The Entrepreneurs - Peanut
We use our phones for just about everything today from shopping to working to connecting. And while it was not long ago to boot dating is a huge part of social networking and one of the entrepreneurs who have helped to grow two of the major players in the sector is Michelle. Kennedy a lawyer by trade a chance encounter saw Michelle joining the legal team of Badu one of the world's largest dating networks Michelle then played an important role in founding bumble the platform that upended the market by allowing women to make the first move bumble was co founded with Whitney Wolfe also a co founder of Tinder and eight previous guest of this show from chasing investment to reimagining platforms and growing teams Michelle was loving the tech startup life. But after having her first child and not dating herself Michelle was feeling isolated in the workplace and in social circles and was seeking connects. And so she decided to strike out on her own creating peanut the app for mothers launched in two thousand seventeen the network uses the interface and algorithms of dating app, but all in the aim of creating a community for mothers in two years. Peanut has already amassed more than half a million users. You're listening to the entrepreneurs with me Daniel Bauge for today's show. I sat down with Michelle for a truly inspiring conversation about her journey and the story of peanut. My starting point was as a lawyer. So I used to do. In a in a private practice phone code, Michigan d'auray London. And so I was very much on the kind of the business side, but definitely heavily into aquisitions and kind of doing that pot. The move into the kind of tech side of life was I suppose somewhat accidental via different routes. I had left a low firm, and I'd gone to work for client who's doing acquisitions and going to do that legal in house one of the law. I used to work full called me and said he should come meet one of my clients. He has dating website, and I was like. No by totally different time. It was a totally different world. We weren't using dating apps in the way we all today. It wasn't dating apps for it was kind of websites, and it was it was very much much dot com e hominy guarding soul mates that was the kind of dating arena. I would say it was probably still a little bit too, boo. If you met someone online, definitely it was kind of one of those people were making up stories about how they met rather than admitting that they met online, and but do was the company, but do was enormous, and I'd never heard of it before. And for me that just blew my mind. So it had this ticker on the kind of home page at the time. It was fifty two million users. I was like what is that? I've never heard of this before. And what was super interesting about it to me is the it wasn't like grown-up dating. It wasn't like, you know, long term relationships. It wasn't kind of lots of happy couples across the home page in in that kind of that small. Away from me. That's not really my life. I'll be doing that in ten years time. It was my young people having fun. And I suppose the best way to describe it is it was occupying the kind of casual encounters space way before any of the apps for outmaneuver doing the same. I mean, it really was doing that. But it wasn't necessarily doing it in the US, and the UK was much more European, and so it kind of opened my eyes to a different world. I met the founder ondre he was unlike anyone I'd ever met before still is actually and after spending time with him and seeing the team that he was bringing together I joined as legal so I joined them as general counsel and kind of moved through from that to eventually working to him as deputy CEO. But that was over course of kind of five years with him. So being in house legal. I bet you you really got into the nuts bolts and understanding the business and the industry that you were. We're working in. But as you went along, I soon the landscape changed quite a bit. And then you go to work for bumble, which is massive with had Whitney Wolfe on this show before. And what was that experience? Like, when did you decide to move over there say Whitney that day friend of mine, the whole experience with day was very much that as as you say as legal counsel, you get to ask questions, right and people feel obligated tell you because you're the lawyer, and for me that is the best possible scenario and very nosy. I want to understand what's going on. I could ask stupid questions. No one expected me to understand what the GRA Gators were. Or what they were doing kind of had licensed to kind of really go and understand everything. I would do the same with Jay I want to know why was he doing that without aimed at women because women wouldn't lie that over it might be I suppose because of that attitude that's how I came to work next to him during that volition of the product, we will probably a bit slow to Mogo being completely, honest and. And so when I say slow to mobile, I think we were slow to migrate to native mobile and the world around us is changing people weren't just building move a web met weapon more. This was a real complete change. And then something happened and this product indicating out and totally change the landscape because whatever you might think. Now, the product looks stunning it let nothing I'd ever seen before it was native. It was using interactions. We didn't use in in that way, you know, swiping was swiping through your camera. Roll it wasn't to use a native app that was mind blowing. It was so simple. It wasn't doing anything particularly groundbreaking actually a lot of the stuff that it was doing we'd seen in kind of