Shaper: Katie Massie-Taylor

Show aired on 26th May 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Dave Brubeck with Take Five, a lovely way to start the programme. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Thank you so much for joining. Jazz Shapers is where you get to hear the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul do their thing whilst we also have someone from the world of business do their thing. We call them Business Shapers. It is Business Shapers and Jazz Shapers right here and I am very pleased to say that my Business Shaper today is Katie Massie-Taylor, she is the Co-founder of Mush and Mush is an app that enables mums to connect in a local area. You are going to be hearing lots about her clever natty technology and the ideas behind it. In addition to hearing from Katie you will also be hearing our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and as well as all of that I promised you some music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul and I hope I won’t disappoint because Thelonious Monk is in there, Luis Armstrong as well as this, another classic Jazz Shaper, it’s Billie Holiday.

That was Body and Soul from Billie Holiday. Katie Massie-Taylor is my Business Shaper today and as I said she is the Co-founder of Mush. Katie it’s lovely to have you here.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Thank you, thank you for having me.

Elliot Moss
In your own words, describe what Mush is apart from the obvious? Not that kind of Mush.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Mush is a free app that connects mum’s locally with one another. It started as a way to meet friends with kids the same age. It’s turning into a sort of local social network for mums.

Elliot Moss
And tell me about where this idea started?

Katie Massie-Taylor
So it started over three years ago when I met a girl in a playground, she had kids the same age as me, she looked equally as tired as I did and she wandered over and asked for my number and we became really firm friends and three months later reflecting on what a life saver of a friendship that had been, we thought you know, why is it up to chance meetings for mums to find other mums with kids the same age and fill those long days when there is such great technology out there that connects people. So we thought you know, we are the people that could do that. Started looking into you know, how we would make an app that connects mums and the rest is history.

Elliot Moss
And how old were the kids then or how many did you have at that point? Was it one or two?

Katie Massie-Taylor
At that point we both had just under two year olds and two week olds.

Elliot Moss
Wow okay, so you are right in the zone because you hear about all these… I remember listening to someone talking about being a mumpreneur or some funny phrase and someone turned round and said ‘that’s the least likely thing to happen, I am exhausted, I’ve got these great ideas or I had them but now I am in the zone’. You were in the zone then and you met this stranger.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Yep.

Elliot Moss
How did you even find the head space because one is exhausted at that stage, especially if you have just literally given birth. How did you find the head space to even think about business?

Katie Massie-Taylor
I think it didn’t feel like a business. It was such… we had been living the problem of feeling kind of like you know, those days were long and we felt a bit lonely. We had lived that experience so much that it didn’t require too much head space to think about it. Crucially as well we had three months you know, lapse I suppose before we actually started thinking about Mush as a proper idea so by then we were out of the fuzz I suppose or the mushy brain and could have a bit of clarity and think about the opportunities so.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of how you felt capable of doing this, I mean your experience, your background is varied, you’ve done all sorts of things. You’ve worked in New York, you’ve worked in PR, you seem to have worked at a head broker at a trading house, I mean crazy volume and variety. What in all of that experience led you to the feeling that you were just going to do your own thing? If indeed it did?

Katie Massie-Taylor
Well yeah I think I was always curious, always inquisitive, never really happy at what I was doing and was searching for something I was an expert in and constantly going into new businesses and trying to learn about them but always coming in at the bottom and it was just a really happy coincidence that I became an expert in being a mum. I became an expert in the problem we were trying to solve and I was able to fill the gaps of the lack of knowledge that I had in tech and building apps to find experts that did know about it and just sort of follow the original vision which was you know, eliminate loneliness and make mums, give mums a more brilliant time when they are on maternity leave.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out more about Katie Massie-Taylor and what she has been doing as Co-founder at Mush. Time for some more music, I promised you him earlier, here it is, it’s Thelonious Monk with ‘Round Midnight.

That was Thelonious Monk with ‘Round Midnight. We are playing some relaxing music here in Jazz Shapers with some classic shapers, that’s good and courtesy of Matt the producer. Katie Massie-Taylor is my Business Shaper today, Co-founder at Mush, they help mums connect. I want to go back into the different things that you did before being a mum and having kids and stuff. In all the time that you were working, was there a sense that you just hadn’t found the thing that you loved? Forget whether you worked for yourself or not, were you… in that… because I know in my own life I have only done two or three things truthfully and iterated but for you, you really did zigzag around.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Yeah I think I was always searching for what made me happy. I you know, I was the person that every time I’d see a friend I’d announce that I was doing something different and they probably despaired that I would never find something…

Elliot Moss
The eyes were rolling…

Katie Massie-Taylor
…I was going to stick at. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Elliot Moss
…Katie’s doing another…

Katie Massie-Taylor
New thing.

