Zoe Peden


Zoe Peden

In this interview from 2016, Zoe Peden, previously CEO at MyChoicePad , and now Founder at IrisSpeaks, shared 5 fundraising tips for Women Social Entrepreneurs and key sanity thoughts to keep you going...

After a decade in product development and time served at a learning disability charity, Zoe Peden set up Insane Logic, a digital social business that builds technology to help with language development and communication issues.

What waves are you making with MyChoicePad, Zoe?

Our flagship product is called MyChoicePad. Its uses symbols and signs from the Makaton language programme (www.makaton.org) in a unique way to help children and adults with language development or communication issues. Makaton is used in the hugely popular CBeebies programme, Something Special.

Originally, MyChoicePad was created to reduce the cost of access to the language programme and increase the accessibility through the use of iDevices. Previously our customers had to pay for expensive medical devices costing up to £10,000 each or at the other end of the scale they used reference books and got handy with a laminator...

Due to demand, we’ve now broadened our market beyond those with additional needs to include language development in mainstream early years.

MyChoicePad is a teaching learning and assessment tool designed to help language development and build communication skills through the use of symbols, pictures and sign language. Our customers are parents, schools and speech and language therapists.

What is your impact so far, in broad lines?
  • 4 out of 5 users use MyChoicePad every week
  • More than 65% of use sessions are between 10 and 30 minutes
  • 1 in 3 survey respondents found a progression in communication skills and an improved confidence in using Makaton after 1-4 weeks of using MyChoicePad
  • 100% of Makaton tutors agreed that MyChoicePad saved them time over traditional approaches
  • 1 in 2 teachers found that MyChoicePad helped their pupils engage in a wider range of activities
  • MyChoicePad boosted Early Years’ vocabulary acquisition by up to 27% compared to non users
  • 72% of Makaton tutors found that MyChoicePad reduced frustration and increased vocabulary

How do you measure our social impact?

  • Through our own and independent control studies carried out by speech and language therapists which we publish. We measure the increase in vocabulary and word usage over a set period of time.
  • Regular surveys with our customers
  • Individual video case studies and interviews
  • App analytics that track usage

You can read our most recent social impact report on our website.

What's the buzz about being a woman within the tech sector, keen on making a positive social impact?

It’s nice to stand out in a crowd! Although we are seeing an increasing number of females in tech, a networking room is still mostly guys and I often get asked if I work in marketing. But you can take it on the chin and turn it into an opportunity and they will be sure to remember you in a very positive way.

Being a social business makes my company story telling much more interesting and memorable against the food and messaging apps. I’m very proud of what we have achieved so far and I am proud of our customers. Their strength in wanting to change the status quo and change attitudes to speech, language and communication needs inspire and drive me and this comes out in my sales pitches. I truly believe in what we are doing. There’s no fakery it’s all heart – that’s the buzz!

You have successfully completed your first round of investment, what top 5 tips can you share with women social entrepreneurs who are fundraising for their venture?

1. No matter how many lives you are changing you need to show them the money. You need to demonstrate a scalable business model and the increasing revenues to match.

2. Investors will always find a weakness no matter how damn good you are. There is no such thing as the perfect deal. Use your investor mindset to prepare for this and propose how you will tackle it.

3. Prepare yourself for six months before close. Fundraising involves people and wherever there are people things go wrong. You need the cashflow to last. Always raise when you least need it – be in good shape.

4. Relationships can start with investors years before, so make the most of the network and work it, ask for advice not money first.

5. Get good lawyers. But if they take it too far and it’s no longer commercially driven but a game of tit for tat between lawyers, step in, pull them back and drive it home. Even better seek out pro bono services! If you don’t ask you don’t get!

What assumption about education and technology should we get rid of now, and where should we rather concentrate on?

It’s time to see them both as bedfellows. It’s been acknowledged for some time in education that learning styles differ between children and not everyone excels in the one size fits all traditional UK approach. Technology can create a more personalized learning experience without the added overheads that would make individual teaching too costly within a free education system.

At the same time, technology cannot replace people in education particularly for those in early years and with additional needs. Correct implementation and impact measurement is important for assessing the value add of technology.

What would you have loved an angel to ask you (which they never did...)?
It would be: "What started you off on your entrepreneurial journey?".

My answer is in the end, we are still all somebody’s children. As a child it made me really upset to see my mum crying about lack of money and I spent lots of energy setting up little businesses or making and selling things so I could buy her presents to try and make her happy. This is still the bee in my bonnet. As well as my customers I want my family and friends to have choices and opportunities in their lives.

What is your future self telling you, Zoe?

My future self would tell me the same things as I would to my twelve year old self now.

  • - Be proud to think differently, keep away from groupthink.
  • - Keep on climbing that mountain!
  • - Be generous.
  • - It’s not aggression you’re displaying it’s assertiveness!

Reach Zoe on Twitter .

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