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Insider Insight: Talia Soen, founder and CEO of Happy Things

This week we meet Talia Soen, founder and CEO of Happy Things

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Talia Soen, founder and CEO of Happy Things

A project manager turned tech entrepreneur, Talia Soen is the founder behind Happy Things, the first platform to turn happiness into a habit.

 

What is your morning routine?

You might be expecting to hear something along the lines of “I wake up at 5am every morning, do 30 minutes of yoga and 20 minutes of meditation, drink a green smoothie and write my intentions for the day”. Well, not quite.

To be completely honest, I wake up and check my phone. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and drink a glass of water. If I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, I might sit on the couch for 10-15 minutes and stare into space.

I get dressed and take my dog out for a walk. She’s old and very stubborn, so that could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour! I get back, feed her, make myself a cup of coffee and open my laptop.

Which technology could you not live without?

Noise-canceling headphones! I’m extremely sensitive to noise so it can be difficult for me to focus in noisy environments. Unfortunately, half the buildings in my area are currently being renovated, making my entire environment extremely noisy. So you’ll very rarely find me without my headphones on.

How do you relax?

Different things work for me at different times of my life.

In certain periods of my life, going out for a run is my ultimate go-to relaxation method. In others, it’s yoga (that’s actually what made me take a yoga teacher training course – I wanted to understand why it made me feel so good).

I love everything related to arts and crafts – DIY furniture makeovers, sewing, jewellery making and more. A few months ago I discovered the drawing app Procreate, so that’s my new addiction.

And honestly, some days all I want to do is crash on the couch and binge “Blow Out” or “Glow Up” on Netflix.

Which quote resonates with you?

“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change” – Tony Robbins

I’ve wanted to start my own company since I was 12, but it took me 20 years to do it. Taking a risk, leaving my comfort zone and facing the possibility of failure was terrifying. Unfortunately, what led me to finally take that chance was a personal tragedy that made me realise that the fear of not pursuing my dreams was actually much bigger than the fear of change and possible failure.

What is the best thing about your job?

Being an entrepreneur means that you are constantly facing new challenges, always pushing yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone and learning new things about yourself and your capabilities. I really don’t think that any other job in the world would have taught me as much and allowed for so much personal growth.

I also love having a vision and seeing it come to life. A few years ago Happy Things was just an idea in my head, and today it’s an app that thousands of people around the world use on a regular basis. It’s the best feeling in the world.

What keeps you motivated?

Knowing that we are doing good in the world and building a product that actually helps people live happier lives. We get such amazing feedback from our users, sharing with us how the app is helping them and thanking us for building it.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

That’s a tough one, just because I’m not sure I would have listened. I think that many life lessons need to be learned through experience, no matter how much good advice you get along the way.

But if I had the chance, I would tell her to believe in herself and that she is capable of so much more than she gives herself credit for. I would tell her to speak up more and to stop doubting herself. Basically, I would tell her to let her inner badass woman shine.

What is something you wish you could experience again for the first time?

Reading the Harry Potter books! I absolutely love them and still discover something new every time I read them, but I really wish I could experience them for the first time again. I actually think I would like to do that with many of my favourite books and movies.

What is your greatest achievement since establishing Happy Things?

I think my greatest achievement is being able to motivate and inspire people to join my journey. From the people who joined me on day one, when I had nothing but an idea and a desire to do some good in the world, to my amazing co-founder who took a leap of faith with me, advisors who gave me their time and expertise and investors who entrusted me with their money.

Younger me probably wouldn’t have believed that she would be able to accomplish that.

Insider Insight

Insider Insight: Margaret Zablocka, founder and CEO of Onoco

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Margaret Zablocka, founder and CEO of Onoco
We meet Margaret Zablocka, founder and CEO of Onoco – a parenting app inspired by Margaret’s own motherhood journey that combines baby trackers, routine planners and developmental milestones and empowers parents through science-based education.
What is your morning routine?

My mornings are pretty grounded in reality; they don’t start with sunrise workouts or meditation. The first thing I do, despite not being a morning person, is wake up my children. Without that, we’d all risk oversleeping.

I take my time getting them ready for school, ensuring they start their day with a nutritious breakfast. Once they’re off to school with my husband, I cherish a moment of solitude with my morning coffee and catch up on emails. This simple routine keeps me grounded and ready to tackle the day.

Which technology could you not live without?

Fast internet. It’s not about it being essential for survival, but our lives are so intertwined with being online that when I’m without it, the difference is palpable. It keeps me connected, informed and efficient.

How do you relax?

Relaxation for me is about the small moments: watering my houseplants with music in the background, snuggling with my family on the sofa, or escaping on a weekend trip with a friend. There’s a variety of ways, but they all bring me back to centre.

