Listed in the Maserati 100, Michelle Kennedy Co Founder and CEO of Peanut, talks evolving social networks, and her entrepreneurial journey!

Prior to Peanut, I was Deputy CEO at Badoo, the European dating behemoth. I joined Badoo at a time when dating ‘online’, was, let’s say, niche. People would talk about it in slight disbelief, “and you know, they met, ON THE INTERNET!”. Laughable to think about those times and how far we’ve come. We all know how the evolution of mobile, social, and the need and want to make connections has been transforming over the past 8 years. Indeed, to think about a dating app where women would do something as simple as sending a message first, and the impact that would have not just on the dating industry, but on social norms as a whole (I was formerly on the board of Bumble), is remarkable. So, thinking about social, and the impact of social networks on motherhood was somewhat of an inevitable step.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Where is our village today? We don’t all live where we grew up, with our families close by. We move for work, for lifestyle, and that kind of mobility takes its toll on your ability to have a support network. How do you find advice and support? How do you make bonds and relationships? I think it can be extremely tough to admit, “yes, I’m having a hard time, I’m feeling lonely, or isolated.” It doesn’t make you weird, it doesn’t make you a bad mom, and yet we fear verbalising these things will. Being able to find a network of like minded women enables you to have those conversations that you want, that you need, and not to fear it.

Peanut was born out of 2 main issues. The first was the emotional aspect of becoming a mother. Before Fin arrived, I felt prepared. I had bought everything I needed, I’d read a few books. Turns out, the arrival of a baby isn’t just about planning. There are feelings and demands that you can’t plan for. My girlfriends weren’t at the stage in their life where they were yet having children, 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 new born 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 I was lonely. I had lots of friends, I was successful professionally, and yet, when I was at home, I felt lonely. 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 look and feel of the products. They didn’t represent me as a mother at all. To me, I didn’t feel like I’d suddenly aged, or become less modern, less cool, just because I’d become a mom, and yet, there wasn’t a product which understood this. So, taking my understanding of the tech industry, building social products, and motherhood, I decided to create a social product to connect like minded women, who happened to be mamas.

So, at its core, Peanut is about connecting like minded women, who happen to be mothers. We also recently launched Peanut Pages. If you agree with the proposition that social has become so broad, and the landscape is so fragmented that all of the incredible resource, knowledge, sharing, is being lost, or is not accessible by all women, because there is no one central repository, then you can immediately understand the need.

Pages is that one central repository. It acts intelligently – we use smart algorithms to not only show our users what is trending across the community, but to show them content most relevant to who they are as a mother. Peanut Pages will act as a social barometer for trending topics across the community. Why is that important? Well because we’re not all the same, every woman is different, every mother is different, and we wanted Pages to reflect that. In addition, Peanut has always been, at its heart, about connecting women, who happen to be mothers. Our existing users already know that our style, the way we interact with our users is not about being ‘mommy’, it’s about being themselves, and as part of that, being a mother. We continue to reflect this through Pages. The content posted on Pages will link to user’s profiles to really enable and facilitate those connections. It’s about creating a social platform for women who are mothers, created by a team including woman who are mothers, don’t we deserve that? To have our own product for our own vertical which is truly designed for our needs? Not trying to ‘make do’ with other products because this doesn’t exist? The very essence behind Peanut Pages is to enable women (who are mothers) to share a page from their book with another woman, on a product and platform for them.

Someone asked me the other day if phones are making us more lonely. To me it felt like a strange question-what could be more lonely than being alone and unable to connect with anyone? I think that we do need to remind ourselves to be in the moment, not what is in the palm of our hands, but for Peanut, I don’t see this as a replacement for in real life connections, it’s to help you meet in real life. How could that ever be bad?

There’s something else which is important to note at this point. Women who are mothers are worth over $2.4trn. They control 85% of household spend. They are one of the most influential voices in the market. The power of this market is real, and so, their ability to have a social, tech focused product is real too.

Some pretty incredible things have happened to Peanut since we launched. We from being featured on Good Morning America, to the Today Show declaring us an app “you can’t live without”, and of course Apple featuring Peanut at WWDC 2017. We have over 300,000 women using the app, and the highlight is always when we hear the success stories. When women have connected on Peanut to start a business, to find a nanny share, to have a changed experience in respect of Peanut. I think this traction in a year just highlights why an original approach to a social problem is not only welcome, it’s critical to growth.

As I watched women reclaim their voice last year, and continue to do so, I was inspired to do the same for women who happen to be mothers. To give them a platform to have the conversations they want and need to have. On every topic relating to life as a woman including motherhood. To use technology to make having those conversations and debates intuitive, easy, intelligent. In the climate of #Metoo it has never been more paramount for women to reclaim their voice, I say the same for mothers.

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