August 7, 2019
Women Driving Tech. Interview with Intelligent, Classy, Ambitious and Inspirational Technologists.
Part 3. Talking Startups
Kim Palmer, Winner of ‘Women of Tomorrow’ awards, Top 100 women in Fem Tech and Health Tech, founder of Clementine App.
Today we explore Kim’s business path, starting from working with giants like Tesco and Lloyd’s Banking Group to the creation of the first-ever hypnotherapy app for women, with 60,000+ community. Kim Palmer talks about startup funding, challenges of being a woman in tech and what one can learn as a CEO of a startup.
How does it feel changing your successful marketing career to founding a HealthTech startup?
In some respects, the transition has been quite slow as for the past few years Clementine has been my side hustle. I found that all the things that I have learned over the years of working for big brands are completely transferable to what I’m doing now in my startup. So in some respects, it felt quite natural to build something on my own.
My own story around mental health led me to start thinking about how I could help other women with their mental health challenges. Then I realised that I had a lot of knowledge from working in big businesses and this gave me the confidence that I could do my own thing and create a product that could really help women.
I’ve had bosses for years. Now it’s quite nice to not have a boss and have my own vision and know exactly what needs to be done. I still ask people for help, obviously, along the way. I feel like it’s a natural progression.
Have you faced any stereotypes or prejudices while setting up a tech-based business? How did you overcome these?
Mostly no, except one area. And this is the biggest area, unfortunately. That’s to do with funding. Investment companies we spoke with were mostly run by men and they didn’t understand the opportunity and the nuances with marketing to the female audience and how to realise this opportunity.
Sometimes they took us as not-‘tech’-enough and our solution wasn’t complicated or advanced enough for them. I don’t think women always want to have the most advanced tech solution. I don’t think women care about that stuff, I think what they care about is stuff that works. As long as the outcome of whatever you are doing works, this is the right thing for the customer.
A couple of comments were made around our working patterns. I am a mom of two so I don’t sit at my desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. working. But what we end up doing is working probably more than your standard working hours. We just work in lots of little time pockets during the whole day. Some of the people that we came across couldn’t really get their heads around that.
We were not being taken seriously enough because we weren’t what a typical entrepreneur looks like. There is a profile of what people think entrepreneurs in a tech space are. Young, male, ready to work at a specific time of the day, using hi-tech solutions. I’m a 40-year-old female with kids, not based in London, who has another job.
I don’t have the answer on how to overcome these stereotypes yet. But here are some of the things I’m doing.
- I know that I can’t change the investor world. I have to try to learn and adapt to tell a story that they want to hear from me. At the end of the day, I need the money and realise that I need to understand what makes them tick. I’m not going to change myself, I’m just going to make sure I am saying the things they want to hear from an entrepreneur.
- I’m bringing in support from a mix of men and women, who know the investor world. And they are helping me to make my story much stronger. When I was talking to the men about our investment story, the first thing they said was ‘you are not bigging yourself up enough’. That is quite a common challenge for women to be quite humble in things that we’ve achieved. And when you are asking for money, there is just no room for being humble. You just have to go for it.
When Clementine becomes a success, I am definitely going to make it my mission to help other women on their funding journey. I want to help women to understand what it takes to secure investment, create a sustainable business plan and pitch themselves better.
Do you have men working in your team?
Because we focus on supporting women, we have mostly women in our team. This is important as we understand intimately the challenges women face and can, therefore, design help that is relatable and super powerful. We do however have one man on our team. His name is Marco and he is our brilliant mobile developer.
Also, I have lots of informal advisers, people that I talk to. Most of them until recently were women. And then I realised that I needed to start expanding my horizons and speak to men as well, successful men, so that I can get a different view of the world. And that’s super interesting because they approach things in different ways, ways I hadn’t thought of. I realised that I needed to balance up the views that I was getting to help grow Clementine.
You formed 10 lessons from your first year as CEO in 2018. Any additional insights so far, 10 months after?
There is always stuff to be learned. It’s good to sit back and reflect.
- In business, you have to be neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but realistic
I am a really positive person. I am always thinking about the best outcome. Which is really good. However, what I’m never thinking about is the worst-case scenario. I never do any of that worst-case scenario planning. And I need to do more of that so that I don’t get myself into situations where I can’t unpick myself from.
- Monetise your business
This is a major blocker for me as well as for a lot of women. Commercialising things properly. I need to think more carefully about my path to profit.
- Invite advisors
When I am making a big strategic decision, I go to a number of people with a different viewpoint before I make this decision.
- Listen to people who know you most
A little bit cheesy, but I have to listen to my husband more. He knows me and he knows my business better then sometimes I think he does. He has given me lots of advice in the past that I haven’t listened to. Everything he said has come true.
What do innovations stand for at Clementine?
The best innovations are very simple. I spent my whole career using insights to create solutions to problems. Everything hung off an insight. Innovation for me is all about listening. Listening to what is going on in the world culturally, topically, whatever. To form insight and build a solution.
In Clementine what we do is try to listen all the time. I listen to the bad and the good stuff people are saying about our app and form a view of what the next thing should be. It is all about solving problems.
Listen, form an insight, solve the problem and then the last part of innovation is executing something really well, simply. For me, innovation doesn’t always necessarily have to be the most complex and tech advanced. But rather: do you understand the problem, can you solve it and can you execute it in a way your customers will love.
What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs in the innovation domain and technology field?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is ‘why are you doing this? Why do you want to start a business?’ Is it because of the financial success, freedom, because you want to be your own boss or just work all around the world? What is your purpose? Being an entrepreneur is really hard. You are constantly on a rollercoaster of emotions. And if you don’t have a grounding of why you are doing this, then you can get very lost, very quickly.
Secondly, you need to be clear about what you are really good at. Confidence is something many women struggle with. Make sure you start with a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
The third thing is to not be afraid of being identified as ‘a woman in tech’. I try not to get caught up with that. In fact, for a long time, I said I am not a woman in tech. Because I found it a bit scary. I felt like there was so much expectation of you because you are a woman in tech. And I was like, ‘oh, I’m not tech enough’. And now I think ‘hold on a minute, I am!’.
For me, technology is important, but what is more important is what you are doing with this and what the impact of that is. My mission is to help women and tech is the enabler of that. Once I got my head around that, I started to believe ‘I am a woman in tech’. Technology is not something to be scared of.
How have the big corporations you worked for previously balanced the gender issue? What else do you think could be done to help more women enter the tech space, jobs in STEM?
In my workplace we have a whole program to support women – we do a lot of training and coaching and giving women the tools and the time to think about how they feel comfortable at work, to be their best selves. And being their ‘best selves’ might not climbing the career ladder. It’s more about how they feel at work and making sure they feel comfortable and safe so they can flourish into whatever career they choose at work. Some of the people at work were ‘oh, why does this need to be just about women’. Right now, it does just need to be about women because that’s where the problem lies. Women need more help. So, yeah, we do a lot of work around that.
Businesses could work much more closely with schools, universities and training organisations to encourage more women into the tech space. Showing younger women that there are other women succeeding. These stories are critical to inspire and support younger women.