Which quote resonates with you?

George S. Patton’s quote, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week,” really speaks to me. It’s a reminder not to get caught in endless planning. Action is often more valuable than waiting for perfection. Some of the best outcomes have come from decisions made swiftly and boldly.

What is the best thing about your job?

The magic of my job lies in its impact. Crafting a product that not only looks great but genuinely enriches lives is profoundly satisfying.

It’s when I receive feedback, not just praises, but stories of how our app has revolutionised parenting or caregiving for someone that I truly feel the weight of our work. It’s these moments of connection and transformation that stand out as the best parts of my job.

What keeps you motivated?

The user feedback is incredibly uplifting; knowing our app makes a real difference keeps me going. There is also the ever-evolving nature of the tech industry, with its relentless pace and constant innovation, drives me to not just keep up but to lead and innovate.

What is the most important lesson you have learned on your start-up journey?

Start building your network from day one. It might seem like just another task, but the power of networking is immense. It’s helped secure funding, increase product visibility and achieve things no marketing campaign could.

Even though, sometime it might feel like an additional job  – writing posts on LinkedIn and showing up to networking events etc. Never underestimate the value of strong professional relationships.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

It’s a difficult question because that could change how my life turned out. I would probably try to reassure myself that doing many things at once can be a good thing.

Early on, I was always busy, joining organisations and working on various projects. And, although it might seem minor, I’d stress the importance of sticking with German lessons. My skills are embarrassingly basic despite years of classes.

What is something you wish you could experience again for the first time?

Witnessing the “firsts” of my children—those unparalleled moments of their first smile, step, or word—brought a joy that’s hard to describe. If I could, I’d relive those moments in a heartbeat. There’s a unique wonder and happiness in those first-time experiences that’s just pure magic, a reminder of the beauty and simplicity of life’s milestones.

What is your greatest achievement since establishing Onoco?

Onoco being named App of the Day is a highlight of my professional journey. Considering the Apple App Store sees nearly 1,000 new app submissions daily and boasts close to two million apps in total, being recognised by Apple’s editors is no small feat.

Their endorsement, stating “Babies don’t come with a manual, but Onoco is the next best thing,” is not just an honour but a testament to our team’s hard work and dedication. It’s one of the most validating moments in my career.

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Insider Insight: Somer Baburek, co-founder and CEO of Hera Biotech

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Somer Baburek, co-founder and CEO of Hera Biotech
This week we meet Somer Baburek, co-founder and CEO of the women’s health start-up Hera Biotech. Based in San Antonio, Texas, Somer is on a mission to develop and commercialise the world’s first non-surgical test for definitive diagnosis and staging of endometriosis.

 

What is your morning routine? 

My current morning routine is not what I would consider my “normal” routine as I have an infant who now somewhat dictates when my morning begins. That said, I am usually up between 4-5am and a cup of coffee is my first priority (after feeding the baby, of course).

If the little one sleeps later, I usually try to catch a little bit of national news and respond to emails that came in overnight while I sip coffee. If she’s up, I have the news on in the background while I play with her.

At 6am, I wake up my other two daughters and get them ready for school. We try to always do morning drop off as a family and then we’re back home to start the day. Childcare arrives at 8:30am and then I begin my “official” workday.

Which technology could you not live without? 

Unfortunately, I must say my cell phone. It allows me to work from anywhere, which affords me the luxury of attending school events, having lunch with my kiddos, or answering emails/taking calls in the pickup line or at one of the many sports practices. I feel very fortunate to be able to be involved with my children and not bound to an office or computer for work.

How do you relax?

Admittedly, I am not great about this. I am notorious for sitting down only to immediately think of something I “need” to do before I relax. I try to find little moments for mental calm. Often this is when I’m putting the baby down to sleep or going for a run, these quiet little moments allow me to intentionally clear my mind, be present and let my mind relax.

To be fair, I also relish a glass of wine on the couch with my husband when all the littles are asleep, those conversations are some of my favourite and work wonders for decompressing.

Which quote resonates with you? 

My favourite quote is by the French poet, Ovid. The quote is, “Fortune and love, favour the brave.” Sometimes I have insecurities about my role as a CEO, wife, or mother, when I do, this quote seems to bring me comfort.

I feel like each of these roles requires me to be brave in different ways, this quote makes me realise that being brave enough to expand past my comfort zone in each of these roles is what will allow me to be, what I define, as successful in each of them.

What is the best thing about your job? 

The people! Endometriosis patients, my sister and niece included, are some of the strongest, fiercest, and intentionally vulnerable people I have ever had the pleasure of working for, I love them!

My colleagues at Hera are also some of my favourite people. I love how dedicated everyone is to improving the diagnostic process for the patients and being thoughtful about each and every stakeholder in the process.

