Partners in MIME
“Alasdair and Anne, you have exactly the sort of working relationship that we want to promote in Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem ... you think it’s ‘normal’ … and think nothing of it. In fact, it’s great, unusual and notable”
As male-female co-founders this quote has stayed with us. These are the words of one of Scotland’s most experienced business mentors, who has successfully supported many young companies, including those participating in the Converge Challenge and Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship (both of which MIME has had the privilege of being part of). We are delighted to be identified as an example of effective mixed founder teams. So, for the next couple of hundred words you can get to know us both and learn a little about our co-founder journey. Of course, we also talk about our vision to have a global impact on improving medical incident response in the air, but, mostly identify the importance of getting the right co-founder fit!
How long have you worked together? Has that helped or hindered working together as founders?
Anne: Alasdair and I worked in the same department as academics from 2004. However, it was more 10 than years later that we joined forces to lead MIME®. Understanding how someone works professionally gave me confidence. This was someone I could face a professional mountain to climb with together…quite ironically the first time I was introduced to Alasdair was half way up the Cairngorms!
Alasdair: It’s definitely helped a lot. Even though we hadn’t worked together on projects before, we knew each other well, and I could clearly see the kinds of work that Anne thrived upon. Anne was always strong when it came to interacting with remote care service providers and end-users, generating trusted relationships.
Why did you each decide to specialise in extreme medicine and remote first response?
Anne: I grew up in the north east Highlands of Scotland, outside of a town. At a young age I lost a family member to cardiac arrest. He was just a few years older than what I am now. It was inside my local supermarket. In those days there was no such thing as community defibrillators. This type of experience stays with you. When I left university, I knew I wanted give something back to better support the health of those in remote environments. Pre-hospital care is my area of expertise and I’m very passionate about it!
Alasdair: I had always been interested in ‘life at the extremes’, being a keen diver. It’s also why I specialised in extreme human physiology and worked for the Ministry of Defence. There we focused on how best to protect pilots and passengers from the dangers of altitude. From there I did my PhD at the University of Aberdeen's Centre for Rural Health, exploring the potential of novel wireless medical devices to monitor search and rescue casualties. During my PhD I noticed the potential for these technologies in remote communities, so jumped at the chance to spin out MIME’s research and start a new company.
If you had to describe a key personality trait for one another that contributes to your joint working success, what would it be?
Alasdair: Strength under pressure. It’s incredibly important as a co-founder to know that your ‘partner in MIME’ is there regardless of the circumstance. Anne has that in spades! I will always remember when she pitched to Scottish EDGE in 2017 and won. From the word ‘go’ you just knew that it was going to be special. But the secret was really the massive effort that Anne had put in behind the scenes to make it a winning pitch. Not easy under pressure, but that’s how she is in every aspect of the business, multi-tasking efficiently and delivering the results.
Anne: Considered but timely. I’m always enthused by how well considered Alasdair’s decision-making is. He also manages to make decisions, often very tough ones, by weighing up all the options swiftly but carefully in equal measures. Although we are co-founders, I respect the fact that Alasdair is our CEO so his sound reasoning is vital. Good decision making is key to our success at MIME®.
Tell us about the culture are you growing at MIME Technologies?
Alasdair: I’m a big fan of test-measure-learn. It’s essential that we evaluate the impact of anything that we do as a company. Whether that’s the impact of our marketing strategy, or customer feedback on the next product variant. The team at MIME® are always encouraged to gather the evidence we need to refine our course. This lessens the influence of opinion on the business.
Anne: We’re also trying to develop a culture that is running and not walking. As co-founders “running” is easy, we want MIME® to succeed, so we put in the long hours to ensure things stay high growth. For our team however, “running” isn’t about the long hours, it’s about ensuring they have the positive energy they need. Learning is a key part of that so every new ‘MIMEr’ gets to purchase a book for our office library.
What is your top work memory from your high growth journey at MIME so far?
Anne: I’ve many memorable days. One of the most impactful for me and the business was in Silicon Valley (an additional prize won by Scottish EDGE). I met with Coherent, the world’s leading laser technology suppliers. They spoke to me about the importance of managing trade secrets. This conversation has been pivotable in how I have viewed the Natural Language Generation (AI) element of our technology. We have since implemented in-house procedures to protect it.
Alasdair: For me it was hiring our first two employees. It demonstrated just how far we’d come – and learned – since spinning out of our university. Employing people is another level of responsibility, and an opportunity to harness their skills to the benefit of the team. It’s about learning to be efficient and delegate appropriately. We want to streamline our hiring process so that it’s quicker to hire and ‘on board’ new employees as we grow quickly.
If you had 3 tips to getting the right co-founder fit what would they be?
Anne: 1) Trust – it’s simply vital. 2) Professional respect – Understand the way your co-founder works as a professional. If you can’t respect it, it’s not the right fit. 3) Mutual acceptance and recognition of each other’s efforts.
Alasdair: 1) Honest reflection – something hasn’t gone quite right? Learn from it TOGETHER. 2) Quick, measured decision-making – you need someone who can help you make decisions. Don’t be paralysed by choices. 3) Sense of humour – it’s tough out there, so it’s important to see the fun side and enjoy the journey. We definitely have that.
Where would you like MIME® to be within the next 3 years?
Alasdair: MIME® has an exciting roadmap over the next 3 years, selling our intelligent first aid kit to UK and European airlines. However, we also recognise we have a large opportunity in the United States. We are aiming high.
Anne: I am also determined to grow a successful company in Inverness, contributing to the local economy. By year 3 I would like to have increased our staff to approximately 30 employees. This is what we will need to remain on track for high growth. We’ve already made a good start with this!