This week for Digital Her we have CEO co-founder of Tumelo, Georgia Stewart. We spoke all about her journey to founding a sustainable fintech company.

TechSPARK has teamed up with Manchester Digital to deliver you Digital Her, a project from the Institute of Coding. We want to showcase talented women and non-binary people from across the entire tech and digital sector who are doing amazing work in the South West.

The objective is to create a platform of role models for young women and non-binary people to encourage and inform anyone who may have been dissuaded away from tech about the opportunities in our region. Through talking to a range of individuals with various roles and experiences, we want to highlight the various career paths available whilst reaching out to people who didn’t know there was a perfect role in tech for them.

Georgia tells us that Tumelo is, “a financial technology company. We basically build technology for sustainable investment.

We help individual people who have investments to see exactly what companies they own inside their funds, or their investment portfolios, and also to have a say on environmental or social issues that are happening at the companies they own through their investments. So it’s trying to break out of the intermediation that exists in the investment industry, and give normal people a voice on the important stuff.”

Georgia says a lot of her job involves facilitation and sales skills. As the CEO, she “sets the vision, mission and strategy for the company.”

From her early education days, Georgia has always been interested in sustainability. She chose routes in her degree that enabled her to study biodiversity, climate change and environmentalism.

At this stage, business wasn’t at the forefront of Georgia’s mind, but she was interested in people management and working for herself.

Sustainable finance

Georgia tells us her primary interest soon became sustainable finance, and she began to question, “how can we make the financial system more sustainable?

“I did try doing that initially in roles within organisations and I was just frustrated by the pace of change. I met some really great people, which helped me decide that I wanted to work with really great people and not on my own, but maybe somewhere a bit more innovative. So, that’s how we came to start Tumelo.”

The Tumelo team didn’t create the business with tech as a motivator, but Georgia explains there was no other way to do sustainable finance.

Georgia says, “I think with the team that we had it made sense. My co-founder, Ben, was a software engineer and Will was really interested in tech and creating a new investment system, so it just made sense that we were going to build a tech product. We had same problem. Our main question was, how could you get the masses engaged? And the only way to do that is to have something scalable. So tech was kind of necessary.”

Facing challenges

Founding a startup is no mean feat and a journey that will clearly be fought with challenges.

Georgia tells us about just a few that she faced embarking on her sustainable finch path: “Firstly, working with difficult people.

“My team are really great, but they can definitely be very difficult sometimes (I’m sure they will say the same by me, so I’m happy to say that). I love the team, but it’s still a real challenge. You’re really in it together, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Sometimes you’ve had enough, and that’s really the most difficult times, when you feel there’s no going forward with this certain discussion.

“You have to just get past it and then something great will happen again. I think everyone experiences that when you start a company with other people.”

Other challenges Georgia has faced included raising investment: “fundraising is really hard for anyone starting a business where they need to raise money. It’s tiring, emotionally draining, but necessary and it works.

“That’s a confidence challenge too. When I first started, I was not confident, and my co-founder was actually the CEO. Then it turned out I was better at some things that a CEO needs to be good at, like fundraising and pitching and that kind of stuff. It just took me a long time to find my feet and feel confident doing that. I don’t know if that had anything to do with growing up as a woman.”

But throughout the challenges, Georgia and her team have built a very successful business. We turned the conversations to the most exciting parts of her career. She tells us, “That first sale.

“And whenever we get feedback from customers it’s so nice to hear. Knowing there are people out there who really appreciate the work we’re doing is so rewarding. You know why you’re doing it, but it’s nice to get that affirmation from customers or from sales partners.”

When you’re surrounded by people working in tech, it can be easy to forget the real positives of the sector.

Georgia talks about her love for the excitement people working in tech have: “I think that’s sustainability as well. People are really passionate, which really helps. Even if it’s not their full time job to care about sustainability, if you bring them something that’s tech and sustainability, you couldn’t really get more exciting than that. It’s a really great thing to have so many people who are energised.”

Having a tech product makes the possibilities boundless. Georgia makes the point that you can constantly expand and take tech that next step further, “you could add AI to everything and make everything simple, but you just need to take time.”

To hear more from Georgia, make sure to check out the full interview here:

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.