I also routinely marvel and the diversity on our team; everything from education to professional, to cultural. It would be an understatement to say that we all come from VERY different backgrounds but somehow it blends beautifully.

What keeps you motivated?

There are two things that keep me extremely motivated. The first is patients; hearing the stories of what they’ve gone through to get a diagnosis never cease to motivate me. I love hearing from them and knowing that the work we are doing has the potential to completely shift the paradigm of care and the process of diagnosis is what pushes me through some of the tough spots.

The other thing that motivates me is my children. I have three daughters, who will all be subjected to the standards of care in women’s health at some point in the relatively near future. I do not want them to experience the same standards, societal/medical gaslighting, and/or societal/cultural reluctance to openly talk about women’s health that I experienced.

The idea that I may be able to improve their experience, or at least equip them with knowledge of the gaps and enable them to advocate for themselves is highly motivating.

What is the most important lesson you have learned on your start-up journey?

People are full of advice and opinions about every aspect of your business. There is something to be learned from everyone, but without data, advice and opinions should be taken at face value.

Additionally, there are people in the investor world who just feel the need to treat founders terribly. In my experience, the people who try the hardest to make you feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about, are often the ones with the least relevant knowledge in your field!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Lighten up! You don’t have to have all the answers.

What is something you wish you could experience again for the first time?

Getting my first check from an investor that I hadn’t known for years. It was such a euphoric feeling of accomplishment. I felt like I had done a good job at explaining not only our business model and strategy, which is my background, but also the science behind the test. I felt so proud that I was able to represent the work of my co-founders well enough to garner investment, it was really lovely.

What is your greatest achievement since establishing Hera Biotech?

In my mind there are two highlights here, one personal and one professional. Professionally, I think our biggest accomplishment has been taking the test into the clinic. This is a real turning point, seeing your product being used by real people on real people; truly moving.

Personally, I think the highlight has been bringing conversations about women’s health, female founders and investing into the forefront of our family conversations.

As an example, my oldest daughter recently had a very serious conversation with me and my husband about wanting to use the money she had saved up to invest in a business. We talked about due diligence, equity, and the difference between investing and giving.

Those were not conversations that I heard or had at 11 and I love that these concepts are things she is already comfortable talking and asking questions about. 

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Insider Insight: Theresa Neil, founder and CEO of Guidea

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Theresa Neil, founder and CEO of Guidea
This week we meet digital health innovator Theresa Neil, founder of the women-owned product design company Guidea. Her recent programme, Femovate, is supporting 50 early stage femtech start-ups to accelerate product validation and commercialisation.

 

What is your morning routine?

I start each day at 5:30am with a cup of coffee and play word puzzles for a few minutes instead of scrolling the news and social media. This new habit has really improved my outlook on the day.

At 6 am, I typically meet with one of our European or Middle Eastern femtech start-ups. I take a break from work at 7am to get the kids ready for school, then back to the desk at 8am for our clients in the US.  I have to admit I am not a morning person, but I’ve gotten into the routine so it isn’t as bad now.

Which technology could you not live without?

Fathom, the AI notetaker that joins me for every meeting. The recordings and summaries are invaluable! Outside of work I am very low tech and frequently forget to even take my phone with me.

How do you relax?

By forgetting to take my phone with me. No, really, I live in a wonderful area, Santa Cruz, California, close to the beach and the redwood forests.

I like to hike or kayak when I have some free time. And I have a 10 month old corgi mix puppy who is great to take walks with.

Which quote resonates with you?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”by Mary Oliver.

What is the best thing about your job?

I never planned to have my own company, it just organically grew up around me. 18 years later, Guidea has partnered with hundreds of companies to launch products now used by one billion people!

I find a deep source of pride being involved in so many interesting and innovative companies, especially now that we’re focused on health and wellbeing.

What keeps you motivated?

The start-up founders we work with and their wins. I just heard that our very first Femovate sponsored founder, Tina John of Veera, won two pitch competitions and was voted most investable company by both investors and the general audience!

Every time one of the companies we sponsor receives a grant, investment ,award, FDA clearance, or launches in the market, it shows me we’re making a difference in women’s health.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Wear more sunscreen.

What is something you wish you could experience again for the first time?

I grew up on a small farm and I was five years old the first year our sheep had lambs. I was absolutely amazed when the lambs were born; one of them imprinted on me and followed me everywhere. I would do that again in a heartbeat.

What is your greatest achievement since establishing Guidea?

We’ve won a lot of awards, as a company and as an individual designer, but I think launching and running Femovate with my team is my greatest and most meaningful achievement so far.

To find out more about Guidea, visit guidea.com. To learn more about Femovate, visit femovate.com.

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