Dr Louise Metcalf is the founder and CEO of Gheorg, a senior psychologist and a serial entrepreneur. With nearly 30 years of experience in mental health and wellness, she has been published in leading international scientific journals, worked with the United Nations, and built several businesses from the ground up. Up until joining SheStarts3, Gheorg was Louise’s “long-time, part-time” hobby. Now she’s building Gheorg into a real robot to help children with anxiety all over the world.
Tell us about the moment you came up with Gheorg.
As a psychologist, I’ve seen the rising tide of childhood anxiety first hand. I’ve had multiple goes at solutions, but it wasn’t until I had my own child that I started to put the pieces together. I started to see the gaps that parents and teachers just physically can’t step into. Childhood anxiety isn’t about ‘bad’ parenting; most parents work very hard to help their kids. I did a lot of observation and thinking of what could help fill that gap – and suddenly, there was my initial concept for Gheorg!
Did you ever imagine you would be a tech startup founder?
If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have laughed! I was building Gheorg at the time, but I am used to – and expected to – have to slog it out for the next 10 years. In my experience, investors and banks don’t lend to women (I have lost count at how many times have I tried that and been laughed at). and bootstrapping is a longer business build process.
What has been your most surprising experience with SheStarts?
I love working in Agile! I have to laugh at myself about this. As a University researcher, you get used to doing maybe one study a year with a good six month lead time where every part of your experiment is scrutinised before any data is collected. In Agile, you’re lucky to get six hours! I love the dynamism of that. The schools we are working with can’t often meet that timeline, but they have certainly done their absolute best. It’s inspiring!
What has been the hardest lesson you have learned so far?
I have certainly had to use my mental grit a few times. I have a fabulous product team who jump in whenever I need help, but there are still times when the workload is high and the deadline’s tight. That’s when you have to take a deep breath.
“I’ve learned to think like a runner in difficult moments. Get your breathing right; it’s a real rhythm. You can breathe like a runner through anything.”
I find our mission very deeply energising, so thinking about how to help kids in fun ways creates a kind of hopeful, joyous energy when the going gets tough.
How does it feel to be a founder?
Usually it’s pretty lonely and tough, but with SheStarts and the BlueChilli team it feels warm and social and full of encouragement. Of course there are challenges and frustrations, but that is inevitable in business. That’s when you need to breathe like a runner!
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m driven by my mission to make a better world for all of us, but especially for those who are most vulnerable and will drive the future: kids! I look around and see all the things that we’re doing to our planet and each other that aren’t really working, and I see all the amazing people striving for better often in the toughest circumstances. I feel compelled by that vision, and I know we can do better. I know that it’s really worth striving for and it’s possible. Our next generation deserves no less.
What is your advice to women who have a bold idea for a startup?
Do it! Do it! Do it! The world needs YOU! Yes it may not work out, but the journey will give you impressive strength, knowledge and self discipline. It will also help to right the balance of the opportunities out there, so that there is less barriers for the next generation.
“I had this profound experience on the day Julia Gillard became PM. I just happened to be walking past a girl’s school as they poured out of the gates at the end of the day. There were all about 17, as I remember, and they were super excited. I heard them talking to each other in a kind of daringly louder whisper saying, Anything is possible now!“
It still gives me goosebumps! That is what we need – hope. And every female leader brings more hope for the 50% of the population who are women. Think of all the incredible ideas waiting to be set free in those heads, needing just a spark to light the fire that changes the world. Diversity is a powerful innovator.
Also, try and work with a group like BlueChilli who help to sweep some of the barriers out of your path. It is amazing and really, really helps!
Read more: Meet the rest of the SheStarts3 cohort!