This week our Female Founder is Zoe Peden, "Chief Juggler" at Insane Logic. I was lucky enough to meet Zoe the day after Pitch@Palace, which sounded like a phenomenal experience. It was brilliant hearing a fantastic female entrepreneur in the social enterprise space. Zoe is incredibly driven, an inspiration and has certainly achieved a lot.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey to date?
I left my job at a charity in the summer of 2010. I was working at a charity called The Makaton Charity and they had a language program of signs and symbols but they were all in book format. So when Steve Jobs, four and a half years ago, announced the iPad it was obviously the perfect platform to be able to digitize the language program. I left the charity and received a license to use the language program. I then spent a year researching, developing and making sure that it is beneficial; measuring targets for children and their speech and language to make sure that we were making a good intervention. And that’s where it all kicked off really, right place at the right time.
Insane Logic - The journey
How did you find making the leap from being in a job to starting your own business?
It was more natural progression, I was at the point where I wanted to move on anyway from the charity, I knew I wanted to do my own business. The idea came and I thought ‘well this is it, this is the time’. I had money that I had saved up and I felt I was ready to start my own business. I thought it would be a part time thing and I would do some consultancy work on the side, but then it grew. I never thought I was going to grow a big company on the back of an app. I just thought it would be really good if you could help people, and maybe it would make some money. Then it just grew and grew.
So, you’ve raised some investment and you’ve been through WAYRA, how was that journey?
7 weeks after the app was launched, I did my first pitch and then I did another one at TechPitch 4.5, we won that one. There was someone in the audience from UnLtd and they said ‘We have got this Big Venture Challenge competition we are running, would you like to enter? We don’t have anything like you technology wise.’ I said ‘when is the deadline?’ and it was 48 hours! He said, ‘just get the application in and we will deal with it later’. I went through all the rounds and got a grant which meant I was able to continue doing the business full time because by that time we were out of money after a year and a bit. From there, six months later we got into WAYRA and then after 9 months we raised angel investment, and then a year along we raised VC investment.
How have you grown your team so far? Have you found that easy or hard?
The way you position yourself, the way you interview, you tend to attract like-minded people or people that are very passionate about what we do. I mean we are all friends as well which is really nice and we have been really lucky. I think the nature of what we do as well, technology that helps people, means the developers feel that they’re appreciated and what they build is really making a difference. We can take them out and show them what their software is doing. Its quite an easy sell.
Achievements & Challenges
What do you think has been the biggest challenges in your journey through Insane Logic?
Not having money is never a nice one. We have been very close a few times so it gets quite stressful. Cash flow management is always the most difficult thing. How much money is in the bank, how much is coming in? Riding through those hard times when you know you’re nearly closing an investment round but your money is running out. You know it is going to go in or you know you have to believe it is going to go in. They are the most stressful times that I have experienced. Growing a team, selling and creating a product are the fun times. I mean selling is not easy but I enjoy it, especially for something that doesn’t exist already.
What do you think is your biggest achievement to date with Insane Logic?
I remember when the first two years I was in my bedroom and I used to stare out from my desk and look at the garden. I kept wondering whether I was doing the right thing, leaving my good job as a senior manager at the charity. I didn’t get to see any friends anymore because I was just working on my own all the time. When I got into WAYRA that changed, I made loads of friends and I got an office space. My biggest achievement is taking an idea of something that you know can help people, and then finding a business model to make it work. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way but believing in something and finding a way to make it work, even if you get it wrong sometimes.
How do you cope with that time when you’re wondering if you have made the right decision? What made you continue on and not go back and give up?
Well I’ve got someone in our team who has been there from the beginning, she is called Dot Reeves. She is our chief speech and language therapist and she is my other mum basically. She is the technical lead, in terms of speech and language therapy, and the design of MyChoicePad is all down to her. She is the one that goes out with the people, tests it and demonstrates it. She was really great, when you have low periods she would always be saying ‘Oh I have got this email, you won’t believe the results that we have had with this, and how much it has changed peoples lives.’
Women in Business
What do you think is the difficulty in getting more women in tech?
This might be controversial but I think it is money; you need to have substantial savings before you do a startup because you might have 12 or 18 months without any money. You are the biggest drain if you start pulling a salary too early. You need to earn a lot of money before you do it. Unfortunately women are not going for the higher salary as soon as they graduate. You need to save that money so that’s where I think the problem is. There are plenty of women that are working in startups but they are not starting themselves; they are doing consultancy work or just saving the money up.
What do you think stops them from going for higher salaries?
They don’t negotiate, that’s what I’ve seen from hiring people. I didn’t do that in my twenties either but, it has taught me if I ever have to work for anyone again, I certainly would be. I haven’t got a CV or anything like that but I certainly know now and I tell everybody in here that everything is open to negotiation. I will give you respect if you try to negotiate with me. You might not always shift me, for a number of reasons, but if you can demonstrate your value that you add to the business, then you come and negotiate again. Money gives you choice, independence and power.
Tell me the apps and blogs you can't live without?
Advice & Final Thoughts
What are the few things people should take into account once they have started their business?
Getting a good accountant, I know people that have screwed up their taxes, and have to pay a big bill so go into liquidation as they can’t afford it. A good accountant doesn’t have to cost much, but you will have to pay. Getting a decent lawyer too; they are useful and you will need one.
What is your vision for the future?
I’d love it to be the avenue for all speech and language therapy, to completely disrupt the entire industry so that more people can access speech and language therapy. So using it remotely, live video as well as all our games and activities. Just opening the doors and making it more affordable to lots of other countries where there is no speech and language therapy.