Elliot Moss
…and they go ‘oh that’s great Katie, really tell me all about it’. They go not again.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Yeah. But I think what they all had in common was you know, wanting to take ownership of something they, they all required me to be quite decisive and assertive so that life skill is something that you can carry through you know, wherever you are. And they are all useful in their different ways, they are all great experiences but yeah I was, I was dipping in and out of stuff looking for my thing.

Elliot Moss
And along that way did you end up being asked to leave jobs? I mean I say that in a… was it…

Katie Massie-Taylor
No I am delighted to say I was always the one that said you know, time for me to go, I’m going to look into something else. The City, I had worked in the City I mean that was the longest stint, it was a seven year stint working as a broker and it was when I got married and started thinking about a family that I thought that wasn’t a great lifestyle to do with children so that was when I wanted to find something a bit more meaningful and started to play around and go into different businesses for three or four months at a time to try and just you know, get a better experience of everything else out there.

Elliot Moss
And now as we look back and you have been… when did you set the business up? Mush?

Katie Massie-Taylor
So Mush was, it’s… we’d been thinking about it you know since three and a half years ago, two years ago it went live on the App stores.

Elliot Moss
Okay and you were funded as well? You’ve been funded by Octopus I believe?

Katie Massie-Taylor
We have, yeah we’ve done three funding rounds. The first one was through friends and family, second one was through private investors and crowd funding and yeah most recently was institutional through Octopus.

Elliot Moss
And what do you think they’ve invested in? What do you think they are getting Katie?

Katie Massie-Taylor
Do you know what, I think they’ve seen this opportunity that there is a space for a social media platform that’s doing good, that’s a particularly great vertical I suppose for the mums. You know you have LinkedIn, you have LinkedIn for your business persona, you have Facebook for friends and family and all, yeah ex-colleagues and… but there is nothing where you could be unashamedly mum and they can see that we’ve created something really authentic, really safe where mums can be themselves so I think they see the opportunity that this, yeah this could be the things that mums download.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of those people that have invested in you, you talked about crowd funding and I believe you raised just under a million pounds on crowd funding. What did you give the people who were investing? What do they get in return for the pound that they decided to crowd fund you with?

Katie Massie-Taylor
They got equity. It’s as simple as that. Yeah they bought in to our mission I think, you know, mums feel lonely, 90% of new mums feel lonely. I mean it is crazy and we were setting out to change that and do social good so I think as well as being, we hope, an attractive opportunity and return on their investment so it really appealed to people. It was such a common and a common experience for potentially the investors themselves or family of the investors that it didn’t require too much of a hard sell. But yeah, so they have all got part ownership in Mush and year, we’ve got seven hundred investors one way or another I think.

Elliot Moss
Luckily you haven’t brought them all with because it would have been a bit of a squeeze. Much more coming up from my Business Shaper, that’s Katie Massie-Taylor and she will be coming back in a couple of minutes but before that, I promised it earlier, it’s coming up now, some words of wisdom for your business from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday I am lucky, I always say this but it’s true because I meet someone who is doing something, who is shaping the world of if it happens to be business here on Jazz Shapers. But it takes a lot to get up and do something I think and so I am always impressed by the variety of people’s tenacity and energy for their thing, whatever their thing might be. If you’ve missed any of programmes, I am sure you have missed a few, I’ll let you off, go into iTunes put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’ and you will find a whole tonne there. British Airways is another destination for you. Katie Massie-Taylor is my Business Shaper today, she is the Co-founder at Mush if you were listening earlier and I hope you were and we were talking about why people might invest in you and you mentioned this piece around social good. Is the value within that which is to try and help people and you talked about loneliness and I think you said 90% of mums are lonely at some point in being a young mum. Is that really important to you and if so, what else are you doing to raise that issue because it strikes me that mental health generally is now being talked about much more?

Katie Massie-Taylor
Well I think we’ve read in a really, we’ve read in a wave of awareness since we launched around the term mental health, round mental health generally much due to the Royal Foundation to the Heads Together and the great work that they have been doing. I just think it’s… we’ve come to a new kind of era of honesty through social media where people are admitting when they are not okay you know, and trying to establish one-to-one conversations and share problems. It just feels like the climate is to be a bit more honest which we are delighted to hear. In terms of what else we are doing at Mush to try and eliminate this loneliness, we are in touch with the Loneliness Minister, Tracey Crouch, we are hoping that you know, we can do something from the top down. We are constantly trying to promote Mush to midwives and health visitors because this is a wonderful tool at everyone’s disposal, to help mums before they are in any sort of trouble because of course loneliness is sort of on the spectrum of you know, more unfortunate depression and that sort of thing so yeah we are doing all we can. We just need everyone to know about it.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of balancing that social good with making a buck you know, it’s always a thing to be a company that really has impact, you actually have to have funds.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
So how are you managing the commercial side and how fast do you want to be in a place where you can do even more social good?

