We’re often told to stick to what we know. This is certainly true for Rebecca Bright. While running her own speech therapy clinic she realised that the commercial equipment used to help her patients was too cumbersome and out of date.
In a bid to make speech assistance technology more contemporary she set about developing an app that could do the job better and in 2010, alongside husband and co-founder Swapnil Gadgil, she founded app-development company Therapy Box.
Eight years and 200,000 downloads later, the West London based firm sells products in 30 countries and works with the NHS, United Nations and a host of other national organisations. It is also developing AI focused on detecting the early signs of developmental language disorder in children.
In 2016 Bright was awarded an MBE for app development and her role in championing women in technology.
Has it been a challenge transitioning from a clinical background to running a technology company?
I think a clinical background sets you up well for going into business and managing things, especially working in this area because a lot of what you do as a clinician is trying to understand people. You need to have empathy for someone's situation and help them try to solve problems.
I suppose that skill set works for the technology as well because that is what we do on a day to day basis.
How has Therapy Box grown?
Last year was the first year that we went over £1 million turnover and I think this year we are looking to hit £1.5 million. We've not had any investment, but we've had some grants from the National Institute of Health Research and other bodies for particular projects.
We funded the growth out of our savings and we've been profitable from the beginning, which is perhaps something we don't always appreciate, but we've always been able to reinvest back into the business and to mature as a business organically.
Did you have any background in coding?
Neither of us have a background in coding, so we had to outsource development at first and it took a while to find somebody in India to do it. But we designed the first app interface using powerpoint ourselves.
I think now I have some understanding, but still I really have no idea how to code. I think if I did learn to code the business might not have grown in the way that it had because I'd be too busy doing that.
There’s a notorious shortage of women in STEM. Have you struggled with recruitment?
I was talking at my son's school two weeks ago and I showed them pictures of my team - there's two women in my team - and I think where are all the women?
I asked these 11-year-old girls whether they wanted to work in technology, but they were saying it was 'too hard' or it 'might be boring'.
I think there's a perception about what technology is. To work in technology people think you have to be a coder who on the weekends locks themselves in their room playing Xbox, but there are lots of different roles in a technology company, design and user experience for example. I think the more diverse your team is, the better your product is going to be.
So if we had women apply for jobs I'd be keen to get them on board, but we just have so few women apply for roles compared to men. For me that is a massive shame because we design inclusive apps for people with disabilities, but how can you design inclusive products if you don't have enough women in the room thinking about what that means for them?
What’s been the biggest challenge?
One of the challenges is not trying to be too operational in the business and not trying to do everything. Not trying to micromanage people and not trying to solve every problem myself and trying to encourage other people to have accountability for other areas of the business. Learning instead to step back and have time to think about strategy and focus on where we are going next.
Having two children since we started the business puts things in perspective a little bit but also keeps you really busy.
Image credit: Therapy Box