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McKinsey Consultant to Start-up CEO


Hi, I'm Sudeshna from The Abundance Psyche, and you are listening to the Not-so-Corporate podcast. Here we talk about all of the not so corporate things that we corporate entrepreneurs do within and outside our work.

Today I have with me, a very special lady who has actually been an inspiration to me without probably even realizing that she was. She is an ex McKinsey consultant turned startup CEO. And she runs one of the coolest, and yet, I think, most valuable of London startups. She runs Koru Kids, which basically, is a technology company that helps parents with childcare. And as a new parent myself, I have realized that this was certainly one of the things that were missing from the startup scene here in London anyway. I'm so excited to have Rachel Carrell with me. Rachel, welcome.


Thank you very much. I'm excited to be here.


Do you want to tell us a bit more about you, in your own words?


I grew up in New Zealand. And I grew up in a really small farming town and went to university just locally in New Zealand. Then I was very lucky to win a scholarship to come over to England and do post-grad. So I did that for a few years and then worked at McKinsey, as you said. And then along the way, I got really into healthcare, as an industry.

So my next job out of McKinsey was working as the CEO of a healthcare company. And that's when I had my first baby. And I realized when that happened, how awful the childcare system was. Because most of my career so far had been working in health care, I thought about childcare is kind of similar to health care in terms of a system. And I just couldn't understand why the system was so broken, and why it was so expensive and exhausting, and difficult to find great childcare.

There were wonderful people working in childcare. But there was almost no technology involved. And these kinds of worlds of technology, and startup and product had nothing to do with the world of childcare.

And I thought, there are so many problems that need to be solved in this industry. And so I looked around and tried to find out who was working on these problems, I couldn't find anyone working on the problems. My first thought was, well, I'll go and join them. And then I couldn't find anyone who was doing what I thought needed to be done.

So I realized I had to do it myself. And that's when I found it, Koru Kids. Our mission is really to build the world's best childcare service. And eventually to solve all the problems, and make childcare that is really, really high quality, based on the core ethos that we've been developing about what children need, and what we now understand about child development.

And then training our amazing childcarers, providing it all affordably taking advantage of government subsidies, and wrapping it all up in technology, which makes it really super, super easy to use and find. That's what we are, that's what we've been building.


That's amazing. And, in fact, I was about to ask you, I was reading about your values the other day. And I think it was a marketing lady and you talking about your values while starting Koru Kids. And I feel like that is something that startups miss so many times.

Your values are such a big part of not only your brand but also help get the most productive bits out of your people as well. So I love that about your mission. So will you tell us a bit more about your values?


Yeah, sure. Yeah, I think this is really important stuff to get right at the very start. And I think the reason I cared about it so much was because I have worked as a consultant in many, many different organizations, from government departments to charities, to big corporates, to small companies. And I had seen so many things go wrong. I had experienced so many different kinds of terrible behaviour. People being very political, toxic, rude, bullying, not communicating properly, just all these terrible things, and it's so inefficient.

We leave our families in the morning, and we go out and we spend all our energy trying to get something done. And so often in normal places, you're fighting against each other. What's the point?

There are bigger fish to fry. We are all trying to solve a problem here. So my dream really was to build a company where people never fought against each other, they only fought against the problem. And that's much more efficient. And it's much more rewarding. It's the kind of team you want to lead, it's the kind of team you want to be part of. And so that's what like, from day one, I was thinking,

Okay, well, what is it that I need to do? How can I make that happen, and it goes through everything. Part of it is being very clear about what your values are. And then taking that through everything, making sure you hire the right people, you train them the right way, you reward them the right way, you talk about the right things- it has to go through everything.

So just to give an example, one of our core values is humility. So I don't hire arrogant people not to say that we are not confident, you know, we like and hire very talented people. And it's not false humility. I mean, if you're talented, you should know you're talented. But to me, what humility is really about is having an open mind.

Having a mind open to the possibility that you might be wrong. And this is something I saw in many of the places I worked at. That people were close-minded, and they didn't want to admit that they made a mistake, or they didn't want to admit they weren't the expert, or they didn't know something, or they got attached to their own idea. And all of these things are real problems. And they stop you making real progress.

They are the blockers actually. So instead, what I say is, it is one of our core values... every human being is wrong, like multiple times a day, and we all have so many gaps in our knowledge. All of us. So one of the worst things you can do at Koru Kids. And I say this to every person who joins, one of the worst things you can do is make a mistake and cover it up. Like that's just not what we're about.

We are about being extremely open and honest about the things we know and the things we don't know. Because that's what's going to lead everyone forward as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, we just do whatever it takes to solve the problem as fast as possible. That's what we want.