different guises elsewhere, but never together at the same time browse part of your interest in your to you'll looted to it. What is the user experience? Like, specifically, what is women's experience like there, and I imagine that was a huge question that was coming up at this. I mean. At that time, and you know, again different well different landscape, which looking now like maybe two thousand eleven ish my girlfriend's we using this app. And it was good because the fair for Jackson wasn't that was the real key kind of row forward was year in a bit on. I was having a baby when had my little boyfriend came back to work in in the summer and Whitney was in a lucid. And so I reached out to Whitney. And I was like, hey, you should come. What for us? But sorry that you having a bad time of it. Like, let's do something together. Lawyers replied to match saying no, she was she was otherwise engaged and long story short. She came to London. We started talking with on day, and we agreed to do something which became bumble. So that for me was crazy exciting because it was the first time I was involved in something from day one. And it was super exciting. I sat on the board of fungal for many years. I watched it grow from kind of something where it was just an idea in skies on holiday talking about what it could be to becoming what it is now, which is genuine the statement about women's lives, and how that has changed. We could have done bumble two years ago. The landscape wasn't ready for it. It may not what. But to have done at that time, really meant that kind of that perfect stool, everything was ready, and I loved everything I was doing there. It was amazing. But obviously as the kind of team gray as the product volved, I was doing less on bull do which I loved, but I wasn't dating in my personal life and felt that I won't go into something in a space that I felt was completely neglected a little bit like of noting that the timing was right. There was a moment in time where I was I actually that feels like there is some timing is ready to change a different market, and that was motherhood the narrative around motherhood, generally, I just didn't relate to it didn't feel like it was me. I still I was working in a different industry. I was hanging out with these amazing people with ideas, and they would these Browns referring to me is, mommy. Oh, mom will people talking about me in the past? Which was we it. And I just felt like I couldn't be the only person who felt like that more importantly, all the girls who were behind me who growing up working in Tak and working with ideas, and being creative which have an expectation that there would be a product for them when motherhood came, and it wasn't that didn't exist. So I felt like I may as well do it myself. So tell me a about the can you walk? You actually off the ground. Because I mean, you're working for a company that's growing quite sizably. And then and then going back again to do the really grassroots startup thing. What did that look like, it's the nice humbling thing I've done just being completely honest. It's so extraordinarily difficult to be in a role wed even everything that you're doing. But you love what you're doing. You have a certain status and authority that goes with that and deciding to build peanut was very much around me thinking, I can do I've done in other areas. My can apply it to different market, but it's really hard because I did it all on my own. There wasn't a technical infrastructure that I could rely on. It wasn't anything. This is just me in a an idea and trying to build a product I was in New York with Whitney. Ashley, I bought defy fumbles. Find Gration, and I kind of said, you know, I think I'm going to build this product. For moms, and I'm gonna start with it being kind of like finding other women in your area using the kind of the dating analogy, I suppose I'm going to build it into this platform for motherhood because everything sucks, I hate the narrative, and I didn't recognize it. And I think it's time. And she was like, I love it. It's great. Let me introduce you to someone about someone was an investor and that kind of was it, and it was me an a deck. I'm thinking, oh my God. Now, I have to do everything I have to build a team, and I have to think about kind of his gonna look like, I it's ration- raise money. So it started very very quickly. I started building in September of twenty sixteen and by February twenty seventeen we launched kind of v one tell me a little bit of how it actually works because I understand the algorithms that you probably well understood it this time work a lot. Like those dating outs where you were working before. So it's the idea of proximity. But also learning about a person and their interests and their needs, and what they're looking for and motherhood that can be probably quite intimate. I think yeah, I think that the starting point for me was on a pass no night. None of my girlfriends had kits the fest. And so I. I didn't sound really pathetic. But it is true. I really needed some friends. I had no one to kind of hung out with at two o'clock in the afternoon or ask a question to whatever it might be. So that was the kind of. Okay. Well, this is great. We can just use the dating algorithms. So thinking about what makes you, you know, about the baby this leads of stuff for the baby. But there's a lot of stuff for the woman where did you study languages de speak wedgie work, any of those things taking these factors? And then basically showing you women around you who have similarities the more you use it this mantra becomes about a K. She wants to meet that person. She doesn't like that. And