Every month, we catch up with one of London’s brilliant startup founders. Today we talked to Michelle Songy.
She is the COO of Spleat, a mobile payment app that allows restaurants a unique way to pay and split their bill via their phones.
Q: How did you come up with your business idea?
Almost approaching my 5 year anniversary working in finance at a large beverage company, I was constantly trying to find myself and my niche. I knew I needed to do something more creative and always had a longing interest in new digital media.
In 2012 I went to a restaurant with my now business partner, Charlotte, who was in a similar situation with her banking career- we both expressed the same interest in wanting to start our own company. While tossing around ideas, we noticed the issue of how much of a nuisance paying a dinner bill could be, especially for large groups. How nice would it be if the whole reservation to payment could be connected and store your credit cards so you could leave once you’re ready? We both knew mobile payments were the future forward, but as of that moment hadn’t seen much widespread use.
Since there were already TopTable and Book-a-Table dominating the reservation market, we decided to stick to solving the age-old problem of paying a bill, in a simple and secure process all via your mobile phone.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges so far as an entrepreneur?
There have been many! I left my job probably earlier than I should have. It’s hard to know when exactly is best though, but I was so anxious that I woke up one day and say, “Ok it’s time!” You think it’s all about to start, but there are more delays than you ever would have imagined (especially if this is your first start up)! However the pause in career enabled me to work at 2 other start-ups in the meantime, where I learned so much more about starting up a tech business and was able to build valuable relationships in the hospitality industry.
Starting a new business can feel like a vicious cycle. You need a business bank account set up but can’t accept payments because you have no credit. You need to pay for a developer but investors want to see a finished product. You need to show customer traction before you can get key APIs for your technology to work – but you can’t get customers to use a 1/2 functioning app! It seems like you are running back and forth, not sure how to get the chicken or the egg first, or find something else in the food chain.
The other biggest day-to-day challenge is self-motivation. In order to start your own business you have work extra hard to stay motivated for yourself and others in the business. It’s an uphill/ downhill constant battle. One day you think you’re on top of the world, the next day you read an article and think it’s all over. So it really helps to have positive reinforcers around you, like Charlotte my co-founder, who never lets a “no” let her down and always finds a window out when a door closes.
Q: On the other hand, what have been your biggest accomplishments?
We are still very new so I think our biggest achievements are yet to come. But everything really that has gotten us to this point to launch and go-live this month all add up! Getting the business set up, to raising capital, to hiring wonderful staff, to having our first venues sign up, to getting approved to accept payments, and even obtaining work visas have all been hurdles we have had to jump over to get to this point.
Q: What are your thoughts on the future of women in technology?
Women are the future of technology. Even now we make up 64 percent of Facebook users, 58 percent of Twitter users and a whopping 82 percent of Pinterest users. We are far more active than our male counterparts on social networking sites. It’s a massive space and we are seeing more and more high profiled women taking CTO roles in Fortune 500 companies. Although we are still a minority in the tech industry, it means there is still a lot that can be changed and better enabled from a more diverse workforce, just as we have seen in benefit other industries (Mad Men comes to mind!).