Katherine Stennett

Katherine Stennett has years of experience leading and scaling fast-growth tech startups, including the digital healthcare provider Kry/Livi and the insurtech Zego.

She is currently co-founder and CCO of myota, a gut health startup that uses machine learning and a decade of computational biology research to develop prebiotic fibre supplements and gut health diagnostic kits.

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

My background is in scaling fast-growth tech startups, including the digital healthcare provider Kry/Livi and the insurtech Zego. I also founded one of London’s first on-demand grocery delivery services and worked in investment banking before that, so I have a fairly diverse set of experiences under my belt!

My current role is co-founder and CCO of myota. We’re a startup applying insights from our own breakthrough research to develop products that can transform your gut health and significantly improve your physical and mental wellbeing.

Our prebiotic fibre supplements fuel the good bacteria in your gut, and our world-first gut health testing kit provides users with evidence-backed, personalised insight into the types of dietary fibre they should be eating to improve their gut health and to reduce chronic disease risk.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

As you can probably see from my career path, I can’t say I’ve ever sat down to plan out my next move, or tried to stick rigidly to a career path. I do however spend time thinking about what kind of roles and industries are interesting and present a challenge, and how I can make a difference to as many people as possible through the work I’m doing. I’m a big believer in pursuing things that genuinely excite you, and in taking chances and seizing opportunities when they present themselves. It can be scary, but it’s also the times I’ve taken a leap of faith that I’ve learnt the most.

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

Leaving the security of Investment Banking to start my own business was a huge challenge, both mentally and financially. As a founder,  it’s also easy to look at the stats on VC investment into female run companies and think you don’t have a right to be there, and imposter syndrome can creep in. Ultimately I try to look at everything as a learning experience and not as a final destination, which makes it easier to tackle daunting challenges. I also remind myself that being more visible as a female founder could help others to take the leap – this is a big motivator.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

In parallel with product development, myota has recently partnered with healthcare professionals and health services, including the NHS, to further explore the potential impact of fibre on chronic health conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes, IBS, and arthritis.

This makes myota the first gut health company to be working with the NHS on clinical trials – something which I’m incredibly proud of and consider one of my top professional achievements to date.

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

The willingness to fail and take risks. A lot of my career moves have required a leap of faith, but each one has been an invaluable learning experience which has ultimately led me to the path I’m on now. Any failure can be used to fuel and inspire future success.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

  • Stay on top of news and innovation in your niche, as it’s important to understand the direction of change and to find your own place within the current landscape
  • Build a network in your specific area of interest within the tech sector, whether that’s my attending events, using social media or reaching out directly to peers and leaders in the space
  • Be proactive about upskilling yourself and looking for opportunities to gain experience, meet people or learn new things

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

Yes, the STEM gender gap is still wide, but attitudes in the tech sector are changing. Women are no longer having to learn how to operate within male-dominated spaces and old-boys networks – instead they are carving out their own spaces and creating their own opportunities to demonstrate their talents and ambition. I would, however, like to see more investors and employers committing to supporting women-in-STEM initiatives and backing female STEM founders.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Developing and running education and mentoring programmes for young women is one impactful way that companies can increase female participation in the tech sector. Companies can also look at their own HR and hiring policies and explore ways to make their policies and career pathways better suited to, and supportive of, women. It’s difficult to imagine rising to the top in an organisation as a women if you don’t see any women in leadership teams, so I’d love to see companies finding more ways to support women at all stages in their career and particularly before/during/after childbirth and the menopause, as this is often the time most women leave the workforce (and not out of choice).

There are currently only 15% of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I don’t think there’s one single thing we can do to accelerate the pace of change. We need to deploy an approach that begins in schools, encouraging more young girls to study STEM topics whilst also tackling myths that tech careers are better suited to men. We also need to shine a light on the female role models and trailblazers in the tech sector, to prove what women in tech are capable of and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Why did you move into the field of gut health technology, and what excited you about this space?

Our gut health has a wide-ranging and life-changing impact on  whole-body health, but most people know very little about what they should be doing to maintain a happy microbiome. It’s incredibly rewarding to be part of a movement working to put cutting-edge science into gut health products, and to help to educate consumers about the small lifestyle changes they can make that come with significant health benefits.

With regards to the gut health tech sector, it’s a very exciting time to be innovating in the space. Huge amounts of data have been gathered on the composition of the human microbiome, and, very recently, AI technology has been used to analyse this data and convert it into knowledge and insights.

In parallel, there are many wearable technologies being developed for continuous health monitoring, which allows us to understand the impact of specific gut health interventions in real-time.

Combined with AI, this is making it possible not only to develop personalised gut health products like myota, but also to build personalised biomedical products and therapeutics.