HOW I GOT HERE

Michelle Kennedy on her jour­ney from lawyer to tech­nol­ogy trail­blazer

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Af­ter grad­u­at­ing with a law de­gree, Michelle Kennedy be­came a merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions so­lic­i­tor for in­ter­na­tional law firm Mish­con de Reya. But her cu­ri­ous mind led her into the world of tech, first work­ing her way up the ranks at dat­ing site Badoo be­fore launch­ing her own app last year. Peanut, a match­mak­ing app for mums, now boasts more than 300,000 users in the UK, USA and Canada. We find out how she did it…

WORK­ING AS A LAWYER WASN’T MY VIBE.

The hours were crazy and I didn’t en­joy jump­ing from one com­pany to the next. In 2010, one of my old col­leagues con­tacted me and told me about Badoo, a dat­ing web­site run by a young guy called An­drey An­dreev, that needed in-house coun­sel. At first, I wasn’t keen – tech didn’t have the same buzz it has to­day. But then I started re­search­ing Badoo and saw just how fast the site was grow­ing; it had 52 mil­lion mem­bers at the time. It was un­usual and ex­cit­ing, so I went to meet An­drey and be­came Badoo’s first lawyer.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUES­TIONS.

Hav­ing never worked in tech be­fore, it was a huge learn­ing curve for me. But I asked so many ques­tions be­cause I had a gen­uine thirst for it, and un­der­stand­ing the en­tire com­pany helped me progress. I grad­u­ally grew the le­gal team and my role be­gan to ac­quire dif­fer­ent func­tions, un­til I be­came deputy CEO in 2015. I also helped Whit­ney Wolfe Herd – one of the co-founders of Tin­der – bring her new dat­ing app, Bum­ble, to life.

HAV­ING MY SON, FIN, IN 2013 GAVE ME THE IDEA FOR PEANUT.

I didn’t have any friends with kids, so I felt alone when it came to moth­er­hood, and I was a ‘drop-and-dash’ mum – I didn’t have in­ter­ac­tions at the school gates. I searched for an app that might help me but there was noth­ing on the mar­ket for ‘so­cial’ mums. With my back­ground, creat­ing a match­mak­ing app for ma­mas seemed an ob­vi­ous move.

PLAN CARE­FULLY BE­FORE START­ING YOUR NEW VEN­TURE.

I stayed on the board at Badoo for a while and saved any bonuses so I could start some­thing with­out in­vest­ment. A friend in­tro­duced me to the co-cre­ator of De­liv­eroo, Greg Or­lowski, so I could get some ad­vice. As a new dad, he be­lieved in what I was do­ing and joined me as co-founder. He’s been in­valu­able in get­ting the idea off the ground. I knew we’d be pitch­ing to a lot of men who wouldn’t un­der­stand our mar­ket, so I did ex­ten­sive re­search. In do­ing so, I found that many moth­ers, like me, felt iso­lated.

‘THE FACT YOU CARE IS ENOUGH’

WE LAUNCHED IN FE­BRU­ARY 2017, AND PEANUT WAS FEA­TURED BY AP­PLE AT THE WWDC IN JUNE.

It’s a con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco – a big deal in the tech cal­en­dar – so it was a pinch-me mo­ment. We re­ceived fund­ing from Sweet Cap­i­tal (the founders of Candy Crush), Sound Ven­tures and the Fe­male Founders Fund, among oth­ers.

I’M STILL PLAGUED BY THE FEEL­ING THAT SOME­ONE WILL TAP ME ON THE SHOUL­DER AND SAY, ‘HAHA, GOT YA!’

I think con­fi­dence is some­thing a lot of women strug­gle with. I have anx­i­ety and in­som­nia, but I owe it to ev­ery­one who has sup­ported me to keep go­ing.

BE KIND TO YOUR­SELF.

I’ve beaten my­self up for not be­ing the per­fect boss, busi­ness­woman, mother, friend, wife or daugh­ter. In­stead of think­ing, ‘I’m not good enough,’ I now think, ‘I’m do­ing the best I can. Some­times it’s amaz­ing, some­times it’s not, but that’s okay.’ The fact that you care so deeply about ev­ery­thing is enough.

Michelle with son Fin

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