Michelle Kennedy is the co-founder and CEO of Peanut, an app that’s been called the ‘Tinder for moms’. The app has been around for less time than it takes to make a baby, and it already has more than 170,000 users across the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
Kennedy, whose first career was an M&A lawyer, always considered herself to be a strong negotiator. Parenthood gave her a new perspective.
“Negotiation was something that I felt I was very good at, because that’s what you’re schooled in,” says Kennedy. “Then I moved away from the law and what I noticed almost immediately was I had a good toolkit negotiating — not on behalf of myself, but when I was negotiating for another person in the company. When it was directly for me, I felt awkward, bashful, bossy, pushy — all of those horrible things.”
A veteran of the dating app industry, she spent five years at Badoo in legal and eventually deputy CEO, and also held a position on the board of Bumble. Along the way, she had a son, Finlay, who’s now four. Kennedy struggled to meet other moms while working, and the idea for Peanut was born.
Kennedy says she used to move quickly and get frustrated easily: “I wanted things to happen immediately and if someone didn’t jump on what I was saying, I’d think, ‘they don't get it, they’re not on board, let’s move forward.’”
As a parent, “you can’t be like that. You have to have patience. If you’re going to wean or potty train, you’ve got to be persistent. You don't give up because you can’t.”
Children don’t communicate in the same way as adults, says Kennedy, so you have to listen carefully to what they are trying to say.
Becoming a parent has led her to be more patient with her work. “Whether it’s negotiating something to do with a partnership or with my investors, it’s not an immediate do or die anymore. I’m much more willing to listen to someone’s point of view now, where before I was probably a bit more heavy handed,” reflects Kennedy.
“With patience comes persistence, and you’ve got to have those if you’re going to run a business.”
As a working parent, I wondered whether she — or Peanut’s chief technology officer, Greg Orlowski, also a parent — is asked frequently about work life balance.
“I get that question a lot. Greg never gets asked about it, even though he’s a parent too.”
She’s felt a lot of pressure to highlight the gender and parent aspects of her product — for women and mothers in particular.
“I am building a product for mothers, so it’s kind of natural that people want to tie my business to my motherhood journey,” says Kennedy. Even her husband jokes, what about dads? What about he-nut?
She was once referred to as a “mum-trepreneur,” which she swiftly rejected. “I said, don’t use that word, because we don’t talk about dad-trepreneurs.”
Recently she was asked to give a talk about raising kids vs. raising finance, which she declined.
“They’re not even related. That’s like putting on socks or drinking a cup of tea.”
This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.