Founder Focus: Michelle Kennedy of Peanut
Michelle Kennedy is founder and CEO of social networking app Peanut. Created with the idea that no one should have to navigate motherhood alone, Peanut is a place to build friendships, find support and learn from other women at a similar stage in life. The app introduces you to women nearby based on your commonalities – interests, mutual friends, stage in life, and much more. The community is a safe place to ask questions, join groups and share advice across meaningful topics. Over 1M mothers, expectant mothers, and women trying to conceive have joined the app to connect and share in a safe space. We caught up with Michelle to find out how the app came into being and how she finds, or doesn’t find, a balance between work and play.
What was your eureka moment?
Peanut was born out of 2 main issues. The first was the emotional aspect of becoming a mother. My girlfriends weren’t at the stage in their lives where they were having children yet, and even if some of my wider friendship group were, we all lived in different parts of the city. I suppose what I felt most prominently, is that even though I had lots of friends and was successful professionally, I felt quite isolated. This was further compounded by the fact that I was working in an industry (dating – I was deputy CEO at Badoo and a board member at Bumble), where it was my day-to-day to produce products people could use to find a match or a date, and I was struggling to find a woman who was like-minded to go for a coffee with.
The second was my frustration with the existing products on the market aimed at mothers. I didn’t recognise the tone of voice the products used, or the UX/UI being used. They felt outdated, old fashioned, and in some cases patronising. To me, I didn’t feel like I’d suddenly aged, or become less modern, less cool, just because I’d become a mother, and yet, the products seemed to have that expectation. I found that confusing. I still had an expectation of great user experience, from products like Uber, or Instagram, but I wasn’t getting that from the products for mothers that were out there.
What is your elevator pitch?
Peanut is the first social network to connect women at a similar stage in life. Our mission is to provide a safe space for women to build friendships, find support and learn from one another.
Essentially modernising for the digital age the proverb “it takes a village” Peanut provides access to community by introducing you to women nearby based on your commonalities – stage in life, interests, mutual friends, and much more. Once connected, women can chat and create group conversations. Peanut’s Community is a place to ask questions, create polls and share advice across meaningful topics such as ‘Motherhood’, ‘Pregnancy’, ‘Trying to Conceive’, ‘Love & Sex’ etc. Women can also create and join Groups relating to specific interests or neighbourhoods.
How did you test your idea?
By talking with the women who I wanted the product to be for. Through countless focus groups, we were able to identify what women wanted and needed, so we were able to create a tech product that suited their particular needs. We had a fantastic group of mothers who volunteered to help us through the beta testing phases, who provided us with honest and constructive feedback that helped us make a product that suited them best. Working closely alongside your users from day one is something that I value so much and could not recommend more.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
I would advise that you are prepared to work harder than you have ever worked before! Not everyone will understand your product or your ethos, and chances are you will have to sacrifice a lot. Again, do your homework and research your business, what you want to solve in the world and how you’re going to do it. Being alone, you will need to have a group of people close to you who you can trust and bounce ideas off – a diversity of opinion is valuable for any new business.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
I’ve been really fortunate to have many mentors in my career: some male, some female. I think with a mentor, you take the parts of them that you find most inspiring and try to channel that when you most need it. That might be having the tenacity to never give up (something I learnt from the founder of my previous company) or recognising the need to be yourself, even if everyone around you is different (from my lecturer at university).
What’s your plan B?
To make plan A work?! Eventually, I would like to start investing in women through a fund for very early stage. That’s the goal. That’s the plan long term. I already make some investments, but ideally, I want to focus on those very initial concepts. So often people ask for an MVP before investment, or advice from friends and family around them to get things off the ground, but what if you can’t do that? If you don’t have the access, but could be something brilliant? That’s ideally what I’d like to focus on next.
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
My children. Every second spent with them is always the best investment. Their innocence, their hunger to learn and experience things, I love learning from them. I’ve learnt so much from them about how to listen, how to be patient.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
I had so many ideas for business concepts before Peanut. I think the failure was never trying any of them. I was that annoying friend who would say “you know what I’ve been thinking about…” down the pub on a Friday night. I would research, get excited, sketch out, plan, and then the failing was never having the confidence to make the leap. I’m very excited and happy that I did it for Peanut. If it fails, then at least I’ve tried, I know how much I’ve tried, and how to fail. It’s important to me that my children see that too. If you want to make a change, try. What’s the worst that will happen?
What is coming up for Peanut?
Currently, the app caters for women across fertility, pregnancy and motherhood and we are passionate about forming connections and creating a safe community in this space.
We recently raised $12M which has allowed us to continue growing the platform and looking ahead, we are planning to launch into new communities beyond fertility and motherhood, including the first-of-its-kind space for women living with menopause. By 2025, there will be over one billion women experiencing menopause in the world and it’s currently an untapped market.
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez. It’s truly fascinating to see how much data bias there is all around you, every day. It’s definitely changed my view on day-to-day life!
How do you find balance in your daily life?
Nope! No Balance, it’s a myth! I juggle (badly at the moment). The essence is in trying to move through the madness, and not beating myself up when I get something wrong, or when I drop a ball. I’m human, I don’t always get it right, that’s ok. I have to keep on that mantra. (Easier said than done, but I try!).