Katie Massie-Taylor
The focus for us has to be to make a product that mums love because yeah, if we haven’t done that then we don’t stand a chance of carrying on going so our focus for now is just exactly that, carry on building new features that mums need and love and then eventually we will be able to commercialise that so that more mums have access to Mush, we can go International, we can grow this into a proper business.

Elliot Moss
I mean in terms of coming up with ideas for the business, in terms of coming up with new features and the stuff that as you were talking about earlier, that mums might just love. What’s the process if there is one?

Katie Massie-Taylor
The process is incredibly complex. What we do is we go into our email, we find the feedback from mums and we write it down. Honestly our best ideas come from the audience themselves. What we’ve been blessed with is mums love talking, mums love giving feedback you know, we’ve relied on these mums from the start to be our advocates, our ambassadors and our biggest critics as well so they are coming up with a lot of the ideas, we just you know, then go along and do the measurements and look at the data and see whether it all makes sense and we build it into our product remit, it’s pretty simple.

Elliot Moss
Sounds very simple. We should all listen to our consumers more. Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, Katie Massie-Taylor, Co-founder at Mush. Time for some more music, it’s another big Jazz Shaper, it’s Luis Armstrong with What A Wonderful World.

Luis Armstrong with one of the most famous songs ever, What A Wonderful World and wonderful it is too to hear it. Katie Massie-Taylor has been talking to me about ideas and about how simple it is, just listen to your consumers. I think everyone should be doing that as I said earlier. In terms of the people in your business now, you’ve built up a team of just under ten? Is that right or is it more, has it grown?

Katie Massie-Taylor
Do you know what we have a remarkable, we’ve got twenty one people that work in some capacity for Mush now. We’ve got a tech team in the Ukraine, about ten of them there; six that sit permanently in the office in London and then lots of mums that work for a day a week from home for a day or two yeah.

Elliot Moss
What do they say about Katie? What kind of person is Katie in their opinion do you think?

Katie Massie-Taylor
Wowee – Katie is pretty controlling.

Elliot Moss
You hide it well.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Fair.

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Yeah sort of flips around a bit I suppose and never satisfied.

Elliot Moss
And the never satisfied bit, how does that manifest itself, is that just constantly going could that be better? Is that the fastest way of doing it? Is that the most user friendly user experience? Is that kind of thing?

Katie Massie-Taylor
That’s wonderful yeah, no I’d like to do all of those things. Yeah I think it’s the sense that are we sure we’ve got it right yet? Slightly paranoid that we are missing opportunities yeah I think you know, a level of anxiety is actually pretty healthy in an entrepreneur.

Elliot Moss
Are you… and on that point, because it’s a serious point because there is a fine line between healthy anxiety and healthy paranoia and then it becoming you know, paralysing. Have you ever felt where you’ve gone too close to the ‘I actually can’t think straight and I am not enjoying this anymore’ moment?

Katie Massie-Taylor
I think that luckily no but I reckon one of the main reasons is because I have a brilliant co-founder and we are such a great team, she, she is kind of the opposite of me in so many ways and she is a really calming influence and draws me out of any panic.

Elliot Moss
But that nervous energy is kind of the gold dust isn’t it?

Katie Massie-Taylor
I don’t know. I mean it is definitely, it’s been what’s driven me I suppose yeah.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of the money and obviously the business is, I am imagining the business is not making money yet?

Katie Massie-Taylor
It is not making money.

Elliot Moss
It is not making money but a few million pounds has been invested in it. It matters to you obviously that the business succeeds, does it matter to you whether you get rich or not? Have you even gone there? Is it about I am going to grow this business, I am going to sell it to a big company and have a long holiday?

Katie Massie-Taylor
I’d love a long holiday. I don’t think I need to sell the business to do that. We, we just got this mission really is to eliminate loneliness, it’s a wonderful… the social good is at the core of what we are doing. If we are able to buy a slightly bigger house as a result I’d be delighted.

Elliot Moss
Well I look forward to seeing your bigger house Katie, that’s a nice simple… I am sure we can arrange that in some form. Stay with me for my final chat with Katie plus you will be hearing another Jazz Shaper classic man, big one, Miles Davis and that’s coming up in just a moment.

That was So What from Miles Davis. Katie Massie-Taylor is with me just for a few more minutes. We’ve been talking about all sorts of things, about the primacy for you of addressing the loneliness problem, about the fact that the people in your business would think you are fair…

Katie Massie-Taylor
You chose the nicest one.

Elliot Moss
I did, I did obviously. We’ll keep it civilised here. In terms of the next year, two years, three years what’s on the menu for you? In what way do you need to really think about how your business is going to develop?

