Posted on June 17 2015
This week's Wednesday Woman is Alex Depledge, CEO and co-founder of Hassle.com ~ a website that lets you find, book and rate a trusted cleaner. The company won Tech City News Startup of the Year in 2013 and won Best Sharing Economy Startup at last night's Europas.
Newnham: Can you tell us about your career background and how you ended up starting a business?
Depledge: I was at uni until I was twenty five so I was a late bloomer to work, starting at Accenture as a management consultant in Utlities ~ oh the glamour! But I loved it and learnt a lot. As Jules (co-founder) always says, I was a rubbish analyst as I cant take orders so it was probably inevitable that I would break out on my own. In the end, Jules left first and persuaded me to follow (this was after she bought a book and taught herself to code!)
Newnham: What are some of the setbacks you have faced running a startup and how did you overcome them?
Depledge: Gosh, where do I start? One was definitely struggling to raise our seed round- it took nine months but we persevered and listened to what people were telling us. In the end we hit upon the right idea and then the money rolled in. People often ask, "How do you go from five to fifty people in less than year? How do you become a CEO when you do not know what one does?" The answer is simply: "You listen and you put one foot in front of the other."
Newnham: You often talk at tech events ~ how important do you think visibility is in terms of getting more women into the sector? What else do you think we need to be doing to attract more women into tech?
Depledge: There is a huge delta between what we are taught currently in education and what needs to be taught, and I think it is going to probably take twenty years until we actually see results - therefore the only way we are going to get more women into tech, and business, is by demonstrating what can be done. Jules and I are reluctant role models, but we appreciate that it is also about paying it forward. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the countless people who gave us their time and expertise for free when we started out, and so we feel that we have an obligation to give back to the community.
Newnham: What's the biggest lesson you have learned from running your own business?
Depledge: Too many to list! A few biggies though:-
1. I do not know what people want, I have to ask them.
2. Trust very few people; everyone is always selling and they will sell you down the river if it is to their advantage.
3. VC money is not the only way to build a very big business.
4. A company is only as successful as the people it can hire.
Newnham: Who / what inspires you?
Depledge: Jules my co-founder - she is the yin to my yang and my mum who was unrelenting on pushing me to believe I could do and be whoever I wanted to be.
Newnham: What advice would you give a younger Alex?
Depledge: I would have told her to worry less about what people thought of her. People make the mistake of thinking I am very confident however I suffer permanent imposter syndrome!