“You only live once but, if you get it right, once is enough” – An interview with Georgia Stewart
The winner of ‘Future Spark’ at the sparkies earlier this year, a good friend of SR2’s, Co-Founder of Tumelo, and the organiser of Golang Bristol, she is defiantly one to watch! I spoke with Georgia about the future of sustainable investing, female mentors, wine, netball and mama mia.
WHAT IS TUMELO?
Tumelo (formerly ‘Hedge’) helps everyone to shape the future through engaged investing. Our app is designed so that our members can facilitate positive change by investing in portfolios that reflect their personal values; taking control of their finances and engaging with corporations to create a better future. People, like me, want to save more, invest more, learn more and engage more – we’re building an app to make that happen.
YOU GRADUATED FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY WITH A FIRST DEGREE IN NATURAL SCIENCE, NOW YOU HAVE FOUNDED A TECH COMPANY, WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM?
Well my course was called “Natural Sciences”, but really, I just wanted to be a conservationist, so alongside Maths and Geology I took all the fluffy, biology subjects like climate change, ecology and conservation. Once I’d recovered from Freshers’ Week, I was looking to get involved in societies and stumbled upon Positive Investment Cambridge which was a small group of people working to ensure that the university engaged in the ethical and transparent investment of its £5bn endowment. So, I joined them, and every Monday, for 2 hours, for three years, we talked about sustainable investment; designed campaigns to involve students, and tried to cooperate with the council. Once I left I knew that was the way I could help to make a difference. For me ‘tech’ was just the best way to scale up our efforts.
TUMELO IS DESIGNED TO ENGAGE THE NEXT GENERATION WITH SAVING AND INVESTMENT. THINKING ABOUT THE NEXT GENERATION OF FOUNDERS, HOW CAN WE ENCOURAGE WOMEN TO LAUNCH THEIR OWN TECH START-UP?
At the risk of stereotyping, women seem to be more risk-averse and more conscientious than men. I see it with the three of us (my two co-founders are both guys and I’m definitely ‘the worrier’ among us) but I also see it in all of my UX testing: Women are less likely than men to invest, and when they do they are more cautious. I don’t think that’s just a matter of who controls the finances, because the ‘next generation’ of women are financially independent. It might be conditioning, or it might just be in our genes (que the nature/nurture debate…). Starting a tech start up is a high-risk activity, so I can totally see why the trend is as it stands.
I didn’t have a female mentor when I first started, but I’ve found them along the way. Rosie Bennett at Bath’s SetSquared has been a great mentor, and I think the more women that women founders/would-be founders can surround themselves with, the better.
I also think teaching both women and men that seeing and approaching things differently is so often a benefit. Start-ups are nearly always about people, and almost every problem you come across will be about communication. Generally speaking, we (women) are really good at that.
HOW DID YOU GET INVESTMENT FOR TUMELO?
We sought angel investment from people in the financial sector. Our lead investor is the out-going Head of Compliance at Goldman Sachs, for example. I pitched at Pitch at the Palace, a three-round pitching competition with the final at St James’ in London. The first round at Cheltenham Racecourse was my first ever pitch in front of other people – it was a good place to start!
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT RECRUITING FOR THE TEAM?
We didn’t think about recruitment for the first 4 months, then suddenly, once we realised we were going to raise successfully, it was the only thing I could think about – all day, all night. And it was so stressful! The first thing I did was get a recommendation for a good recruiter in Bristol… and so that’s how I met Alicia. I went in to meet the team and she basically coached me on talent finding – it was amazing. I told her what I thought we needed, then I changed the brief, then I changed it again, then I changed it again. I must have been the worst client ever. Eventually we actually found the person we were looking for – Pilar – independently through a meetup group. Everyone looking to recruit should go to meetup groups… and try not to talk about yourself, even if people ask you, because it’s them you want to learn about.
Henry, our class Junior Engineer and first ever hire actually worked with us for free for three months before we could afford to hire him. That’s the type of person you really want on your team. Since then everyone has been through word of mouth or an internship. Georgie was the best intern in the world, so we’ve trapped in an employment contract hoping she’ll never leave us… and when Wyc said he wanted to work for us Ben, Will and I were all gobsmacked because he was totally out of our league. When great people back you with their time, that’s when you finally start backing yourself.
WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED?
We have a purpose at Tumelo which is to facilitate a better future for everyone by influencing positive change in big corporations. That sounds complicated, but basically, we all come to work knowing that we’re trying to do something that could genuinely change people’s lives: financially and for the bigger picture. Plus, my family have backed me since the day I first said “I want to be a vet” when I was about 4. My path has changed a lot, but I still really want to make them proud.
WHAT EXCITING THINGS ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Georgie and I are currently working on the user experience (UX) and design (UI) of the app and web tools. It’s very fun and really tiring, but we’ve met lots of people in the community through our interviews which has been great. People have been really supportive; RSM even let us host an interview morning in their Victoria Street Offices. The rest of the team is busy building the back and front end of the app and Will, having submitted our FCA application for financial advisory permissions, is now erecting the company whiteboard!
HAVE YOU EVER SUFFERED FROM THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME?
ALL THE TIME. I felt it the whole way through Cambridge as a woman in science, the boys always seemed to talk louder, think faster (and bullshit better). But it’s not just about being a woman: All three of us are really young founders, in a really old, traditional industry. Feeling like an imposter is the whole point, because if we didn’t we wouldn’t be able to build the right product for the people who need it – the rest of the world. Finance is exclusionary, so we need to fight our own way in and then fight for everyone else to feel welcome too.
FROM MEETING AND WORKING WITH YOU FOR A LITTLE WHILE I THINK I COULD ANSWER THIS ONE FOR YOU – I’M SURE YOU HAVE BEEN IN A ROOM FULL OF MEN, WHETHER THAT BE AT A ‘MEET-UP’, NETWORKING INVESTMENT OR BUSINESS MEETINGS, HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT?
Drink wine? Across four banking internships, I’ve spent a lot of time in rooms full of men. There’s no casual changing room chat; people aren’t used to talking about their siblings, kids or families at work; they haven’t seen Mama Mia; and they tend not to play lacrosse or netball. There’s definitely less to talk about at first glance. Then one day I went to a networking event for female investors in London and, trust me, it was equally terrifying in different ways. Moral of the story is that any kind of networking is uncomfortable, scary and tiring and you need to work hard to be good at it.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
“You only live once but, if you get it right, once is enough”. – Mae West
You need a squad you can float around in the ocean with for 6 weeks without going bonkers. So, I would have to choose my core 2017 transatlantic sailing team:
Dad – because he’s energetic and, amazingly, doesn’t annoy me over long periods of time (sorry mum).
Erica – because she maintains balance and, amazingly, doesn’t get annoyed by me over long periods of time.
David – just because: Campari, tapestry, eyebrows.