Entrepreneur interview, Michelle Kennedy, CEO of Peanut

The former Badoo deputy CEO has created a 'Tinder for mothers' and has signed up over 300,000 users in less than a year.

In just over a year, mothers networking app Peanut has registered 325,000 users across the UK, US and Canada. Here Michelle Kennedy, CEO of Peanut, who co-founded the business with Deliveroo co-founder Greg Orlowski, explains to Growth Business how the idea came about, the company’s growth so far and plans for the future.

How did you get into starting the company and what is its vision?

I started my career as an M&A lawyer at leading international law firm Mishcon de Reya. I later joined dating app, Badoo, where I rose to the role of Deputy CEO at the over $100 million revenue generative market leader. I was also integral to the launch of dating app, Bumble.

Peanut was born out of two 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 (and leaving the house to go anywhere further than 10 minutes from home with a newborn felt like a military operation). I suppose what I felt most prominently, which isn’t particularly comfortable for a 30-something woman to admit, 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), 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 recognize 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 They felt outdated, old-fashioned, and in some cases patronising.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.

The vision for Peanut is to create a platform for modern motherhood. Facilitating conversations women want and need to have, a safe space for women, who happen to be mothers.

How much initial investment did the company need to start and where did it come from?

The amount of our raise is undisclosed. We raised from VCs including NEA, Sweet Capital (founders of Candy Crush), and Female Founders Fund. We used the funding to build the team! We developed the product in-house, our team are specialists in product and engineering.

What marketing did the company employ to maximise exposure?

Our marketing really boiled down to word-of-mouth growth. That organic growth is really important. You can amplify that with events, or flyers, but really, particularly with our market, you need to be sure that women are organically talking about the product as it’s a social, community product. Also, for a company of our size, we have a very minimal marketing budget.

Talk about the company’s growth trajectory, from being founded to establishing revenue, to covering costs, to moving into profit.

We are a free to use, free to download app. We are not currently revenue generative as we are focused on building the community (think FB and Instagram for several years post-launch). Our growth has been amazing, seeing us grow to over 325,000 users in just over a year.

How important is an inspirational figurehead to a scale-up company?

No person can build a company alone. A team is what is required to make a product work. For this reason, it’s really important to have a vision and bring the company along on this vision. When the team believe in the vision, they are more likely to pin their values to that. I believe in transparency and honesty. I speak with my team all the time, and I listen, I want to hear what they think, I want to hear from everyone. From there, we can make informed decisions. I always want them to know how important and valued their individual contributions are to the success of the company.

You also have to be a storyteller. Being able to take someone on the journey. Whether it’s an investor, an employee, a journalist or a user. Really getting to explain the story, the vision, why it’s important to them, why they should care. I think I’ve always been good at telling a story. What I’ve developed is the ability to anticipate anywhere people may lose interest, or disagree with the story. By pre-empting that, and already knowing what your response is, you can continue to engage them with your story.

What advice would you give to scale-up companies looking to build their company to exit?

Be prepared to work harder than you ever have before, there is a huge amount of sacrifice required. Be realistic about the KPIs and metrics you are working towards in order to reach the valuation you expect and want. Speak frequently to your investors, and be honest with them (ask for help when you need it). They’re already ‘in’ so they’re motivated to help you! Make the most of that.

Further reading on entrepreneurs

Interview: Peter Clark, co-founder of Qlearsite

Kennedy and Orlowski have recently been named in the Maserati 100, which recognises innovative entrepreneurs from start-ups and established businesses.

Michael Somerville

Uriel Beer

Michael was senior reporter for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2018 to 2019.

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