Robyn Exton is the founder of HER, a mobile dating app that helps women to meet each other – currently focused on the lesbian, bisexual and queer female market. Robyn has had quite an uphill journey to get where she is today: it is hard enough running a business that is focused on women, with most investors being white middle aged straight men, but HER has launched with a market focus on lesbian, bisexual and queer women, adding an additional layer of complexity. To repeatedly pitch and raise $2.5million in investment has taken determination, resilience and very thick skin – and she is not even 30 yet. By looking at how women use technology, Robyn has opened up an entire new market that finally ditches the ‘shrink it and pink it’ approach most organisations have taken women’s markets in the past to be. Robyn is also shortlisted for the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award 2016.Techies Project - 2016.03.12 - 7620

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think there was only one time I ever really stopped to think about where my career was going, and it was just before I quit my job. I’d fallen into the marketing industry and after working there for five years I stopped to think about where my career was realistically heading. As I mapped it out I wasn’t as excited as I thought I should be and so a few months down the line I found myself setting up my own business.

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

Honest to God every single day is a challenge. Running a business is incredibly hard, surviving is hard. There are long term pain points that will always be the focus and challenge for CEOs, like hiring and raising investment. Then there’s the day-to-day unexpected things like database crashes, leaking windows in the office, things you’ve never dealt with before and are handling for the first time. I handle things in two main ways, quickly and with help. I lean on investors for help with ongoing challenges and if something unexpected comes up, you want it out the door as quickly as possible.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

I’d always suggest talking to other people that have been there before. Ask them the hardest things about their roles, what they miss, what they’re most excited about. Ask people from a range of industries to get a sense of what it could be like when you get there. And then fight for it – there are lots of people trying to be the best in their own field, so be great and make yourself heard in your industry.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

Culture & potential are the biggest defining factors for us for someone joining the team, almost more than qualifications.  Do we want to spend every light hour of the day with the person and then still get beers with them and do we think they’re going to grow with the company, how much are they looking for this company to grow as well.

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

My day normally starts at 5.30am checking notifications of what’s happened in our London/SF teams then heading to the gym. And it ends with a last checkin on Slack and normally writing a piece of content for the app before closing the compter and heading to sleep.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations

Figure out what you care about that is important to your organisation, what you would stand on a stage and wax lyrical about and focus down on that area. Get other people excited about it and create change around it.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I’ve had informal advice from investors on a regular basis but I’ve never had coaching or a long term mentor. I guess I’m winging it right now.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker

I think it’s really important, but less around the term ‘networking’ and more around having great friends in your peers and people that excite you in your industry.

  1. Make the effort, it’s all a factor of time but you have to be at the party to meet the people.
  2. Use your social media when appropriate – its the best way to maintain relationships in a genuine but light touch way.
  3. Be real – only build relationships when its genuine, no one likes the fake person at the party throwing out business cards.