Cecily speaks to Georgie, co-founder and chief commercial officer at HEXR, the helmet tech company. Georgie led the development of several products launched to market for Diageo and founded CourseHub, an education tech start-up.
Cecily: Do you think that the expectations on you as a woman are different than of a man in your industry?
Georgie: At Diageo, women were absolutely top of their game and the global board representation was 50/50, so I didn’t even understand gender bias until I came to start my own company, because it just didn’t exist. At Diageo, paternity leave and all of that stuff was all equal. Then I went into the world of VC and I pitched the same pitch, the same numbers with a similar amount of passion, enthusiasm and knowledge as my male co-founders and I was told “this won’t ever get investment” and then “Oh, we are actually oversubscribed and this just a relationship meeting, I am not actually pitching for funding”.
By contrast, my male co-founders were oversubscribed five times for a round when they lead it and we were presenting the exact same thing – that in itself was completely crazy. I have been in meetings with potential investors who have put all of the questions to my male co-founders, to the point that they had to speak up and say “actually, Georgie is leading on all of that, could you address your questions to her?” I have never experienced that before. It is so sad to admit but I feel genuinely lucky to have male co-founders in this climate because I’m not sure I would have funding that I do, without them. And that is purely because they are male, not because of the fact that they are brilliant engineers or that they are super knowledgeable.
Georgie wears the Motley x Sim & Stout Flotsam Earrings in Sterling Silver.
Cecily: How do you express your individuality of work?
Georgie: I totally sign up to the idea that you bring your full self to work. I am building the team like that. I always dress as I want to dress. I never go for a corporate vibe because I am going to an investor meeting- I show up as me because I am way more confident that way and I know people buy into my confidence, and as long as I feel comfortable, I will give them my best. I don’t believe in dressing for someone else or toning down my personality – I am dying my hair pink!
Cecily: So, what does work-life balance mean to you?
Georgie: I think work-life balance thing is such an individual thing. As a founder, you don’t strive as much to be able to switch off, because it is always going to be with you and you need to take that responsibility. But for me, it is being able to be active as well as never letting my work get in the way of my fitness, particularly cycling and running. For me, it is being healthy but when you become a founder you sign up to having an ‘always on’ life.
Cecily: If you could change one thing in your industry, what would it be?
Georgie: It would be feeling like a female in a male industry, so we would have a lot more female investors out there and more balance in the number of female led start-ups that get funding, because until you can see it, people don’t believe they can achieve it. Something like 90% of start-ups are male founded. I don’t think that many women are getting the access that they need to bring their innovations to life.
Cecily: The power pose is regarded as inspiring confidence in its poser, what do you do to bring you confidence in the working day?
Georgie: The power pose is my go-to, I have used it for every big moment! It makes you feel bigger and stronger, it sends energy around you. Also, I spin every single morning, I would go insane without it.
Cecily: What are you most intimidated by?
Georgie: I am intimidated by building something at the speed at which we have to build it, because you never know enough. I am a perfectionist, which really holds me back because I don’t have enough time to get to the bar that I like, before having to move on again. That is incredibly intimidating, and looking at the growth that comes with a VC backed business, it is exciting but it is definitely the scariest thing about this.
Cecily: What are you most proud of?
Georgie: I am most proud of turning down my dream job in a massive company. Turning my back on that safe option and putting my life plans on hold and in many ways putting my personal life on hold. I have more fulfilment now than I have ever had in my life and it is harder and riskier, I think that is what most people don’t do and that is what separates entrepreneurs from the rest.