so making intelligent recommendations. That was always going to be the starting point what we needed to do from there is. And so what because when you've made like five girlfriends on peanut peanut anymore. Like, what's the next pop? And the next part was always about community. Like, how do we do a better version of forums or Facebook groups, how do we take it further? How do we make it? So that this really genuinely becomes a social product to community product. And so that has been the most challenging most exciting part everyone understands the kind of tend to films tagline, which I hate, but everyone understands that part and that works perfectly. We know. I knew it work. I've been working it for years. I knew that that was AK the community part is so nuanced it's so important. It's important to understand the type of woman the type of user there are so many different kind of facets. You have women who live costly them much more likely to be working full-time maternity leave looking for a different type of connection to women who are perhaps there'd be more. Centrally who are thinking much more about kind of longer term friendships starting businesses together. There's a lot more of that kind of thing. So there were so many nuances, and it's thinking about how do we do this every? One but actually addresses all of these needs. And I understand a lot of what is facilitated there is further conversations beyond just motherhood is it's exactly right. I mean, the most stock difference for me kind of pref- into post Finn was the fact that all of a sudden people didn't talk to me about me. They spoke to me about Finley Finn is definitely like the best thing that's ever happened to me. He's amazing. He's very cool. But sometimes I wanted to remember me and that meant I had questions which didn't always relate to him. They related to my wet life, my home life, my friendships miam- Bishen, my dreams might love of terrible, TV whatever is I had other thoughts outside of motherhood. And so the thread subpoena will always be motherhood. That's almost like the excuse the reason that you guy that but will you do that? How you have conversations there is much more than that. And. So we see that the women are having conversations some of of course, is to do with, you know, in five months pregnant, and I'm feeling like this is it normal. My baby went sleep all my four year old having tantrums all the time, but a lot of it is to do with the complexity of relationships conversations to do with health, fitness faith, all of these different kind of concepts that come up these were conversations about their sex lives. And at first, you know, I was like I did not think that was coming. But of course, why not where else can they talk with other women in a safe space about very intimate questions concerns, those they can do peanut do you think the timing was sort of right for this? Because of the way that we communicate now in the way that we deal with our daily lives through absent platforms and online type of persona that we have is that what sort of help this Grosso quickly less than two years old. But it's growing really. Rapidly. Yeah. I think that timing is everything it's the most important lesson from booth actually timing is everything because when we started kind of thinking about peanut when we were thinking about what it meant when we were thinking about the language around it, which was meets his mama's. But connect as women I could've used to six months before it would've failed. No one was interested in that. At that point. You have to be aware of kind of how conversations are changing around you. We were starting to see women who had grown up with in the public eye and to motherhood for the first time, and that was really important because before that motherhood felt like it was something that happens to someone else that was let ten years away that was like the dating landscape, but that was something that was going to happen in the future. And then I'll start dressing differently know, become different. But when women in the public eye out going through it. I'm staying the same that doing the same things will actually it's almost like the rest of us feel like yeah. That can. Me too. So I think timing was so important. I think who say, you know, dating apps social products all of these different ways in which we meet people absolutely unquestionably had an impact on how successful peanut was again. If you just told someone kind of a year before we launch peanut so you can have this product where moms can meet everyone would be like a bit like the dating, right? No one's gonna meet someone that they've met on an app, and yet how many marriages how many bumble babies do we have all of those things. So it's a very very different world that we're living in we break. Barry is we challenge things. And then it becomes the Neum. And I think this was just the next norm. You talk about all the the important things that come up on the app, and I don't mean to sound sort of cold here Michelle, but there is a business and of this so are using that as a way that this can continue to grow. I mean, you were talking about health and things like that. Are those ways that you can expand and connect the product of other things. So the very first thing I lent from Andre which is never ever just accept that. There's one way to create business model from something. And so at a time when everyone was talking about subscription models. Everyone was kind of very firmly actually at that time telling us that Badillo was eight dating product, and therefore the multiples that we would get we were doing an exit where analogies with