Gemma Young, Settled

Gemma is passionate about technology’s potential to radically improve people’s lives.

She’s on a mission to erase the anxieties that overshadow the joy of buying and selling a home. For well over a decade, Gemma’s been immersed in the online world, with experience that includes one of the UK’s first digital agencies and – back in its early days – Google. During her time at Google, Gemma worked across Silicon Valley, Europe and Africa.

With her experience both on the front line of digital, and previously as an estate agent, she’s leveraged some the most innovative technological advances in her drive to reshape the home buying and selling experience, creating Settled.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have been involved with Internet businesses for well over a decade and am passionate about improving people’s everyday lives through technology. After graduating, I ventured into the world of estate agents, where I spent some time before moving to work for one of the UK’s first digital agencies. I subsequently joined what was (back then) a ‘start-up’; Google, where I stayed for many years working across Silicon Valley, Europe and Africa.

Having been on the front line of industries being transformed by the Internet, and having seen the shortcomings of the estate agency model, I saw the opportunity to leverage technology to reshape the home buying and selling experience and, together with my Co-Founder and brother Paul Young, I created property transaction platform Settled with the dream of making moving a home easier for everyone.

What inspired you to start Settled?

I spent time working in estate agents in my early career, so I’d seen ‘under the hood’ of the model. I understood processes and how things fit together and I’d always paid close attention to the industry – kind of waiting for someone to come in and truly improve it. But, years on, the fall through rates were the same (1 in 3 homes which go under offer don’t end up selling) and, with all the advances in technology – I could see the solution.

I thought about this for some time and then, one day a friend of mine turned up at my house in tears. She’d lost out on the house of her dreams after battling legal and financial processes for months. At that moment, I decided I was going to go for it. I left my job at Google and started building what today is Settled.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

As individuals, unless you know what you want – your career progression becomes a set of steps you take which hopefully get you closer to your true character and values, and that was certainly the case for me.

My journey took me through roles in real estate, digital technology and when I was at Google, I got really close to how technology could be used to solve big problems – I loved its potential.

Alongside all this, increasingly I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I’d always been drawn to businesses where consumers, rather than businesses, call the shots. I do feel truly grateful I’ve taken risks and followed this passion. It’s not been easy, but I’m so excited that Settled can continue to play a part in the digital transformation of what is considered to be one of the most stressful times in our lives and, that hopefully, one day people will feel moving home is purely joyful, not stressful – that it’s just Settled.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

One of the most important things I have learnt is resilience. Over time, setting up a business is hugely challenging. But it’s truly the belief in what’s possible, in the mission and purpose of what myself and my team come into work for everyday that keeps us going.

On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?

I wake up around 7am – hit the snooze button so I can give myself 10 minutes to go through new emails and to check up on the day’s plans. On my commute in, I’ll either listen to a business book on Audible or write emails and respond to questions. Then it’s normally either a coffee at my favourite café across the road from my office or a breakfast meeting to start the day.

My evenings are normally dinners with friends, industry events and, of course, nights in switching off to everything with something trashy on Netflix.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I love spending time with techies or people who get excited about the future – how the world will change through technology and pushing the boundaries on innovation.

I’m lucky enough to, overtime, have come into contact with other entrepreneurs, some of whom have become dear friends. Their support, experience and openness to glasses of wine and sharing ideas is something I’m deeply grateful for.

I often reflect and wish I’d had more people around me in my very early journey so now, I do make the time to spend with early startup founders. I can often relate to their challenges and, I hope, through sharing my experiences, I can help them to avoid or cope with some of those challenges.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

The world and its workplace have evolved over the years; its structures have equally developed meaning that, naturally, certain values and expected behaviours have evolved.

I’m less interested in looking back at the reasons why – I believe more progress comes from looking forward. We’re at a time where we should understand and unpick these things more deeply across race, sexual preference, gender and many other facets.

From a gender perspective – women aren’t under represented at board level just because they’re not as capable. There are multi-faceted and deeply structural reasons for this – such as women having the biological responsibility of child birth and subsequently, being the most likely party to have the onus placed on them for childcare. We need to think about how do we work with this and understand these differences? Because, more understanding of these pressures will benefit businesses and society in the long run.

What advice do you have for an future or budding entrepreneurs?

Solving a problem that’s really meaningful to you, that other people need the solution to and that’s close to your individual values and strengths.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Since our launch, we’ve worked hard to develop a technology and service that feels quite different to conventional methods in real estate. We’ve empowered customers and it’s been hugely rewarding to see how this, along with the technology and applications we’re building, has had a direct impact on how successful a transaction is. We’ve already cut the time it takes to buy or sell in half and we’ve vastly reduced the likelihood of a home falling through.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I believe moving home shouldn’t be one of the most stressful things we do in our lives. I want people to be able to move around the world more easily and I plan to make sure Settled becomes synonymous with the perfect home move for buyers and sellers.