Renate is currently the General Manager of Headspace, a leading mindfulness and digital health company. Prior to this she spent four years at Apple as their business lead for the App Store in Europe.
Renate was previously the founder and CEO of Pleo, a mobile-first innovation studio based in London and Global Director of Mobile at Edelman, the world’s largest communications agency and one of its youngest ever Directors at the age of 25. She shaped its global mobile offering and led work for a variety of Edelman Digital clients including PayPal, Motorola and TJX Europe (TK Maxx) and Xbox.
Before joining Edelman, Renate was Head of Mobile Business Development for DMG Media, owner of the Daily Mail, MailOnline and Metro, launching 70+ apps in her time there. She also set up mobile games and apps publishing brand ‘Metro Apps’, working closely with leading indie game developers and pioneering work around app marketing.
Prior to that she ran marketing for social media hardware startup Poken in San Francisco, achieving sales in 52 countries purely through social media marketing.
Renate is also a founding member of Twitter fundraising phenomenon Twestival which has to date raised over $2 million for over 275 causes, and was a 2012 BAFTA Judge in the Mobile and Handheld Games category.
1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given
Follow your passion.
I became fascinated with mobile phones when I was a teenager (this was in the nineties when none of my friends had a mobile phone; my interest was purely intellectual). This quirky interest grew into a genuine passion, and as a student I took any side-job related to mobile technology.
Yet after graduating I took a job in Financial Services executive search – it paid well but didn’t really interest me. The firm’s in-house coach eventually told me, “Your eyes light up when you talk about Nokia! Trust me, in the long run that passion will get you to the top”.
Leaving a secure income and offering myself around for free (everyone loves a free trial) was one of my best decisions. Within two years I was earning 2x my headhunter salary and today my work is a source of joy and energy in itself.
2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given
Fake it til you make it.
I graduated from Cambridge when I was 20 and looked young for my age. My manager told me I needed to dress and act older to be taken seriously. Starting my own business several years later, after wasting hundreds of pounds on suits and shoulder pads, I finally trusted that my track record spoke louder than power suits.
Looking back I think ‘hiding’ was extremely self limiting. When Edelman hired me as UK Director of Digital at the age of 24, I was their youngest Director, and instead of using it as a chance to coach other young people I hid behind pearls.
Embrace your differences, it helps you stand out and we need diverse role models.
3. What would you tell your younger self?
It’s all about who you know – so get to know people!
When I wanted to enter tech I had no coding skills, network or funding. Why would anyone want to hire me? Turns out there are many ways in which you can get a foot in the door. In my case, I had been running music events which led to co-organising something called Twestival (‘Twitter festival’) and then my first startup job.
Ever since, my network and their willingness to support me, advise me, root for me, make introductions and so on is invaluable. Investing in relationships always pays off.
4. What excites you most about the future of your industry?
I believe that change makers (innovators and tech leaders) will increasingly collaborate with policy makers (politicians and regulators) on health, environment, education and privacy to name a few areas. My partner is a policy wonk and when we met it was like we and our industries spoke a different language.
The EU and my current home country France are truly making strides to join forces (eg the European Innovation Council Fund) though we have a long way to go. Accelerating the convergence of tech and policy to solve societal problems is an area I see myself in during years to come.
5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Like many people I have taken lessons from Steve Jobs – from the importance of obsessing over customer experience, to an uncompromising commitment to focus (1000 No’s for every Yes).
I also think it’s important to have role models that are closer to home, with whom you have true affinity. Personally I am inspired by Eileen Burbidge, a GP at Passion Capital. We were introduced 11 years ago because I was looking for a female mentor in tech. During our first meeting she did everything to dissuade me from the idea that a female mentor would be especially helpful – though one decade later I disagree!
Eileen’s had an incredible career as a tech/product lead at Apple and Microsoft in the early days, leading Skype to exit as Chief Product Offer, then becoming one of the first female early stage investors in Europe, and playing a significant role in driving business friendly policies in the UK — whilst supporting a family of five. Her star has risen higher and higher during the time I’ve known her, and she has always stayed human and fun.