Nicole Marshall is the CEO and Co-Founder of Grasshopper, a platform that supports kids’ first steps into the digital world by combining technology with physically active play. An industrial designer by trade, Nicole has worked in Silicon Valley, Australia and New Zealand and is passionate about using the power of play to foster creativity and imagination. When she’s not building her business, she enjoys throwing pottery and riding her bike everywhere she can.
What was the inspiration behind your startup?
Having younger cousins who use technology as part of their play time, I noticed how hyper-gamified and addictive the games were on their devices – and how that was overrunning the dynamic of their interactions. Screens are interrupting kids natural developments, and that really worried me. With that, the increase of screen time is inevitable. I was excited to explore ideas on how to use screen-based technology in a positive way, and to encourage kids to be active, learn and foster creativity in a way that is healthy for them.
Looking back at your career, which job helped you get to where you are today?
When I was 21, I moved to San Francisco to pursue my dream of working for a product design consultancy. That was such a key turning point in my life.
“Working in Silicon Valley in product design was a lot of hard work, a lot of no’s, and a lot just scraping along – but I learnt how far I can go when I push myself.”
I’m constantly reaching higher and higher, and I’m blown away by how much my team and I can achieve in such a small space of time. I came up with Grasshopper a few years ago, and we’ve already had the chance to exhibit it at international design fairs in Milan and Dubai.
How will Grasshopper make a positive impact on the world?
I want to reduce the negative connotations and impact that technology has on children’s playtime, ensuring that it can become something useful and beneficial for our kids. We want addiction-driven sedentary screen time to be a thing of the past for young kids. Looking ahead, we want to see lots of amazing new platforms creating a more active, social world of digital play – with Grasshopper leading the way, of course!
What has been the hardest lesson you have learned so far in the program?
As a startup founder, one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn is that:
“Perfect can often be the enemy of done.”
This means that sometimes it’s better to focus on finishing a task than getting caught up in the details. This was really hard for me as a perfectionist, and something I’ve really had to work on. The great thing about working on a startup is that you’re constantly improving, reflecting and iterating throughout your journey.
Did you ever imagine you would be a tech startup founder?
Starting a startup was always something I could see myself doing, but it was definitely just an aspiration a year ago. It’s really tricky to know where to start and find the right team.
After I found my co-founder, Kern Mangan-Walker – who is just as motivated and passionate about this space as me – it was all go from there!
What is your advice to women who have a bold idea for a startup?
Saying “I’m the founder” takes some getting used to, that’s for sure. It definitely feels strange filling out forms and writing CEO! But at the end of the day, it feels really empowering. If you’ve got an idea, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and share it.
“I’m extremely introverted (and trust me I hate public speaking!), but you’ve got to show up to get the chance at an opportunity.”
Start by joining social startup groups and getting amongst other people in the ecosystem. You never know who you might start a conversation with! I’m constantly surprised at how many people want to help out just out of pure kindness – and how many people believe in us, and in Grasshopper.
Read more: Meet Dr Louise Metcalf, a psychologist who is building a little robot to help kids with anxiety.