apple or see all the crazy download figures. But the most exciting stuff for me is when you get an email from someone and they say “this app has really changed my life,” or somebody tweets or Instagrams about us. That stuff is the best because you simply can’t manufacture it. And it means it must really be working.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST WORK CHALLENGE TO DATE?

The stark reality is, 2% of venture-backed business last year were founded by women. 2%. And yet, we’re 50% of the population. It’s terrifying and frustrating in equal measure. Particularly because we KNOW businesses which are led by, or have senior women at the helm perform better. We KNOW therefore that women have a tremendous impact on business. Yes, I’ve encountered challenges. I’ve been asked whether I’ve wanted to do something “sexier” than an app for modern motherhood, or the ever-frustrating “you know, I’m not sure, I need to ask my wife/sister/daughter/niece/assistant”. That is infuriating. You want to scream, “No, you just need to look at the business, I am presenting you with a business proposal”. But, to say that is every VC is reductive. There are brilliant VC’s out there, men and women, who are gender blind. Who are only interested in business opportunities, who are feminists. Do your research, take references from other founders, and you will find those people. I did. And the more conversations you have, the more successful your business is, the easier that will become. I spoke to an investor just today, who said: “Women never want to over promise and under deliver, and yet, I’ve never met a male founder who doesn’t over promise, and yet, we know the guys are getting the funding”. Her point wasn’t to over promise, her point was, women have to be more confident. We must be, and we can be if we support each other.

 

IF YOU WEREN’T IN YOUR CURRENT PROFESSION, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?

I’d be investing in female led businesses!

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN LOOKING TO GET INTO YOUR INDUSTRY?

1.) Develop a thick skin. Thicker than you ever anticipated.
2.) Be ready to accept that not everyone will be on this journey with you, that’s ok.
3.) Build your network. Build your support. Find mentors, and ask for advice. What’s the worst that can happen?
4.) Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s how you get to the right answer.
5.) Why not you? If you see something, and issue, an opportunity, why can’t it be you to solve it or find the solution?

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE?

“Celebrating another woman’s triumphs or success will never take away from your shine or glory. If anything, it’ll add to it and create more light.” – Alex Elle

 

Images courtesy of Whistles

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