HOW I GOT HERE
Michelle Kennedy on her journey from lawyer to technology trailblazer
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