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From Criminal Lawyer to TV Producer and now the Founder of a Tech Startup

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

I am on my third career! I was initially a criminal defence lawyer, then a television producer and now a founder of a technology startup. My startup is www.thelabrador.co.uk.

Describe your idea in less than 50 words

The Labrador is a free smart home service to ensure a household is always on the cheapest energy tariffs based on their actual usage, without them having to do anything.

How did you get started with The Labrador?

I used to work with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the time when the internet provided new ways of engaging audiences. We started using technology to aggregate consumer influence to bring about market disruption (Chicken Out; Fish Fight) as well as building collaborative communities (Crowdfunder; Landshare, Energyshare). I became interested in exploring business models other than media/ content driven and saw energy as being a market where people were arguably most disempowered and unengaged.

The tipping point for me was when the government announced the smart meter roll out and that crucially consumers annot energy suppliers own the data. To me, this represented the biggest opportunity in that consumers could not have hoped for a better bargaining chip to rebalance their position in the market. Yet I knew customers were unlikely to have time or tools to exploit this asset to their advantage. So that’s what Labrador does.

What did you do to attract users and grow your business?

We have spend quite a bit of time building up different channels to market in terms of understanding who the market players are, what are their challenges and what are they missing - in energy but also outside. We are only now thinking about our own direct marketing but that is quickly becoming really exciting as we are being approached about marketing programmes which could dramatically amplify what we hope to do.

I also recommend the basics such as a growth hacking course at General Assembly. General Assembly courses, even short ones, I think can be incredibly useful as they’re full of tips from people in the know that are not widely known, often even by agencies.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

Starting to properly go above the line and be seen in the market. It’s been a long time in the planning and I’m really excited to get out there. Albeit launch and growth is potentially the most unpredictable part of the startup journey!

Tell us about the challenges you have faced and what you have done to overcome this.

Funding, particularly as a sole founder, non technical person and a woman who is not naturally equipped with sales skills... I raised money with an idea on a piece of paper and not a particularly relevant track record...

Thankfully, London is a great place to be to raise money. But I found a massive difference when Hambro Perks came on board. Prior to then, I was resident in IDEALondon where a 9-12 months funding cycle was fairly common amongst startups. Now funding is a much faster and a much less time intensive process, enabling us to get on with running the business.

What's the one tool or resource you've found helpful?

I have gotten a lot out of networks I have built or been lucky enough to access. Never turn down a meeting in that you never know how or when it might be relevant. Albeit obviously you need to remain focused in a startup...

What's your advice for other women who are just starting out?

Don’t second guess yourself. Give an idea a chance and have the confidence to keep going.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Trying to build something to make my son proud.

What's your morning routine?

School drop off - I’m a single parent.

My favourite quote is

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Pragmatic. Loyal. Challenger.

Where can we go to learn more?

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