Katie Massie-Taylor
So for us it’s all about making something that mums stay on, well above and beyond making those initial friendships which is what we became famous for. So we, yeah as I said earlier, new features, we’ve got a book coming out in July which is you know, a companion for that first year of motherhood and for us you know, we are thinking about the next funding cycle already at the end of next year. What we need to achieve and it will be about having every mum on Mush, sorry every mum in the UK on Mush and then…

Elliot Moss
Every mum in the world, why not at some point?

Katie Massie-Taylor
Well that would be fun.

Elliot Moss
That would be good wouldn’t it?

Katie Massie-Taylor
But I reckon that’s probably the year after.

Elliot Moss
That’s a good year two plan. And in terms of managing life with your two young kids, firstly does that… how do you make that work? And secondly what role does your husband play in that?

Katie Massie-Taylor
Well my husband is brilliant, he is going to be listening to this so I have to say that. No he really is. Well the three and five year olds, my little girl is at nursery and at school, we have a wonderful nanny but yeah I just make sure that I am there in the morning and in the evening for time that counts with them and obviously all weekend. So it’s a great balance, it’s a really great balance and I think the joy of having your own business is that you can be there on the important days, or for important moments which I try to do.

Elliot Moss
And do you think the societal switch or the push towards it being unacceptable that there is a gender pay gap, it being unacceptable that women aren’t treated equally in terms of the ability to raise funds and you know I’ve had people on the programme who have got all female funds, there are some ridiculous stats and all that. Where do you sit on that and how are you articulating your own position if indeed there is one?

Katie Massie-Taylor
We’ve been really lucky and I have not felt at all that there is a gender gap for us when we are raising money but I know the stats suggest otherwise so I mean, give a mum a job and she will get it done. I think the real tragedy is that there isn’t more flexible working for mums, I really do. We’ve got to be able to spend the right amount of time with our kids and, and make impact in businesses and it’s a big missed opportunity if companies don’t allow for the flexibility that mum’s need.

Elliot Moss
That must be right, that’s a good thought and I hope every employer listening takes that seriously. Thank you for being with me, thank you for your honesty, thank you for sharing that sometimes you are anxious. I think it’s important, it’s important though isn’t it because doubt is a big part of all of our lives and people don’t admit that very often and I think that indecisiveness you talked about, flitting here and there is actually I think really healthy.

Katie Massie-Taylor
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
It shows that you are open minded. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Katie Massie-Taylor
So I’d like to play Feeling Good by Nina Simone because for any new mums out there, we all know that sometimes it can be overwhelming, it can be lonely and actually just put on a power song, have some coffee, every you know, every day is a new dawn as she says and you know, remember how lucky we are.

Elliot Moss
Brilliant here it is just for you.

That was I’m Feeling Good from Nina Simone, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Katie Massie-Taylor. A business predicated on the idea of eliminating loneliness, real social good. Someone who was really honest with me about the importance of the chemistry between her and her Co-founder and the point about giving a mum a job and it will be done. It will get done properly. A really, really important and accurate thought, really, really good stuff. I hope you enjoyed the programme today, do join me again, same time, same place, that’s next Saturday here on Jazz FM for another edition of Jazz Shapers.

Katie Massie-Taylor

Before co-founding Mush, Katie Massie-Taylor worked for an exclusive matchmaking company, as a City broker, and as a PR Executive. She was inspired to start Mush after striking up a conversation with a fellow mum in a rainy south-west London playground. They soon realised how many other new mums struggle with feeling lonely and isolated, and inspired by dating apps like Tinder, they created an app that would help mums with similar interests to chat and meet up. Founded in 2016, Mush has now been downloaded by 300,000 mothers across the UK and Australia. Since its launch, they have raised over £3million in fundraising and have been recognised by WIRED in their “Top 100 European Startups” list. The Apple App Store editors name Mush as the “Best of 2017” parenting app, and it will soon be joining Facebook’s startup incubator in London. Dedicated to connecting mums, Mush recently partnered with the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together campaign.

Follow Kate on Twitter @KatieMassieT.

“Why is it up to chance meetings for mums? There is such great technology out there that connects people!”

” I was always searching for what made me happy.”

“There is space for a social media platform that’s doing good.”

“90% of new mums feel lonely. We were setting out to change that and do social good.” – twitter

“We’ve come to a new kind of era of honesty through social media where people are admitting when they’re not okay and trying to establish conversations and share problems.”

“The focus for us has to be to make a product that mums love.”

“Our best ideas come from the audience themselves.”

“I think a level of anxiety can be healthy in some entrepreneurs.”

“This mission is to eliminate loneliness, social good is at the core of what we are doing.”

“I think the joy of having your own business is that you can be there on the important days for your children.”

“The real tragedy is that there isn’t more flexible working for mums.”

“It’s a big missed opportunity if companies don’t allow for the flexibility that mum’s need.”