dating products on just accept it. It's not wouldn't monetize in the same ways. Those other dating products are user experience isn't the same. It's not a dating product. And he was always very steadfast about that row Fullwood. He was right. It's no different. It was a totally different model. So when I was kind of thinking about peanut and living with it and thinking around it I never wanted this to be an ad based model. It's not something that I felt was right for what I wanted to build. And I was always thinking about kind of the experiences. I'd had the Freeman models the other kind of different ways in which you can build a business. And so, of course, I'm always thinking about you know, what women are doing on the product because that will tell you where the need is. And therefore where the opportunity is as well. I can only imagine as we've alluded to the growth has been quite fast. What about building the team? What is that? Look like, you're you're between here and the US. What's it like sort of running and growing that we're team of ten now? Which is so funny. I mean fatigue. We're three hundred people it when I said humbling, I really mean it they're all new people to do stuff. Pena? We all the people that you just do everything and everyone does everything and nobody's precious. And that in itself is amazing. And I love the team the team is engineering because we are, you know, type product. And so when you're working with engineers, I'm very fortunate to say that all of our engineers are relatively senior. We have a very kind of clear roadmap, but they work very very kind of efficiently through it that doesn't mean that we couldn't go quicker. If we had a big team. Of course, we could hiring talent is so hard. I mean, it was always hard. Now, it's harder. Because it's so personal every single person on the team has devoted so much of themselves to peanut that anyone you bringing in you have to fill it. They're going to do the same. And that's not to use that kind of try. It's a family. Kind of affair. It's more than that. This is like people have given something of themselves to make this product. There is a huge amount of responsibility. That comes with that. That means that anyone I'm bringing into the team have to make sure they understand that they want to do that too. And no everyone is suited to being when this part of a company journey. Interesting. I mean, the thread there between buying into the Brandon and where you're going and what the company is. And and really having that belief that starts at the top. We hear that a lot on this show. But the other idea I'm thinking is this probably relates to your experience at bumble is it's not such a bad thing to bring people in that have a bit of entrepreneurial spirit that may go onto something of their own. Is that part of what what you do to have the people that are thinking outside the box love that. I e of it if someone taking something for me at the moment, he's just eating a project. He's actually fantastic. And he needs to go and experience some of the stuff before he's ready for peanut. But he's great. He's always kind of. I've got another idea. You know, what I saw, and it will be something which I can't immediately say it by this time where it's come from. And the most exciting part of that is the dynamic of the team is such. That's not everyone's a parent know, everyone's a mom relatively few months, actually. But not everyone's apparent either. It means that that products that they using different. It means. The kind of life is different lifestyle that background is different. And they all bring different ideas. You know, if someone in my office is talking about height based in one of my engine, as well, he's you know, it's kind of thing we need that whole light mixing because otherwise we'll just produce. What everyone expects us to produce. And the point of the matter is you look at the product speech for products. But it probably wouldn't look like that where we made up of team who have the same ideas of what motherhood should look like. Well, that's interesting. What should motherhood looked like I imagine there's people that will be critical and say mothers of got on for tens of thousands of years without an application like this. And so why then do we need it? But I mean, not only do we live in a different world. But, but how does that sort of relate with your idea of the company of the platform because I'm sure it's partly rooted in that need for community and people that are close to you. But also something different. We live our lives differently. They. They say it takes a village to raise a child, right but who lives in village anymore. You know, people move for all reasons. No reason lifestyle work, we explore more. The world has become smaller in that way. In our efforts to kind of make the world smaller to make it more accessible to travel to move around the world becomes a little more lonely because you're not around the people that you grew up with you didn't live next door to your sister. He didn't live around the corner from your mom necessarily. So all of that support network that used to exist that probably raised our parents, or their parents, all of a sudden isn't laugh, and so what we're doing is building a product which helps you kind of make those connections. But with other people aren't necessarily family or your sister or whoever might be so have women been doing this fifty thousands of years. Yes. Have they've been doing it in the same way that they ought today. No women are more important to the workforce than ever before. We're. Being counted in kind of the economics of our countries more than we ever