Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Annie Ridout is co-founder and head of content for Clementine, founder of digital parenting platform The Early Hour and author of The Freelance Mum. She lives in London with her husband and two kids (aged four and two) and is pregnant with her third. Kim Palmer is co-founder and CEO of Clementine App, a strategy director for Wunderman, and lives with her husband and their two sons, aged four and nearly one, in Kent.
How did you get into health tech and fem tech industry?
Kim and I worked together for a tech startup about six years ago - she was working in strategy and I was a copywriter. We became pregnant with our first babies at the same time and both had a challenging time at work. I was on a rolling contract but essentially self-employed so was told I’d leave and the contract would be terminated; I would lose my job.
Kim was desperate to get a promotion before she took maternity leave but she was putting work before her health and had a major panic attack in a client meeting. This marked the start of acute anxiety that plagued Kim through the later stages of pregnancy and maternity leave. Eventually, she discovered an amazing hypnotherapist whose sessions helped her to feel calmer, more confident and sleep better.
She decided to be bold, take redundancy and use the money to launch an app for women, incorporating hypnotherapy sessions recorded by Georgia Foster; the internationally-renowned hypnotherapist who had treated her. At this stage, she brought me in as a consultant and copywriter, and later offered me shares. I’m now a co-founder and head up the content.
What is the idea behind your project / product and how did you come up with it? When did you start with that business, how did you start and do you have other members in your team?
We were really keen to help other women who were feeling stressed at work or at home and needed a boost but couldn’t afford expensive one-on-one therapy. Clementine App is like pocket hypnotherapy - it’s free, and you can use it wherever and whenever you like. We launched the app in November 2017 - just me and Kim. And we’re now growing a brilliant team of contributors including the journalist Robyn Wilder who writes regular blog posts for us, and for the new ‘body’ section we’re launching (helping women to be less critical and more accepting and respectful of their bodies) we have Jess Jones (@thefatfunnyone on Instagram), Hannah Olateju (@hannahtheamputee) and Milly Smith (@selfloveclubb) advising us, as well as a yet-to-be-revealed high profile psychotherapist who specialises in body image. We’re also really excited to have a new hypnotherapist recording the ‘body’ sessions.
Like many startups, we’re self-funded at this stage so it’s been mostly Kim and me putting in the hours. But having amassed nearly 40,000 active subscribers in the app, and a community of around 60,000 women (including social and the newsletter), with no marketing budget - we’re excited to see what happens when we secure investment and have a permanent team.
Which has been your most challenging project and why? How about most rewarding and why?
Securing investment, as two female founders who are both mothers, has been frustrating. The criteria for accelerator programmes is that you need to be available full-time for a sustained period but as mothers, we work around our families. We put in the hours; but not necessarily the traditional 9-5 hours. Angel investors are only interested if there’s been a private introduction, which feels incredibly elitist. And VC firms want to see more growth before they invest - but it’s hard to grow without investment.
What’s most rewarding is receiving messages from women who have suffered with insomnia but using the app has helped them to sleep. Or who had a fear of public speaking but can now get up in front of hundreds of people and feel confident. Also women going through divorce, terminal illness, workplace stress, bullying - all these incredibly difficult experiences - who have felt supported and a little bit lighter because of Clementine. That’s what we do it for.
How do you keep learning about fem tech and health tech because it is constantly changing with new technologies?
I’m a journalist alongside the work I do for Clementine so I’m constantly checking in on news and making sure I keep up-to-date. And Kim’s a massive researcher - she loves listening to podcasts, reading articles, keeping herself in the know. Plus, we’re both really into social media so start discussions about what’s going on in these areas, and enjoy learning from our followers.
What do you think will be the key trends in the health tech and fem tech space in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
We feel there aren’t many health apps for women that focus on the mind. With Clementine, we’re working to help women feel better within themselves by adjusting their mindset. There’s definitely scope for more apps in this area. We’re noticing trends in ‘sex tech’ and apps that monitor your menstrual cycle. Clementine compliments these apps as it’s about saying: ok, you want to improve your sex life? Cool, use that fancy dildo but also think about why you’re embarrassed of being naked in front of your partner, and do some work on the mind as well (we’ll have sessions for this in our ‘body’ section). Likewise with periods, it’s about monitoring your cycle and then when you’re in that crap premenstrual period, using a ‘mind’ app like Clementine to help you to feel calmer and more confident.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to entrepreneurs in these industries out there?
Always focus on the problem you’re trying to solve and who the customer is you’re trying to solve the problem for. Don't jump to solutions before you understand the problem intimately - the micro detail is important. Then when you think you understand it well enough, think broadly about the way(s) you can solve this problem using technology. But always be lead by the problem not the technology. The technology is an enabler.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in these industries?
Melissa Morris, founder of Lantum; the co-founders of Shine App - Marah Lidey, Naomi Hirabayashi and founder of Elvie, Tania Boler.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.