Jess Butcher

Jessica Butcher MBE is the CMO of Sweat Economy – a UK tech company on a mission to get the world healthier by moving more. 

Sweatcoin – its main product –  has achieved a user base of over 120M global users and is the most downloaded Health and Fitness app in the world for 2022.

A serial technology entrepreneur, angel investor and business advisor, she was the Co-founding CMO of Blippar from 2011-2015 during it’s rapid ascent as one of the global tech pioneers in the field of Augmented Reality (a global CNBC ‘Top 50 Disruptor’ business in 2015/16/17 alongside the likes of Uber, AirBnB and Spotify).

Jessica is a passionate start-up/scale-up mentor, public speaker and writer on subjects as diverse as women in technology and entrepreneurship, work-life balance and humane technology, with particular passions around both equality of opportunity, polarisation of discourse and how society might address some of the more recent negative societal and behavioural ramifications of social technology.

She is the recipient of numerous awards including the BBC’s Top 100 Women, Fortune’s Most Powerful Female Entrepreneurs, The Evening Standard’s ‘Progress 1000’ list of London influencers & Europe’s Top 50 Inspiring Women in Tech.She was awarded an MBE for services to technology and entrepreneurship in the 2018 New Years Honours List.  In November, 2020 she was appointed a Non-Executive Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Tell us a bit about your background and your current role

I have been in business development and marketing roles in tech for the majority of the last 20 years. In 2011 I co-founded Blippar, which was one of the pioneers in the field of Augmented Reality which went on to raise over $100M in funding. The business idea was born from a casual chat in the pub between friends, to a company with over 300 staff in 10 offices around the world. From 2017 to 2021, I focused heavily on encouraging more women to enter into the field of technology; pursuing a portfolio of activities that spanned across writing, advising, mentoring, public speaking and angel investing.

In 2021, I took the leap back into the business side of things by joining Sweat Economy – the company behind the Sweatcoin app – as its CMO. A UK-technology success story, Sweatcoin is on a mission to get a billion people moving more; by counting user’s steps and rewarding them with ‘Sweatcoins’, the loyalty currency which can be spent on branded products and services in the in-app marketplace or donated to a range of global charities. I was attracted to Sweatcoin’s huge mission to tackle one of the biggest problems the world is facing – poor physical health – with the far-reaching societal ramifications that come with it. I was also attracted to Sweatcoin’s incredibly smart, visionary founding team who have quietly built a profitable, incredible growth engine of success that has attracted over 120M global users. And we are just getting started, as after launching SWEAT: The Token – the fastest adopted crypto currency in history, in September, we are also now leading the way in mass-adoption of crypto.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Definitely not, I’ve frequently referred to my career path as ‘throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.’ It doesn’t sound (and isn’t) glamorous, but I’m a strong generalist as opposed to an ‘expert’ and I’ve always been guilty of having my head turned by big ideas and innovative technology solutions that solve big, hairy problems. It’s served me well and I’ve never felt any fear about entering a new industry as I enjoy intensive periods of deep learning, and can bring my generalist ability to connect the dots and see opportunities outside of a myopic industry lens. By pursuing this career approach, I’ve built up an incredible black-book of impressive, fascinating people across business, government, social enterprise, media and more – which I consider to be my greatest asset. I’ve also had some amazing experiences and the memories that come with it – speaking on stages around the world, travelling with Prime Ministers on trade missions, winning awards and even receiving an MBE at Buckingham Palace.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way, and how did you overcome these?

Yes, like anyone, I’ve had multiple setbacks and just as many failures. However, my biggest stresses and heartaches have always been people related; when I’ve grown something too quickly and realised I can’t sustain the headcount, or when personalities haven’t connected well within the culture of a team I’ve created. Decisions regarding people are always the most painful, as they directly impact people’s lives in a material and personal way. However as I’ve grown in my career, I’ve realised hard decisions do need to be taken swiftly, in order to protect your business and the people you value in it.

I’ve also had businesses fail quite dramatically – losing investors’ money and losing jobs for people. It’s never easy and does induce a lot of soul-searching, sleepless nights and anxiety. However with distance, comes a recognition of how these experiences shape us for the better. Ultimately, failure is a core part of risk-taking and such a big part of what makes us strong, resilient and more knowledgeable for the next career roll of the dice. There will always be that next moment when you realise ‘wow, if it hadn’t been for that not working out, I wouldn’t be here, doing this…’

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

From my MBE, awards, having a TedX talk that’s been viewed over a million times to and government trade missions; there have been so many ‘CV worthy’ achievements. However, the achievements I prize the most are always network-related. Helping someone to hone their pitch deck and then introducing them to an investor they manage to close or observing someone who I trained as a graduate go on to set up a hugely successful company are priceless.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in achieving success?

Not overthinking things.  The most successful people just ‘do’ and don’t agonise over getting started even if they don’t know exactly where it might take them. I think I was too cautious in my 20s and my career stalled for some years because of that.  It was ultimately a man (coincidentally my now husband) who injected a stronger risk-taking approach within me, and supported me in each and every new endeavour. A strong network of family and friends is absolutely critical for this.

What top tips would you give an individual trying to excel in their career in Technology?

Be a sponge and don’t judge a book by its cover. Within the tech landscape, you’ll always find people from all different backgrounds, aptitudes, personality-types and walks of life.  Don’t always gravitate towards those ‘like you’ as tempting as that may be.  Get to know the quiet ones. Diversity of viewpoint is more important in any successful enterprise than diversity as a box-ticking exercise.   Oh and spend less time on Twitter and Instagram!

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech? If so, how can these barriers be overcome?

It might be slightly unfashionable of me to say so – but no, I don’t believe there are barriers to women working in tech today; or at least certainly not nearly as many as we’re led to believe. I’ve only ever found it to be an advantage. I’ve stood out in crowds and had many more opportunities for public speaking and media recognition than any of my male counterparts. I’ve been mentored by both men and women and take inspiration from role models in all shapes and sizes. When it comes to identifying a role model, I believe people identify more with similar personality types and life circumstances rather than shared chromosomes. That’s not to say at all that discrimination doesn’t exist or that there isn’t more that can be done, but if we over-simplify and assume under-representation of women in any field is down purely to discrimination than we ignore so many other complicated factors that might allow us to better address these challenges.  Above all, I’m not sure we do young women many favours by telling them the odds are stacked against them – In fact, I fear it we risk turning them off going after what they want!