have before in terms of contribution to work force, all of these different factors because of that we have to build different support networks to help women because it's not the same anymore. We all going to work with some of us. Are we all changing things in the way that we work managing the way that they work MENA changing their attitude, and they were perched work too. Because of all of that you need to have support network. You need to have people around you telling this story because it's only by hearing other people's stories, you can work out, which might work for you. And that for me is what was totally lacking. Missing. When I had been I couldn't hear how other people coping how the people were managing work. How are the people were kind of dealing with their family across the country. Whatever it might be. And so if we can build a community that gives you access to that information what could ever be wrong with is suppose listening to your? A very clear vision of what this is. And I can only imagine this has gone over quite well when you're presenting it to investors or pitching it. How was that journey been for you? Do you need the investiture Ernie has been a rollercoaster for me? But do was as I mentioned before a very successful company. A very successful company making a lot of money had one private equity minority shareholder, and it was a very different landscape different. So my relationship with that kind of investor weld was very very different to becoming founder going out and speaking to the VC world and the VC world genuinely was a world. I really didn't know very much about and I have gone through all of those kind of learnings that we all do you can read as much as you want. But you'll never really understand it until you go and have those conversations, and that ranged from people kind of motherhood, you show unity mums, I mean, it's very different. What are you today? Talking again. You're so good at dating. That's you know, have had those conversations right through to you know, I've got business. You would be amazed. She wanna help them can you advise? I'm night date. I'm building. I'm actually this is happening. I'm doing this. So I've had a lot of those types of conversations, or at least I had the I think that again timing is everything people really started to understand. And appreciate that. There is a female consumer market, which kind of be looked anymore. Mothers spending trillions of dollars trillions of dollars. It is not something that we can just generically deal with as kind of mom does the shopping mom does actually make you know, the majority of household decision on spend. And therefore, we have to speak to every type of women that she is and this general type of moments just not enough anymore. But there are brilliant investors out that he went to stand the importance of the market who believe in the need for. For a different type of Seychelle product because that's been the other battle in people wanna say what about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. And this is much more about camp it this so vast seychas so broad now would exists the Pacino t to have all of these different types of niche products. Not the mother should been h by the way, but you know, verticals for you. We should have the opportunity for verticals, and whether that as gamers and thinking about discord and twitch and all these kind of things or an amino, you know, that's in. It's in world has become you know, social products for that market. Let's have from others to talking about the vision of I want to create a social platform for women, and the threat is motherhood is kind of a really good opener, and then to have to really go through the education process, you know, has been tougher. But there was one stat recently. It's one of these kind of random stats, I kind stopped digging intakes try and get to the bottom of not sure I have. But I think something to do with Nike anyway, it was women who an ING put ninety percent of their income back into their family men who are an input forty percent of their income back into their family. So ninety percent of what women are owning goes back into. The kind of family port will then we have to build a product for them, and we have to speak to them, and we have to understand them, and we have to evolve and create for them because that's how valuable that dollar is. And I think when you can tell that story, that's one investors are excited. I'm here's how you've enjoyed this journey as an entrepreneur, and what sort of your takeaway from the last few years of growing peanut it's been so emotional actually, deeply deeply personal in a way that I haven't experienced before we've had wild wild moments. Peanut WW DC with women sold and peanut up on the screen. And you know, we're all sitting watching anarchy Jains dreaming of being the in this in cooking, this that's a little image crazy while I mean, I couldn't even dream it. And there have been extreme lows. You know, it sometimes you release something something bad happens. You feel really responsible and crappy about it and the team feels low and so it's been a real role. Okay, sta. One thing I do is that bravery wins. And if you see something, and you won't do it. And you believe in it, and you have enough conviction that you'll keep getting up every time you get knocked down. You will win new product will win. That's all we have time for on today's show. Thank you to Michelle. Kennedy for coming into share the story of peanut thanks as well to mary-anne rasta for the research help and to our studio manager, Alex Felix, I'm Daniel beach. Thank you so much for listening and goodbye.