This week I talk with Cat Noone, Founder of Iris! We talk about growing up in Brooklyn, getting your first computer, pursuing medicine and then dropping out of college, having an advisor copy your product, being an entrepreneur and a parent and lot more! Enjoy!
Josh Pigford: Hey Cat, how’s it going? Thanks for joining us.
Cat Noone: Doing good. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Josh Pigford: Yeah absolutely. The way I like to kick things off is talking about your backstory, so you as a kid. I think you’re in New Jersey now, but did you grow up there?
Cat Noone: No, no, I’m a Brooklyn kid. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and only moved out to Jersey when I was closer to high school. Moved out to Jersey, but grew up in Brooklyn, I guess a very stereotypical Italian-Irish, Catholic family in Brooklyn in the ’80s, ’90s it was way different then living out in New Jersey. You would play out on the street back then, which I think is very different to a lot of kids now, but played out on the street. Everyone knew who you were and the neighborhood looked out for you as a tribe. Yep, good times.
Josh Pigford: As a kid, in the ’80s and ’90s obviously technology was very different then it is now, but were you even into technology at all as a kid?
Cat Noone: Yeah. I vividly remember not always being in front of, but always being fascinated by game consoles and I think that was the first hand’s on technology that was in my life was game consoles, everything from Atari, to Nintendo, then Game Boy was a big thing. Then eventually I think I was 10 when my grandmother brought home our first computer, which was huge. I’d been exposed to it in school a little bit. One of the treats in elementary school was that we would occasionally get to go to the computer lab and we’d play games like The Oregon Trail and the whole nine, I think everybody is familiar with that. I’d always been fascinated by the technology and what it could actually do.
Josh Pigford: Were your friends into that as well or were you sort of an outlier in that regard?
Cat Noone: I think I was an outlier in that regard. Even until now I still have a couple of friends from when I was like four years old and my best friends would, one of them in particular, she is literally on zero forms of social media, she has none, you can’t find her on the internet. She just got her first smartphone a few years ago, so for me being around her, I love her dearly, but being around her is such a stark difference. It’s polar opposite in terms of technology. In that regard, with all of my friends still until this day, with the exception of people who are working in the industry or in designer whatever, I am very much of an outlier.
Josh Pigford: What made your grandmother bring a computer to your house?
Cat Noone: Well at work she needed to work with one and I think she too saw the benefit of it and understood whether through hearing it from friends or having a gut feeling that this was going to be something that would change households, and people, and industries as we know it. I’m not entirely sure what the actual reason was, but I remember when she brought it home. She was laughing and she was so excited for us to see it. She thought it was the coolest thing. I don’t think even then she really knew why that was the case or what computer would become, or even for that matter, not even become but the possibilities that existed at that given moment already. I think she knew that it was something that would be big. I think she wanted that for us, for myself, and for her two kids, my two aunts who were 10 plus years older than me. That was that, I remember her face, it’s stuck in my brain.
Josh Pigford: Did you find yourself on the computer a lot once it was something that was in your house did you spend a ton of time on there?
Cat Noone: No, not at the time. I was very much someone who is a generation that’s tech-enabled, but not tech-submerged. I spent a lot of time drawing, and coloring, and painting, and playing outside, and playing sports. Technology was secondary whereas my daughter now it’s a prominent part of her life. She may not even eventually know what a computer is. She knows what an iPad is an iPhone, an iPod, but no idea truly what a computer is. She calls our computer iPads.
Josh Pigford: Everything is like a screen to be touched.
Cat Noone: Exactly.
Josh Pigford: You get a computer, don’t really use it a whole lot. You still are into things that most kids would be into at the time. Did you transition into … Was there a time when you actually did really start getting into computers, was it in high school or was it afterwards?
Cat Noone: To be honest, when I was on the computer, which I spent a decent amount of time on it, but when I was there I was either in Microsoft Paint being a weirdo and reading the dictionary on there, which I thought was really cool the fact that the encyclopedia and dictionary was on [crosstalk 00:07:20].
Josh Pigford: I remember having an encyclopedia CD-ROM and that was fascinating.
Cat Noone: Yes, exactly. Yes. That was something I spent time on. Now looking back I see how weird that is and playing math, and adventure games like Carmen San Diego, which was cool, that was the one that I had. Eventually, the AOL disk landed in front of me and that was an entirely new world.
Josh Pigford: What age were you when you basically first got a taste of the internet?
Cat Noone: I want to say 11, 11 or 12.
Josh Pigford: I was about the same, 11, 12, 13, somewhere around there and same experience with AOL CD’s and onslaught of there was always a new CD in the mail.
Cat Noone: Yes.
Josh Pigford: But to me it felt, at least in hindsight, almost overnight that the entire world sort of opened up with AOL.
Cat Noone: Yeah, for sure. I think at first when that first computer got brought home I didn’t even recognize it then, but once I realized how much was possible just from what I had in front of me and then what can be brought to the computer, for me it was like, “Oh whoa.” With Microsoft Paint, granted it’s very basic, but the fact that I was able to essentially recreate what I was drawing on my paper in software like Microsoft Paint, albeit, very slowly, not as fast or efficiently. For me, at that time I said, “Wow, how fantastic would it be if you had a tool that connected to the computer that allowed you to paint?” At the time I didn’t know it but eventually or at that time it would become the Waycoms, and whatnot, and the drawing pens, and whatnot, which was really cool to see come to life, eventually.
Josh Pigford: Did you look at the computer the way to basically make things in your current physical world maybe more efficient or more interesting, or is it like this opened up an entirely new set possibilities?
Cat Noone: I think for me it was more possibilities and I don’t want to say an escape, but a way to just do something very different, do something that wasn’t very, I don’t want to call it analog, but I guess … and I loved that I could go onto the computer and just be in my own world, which is why I loved painting and drawing in the first place just because it allowed me to get lost. I think that’s what a lot of designers and developers find most fascinating as well is you just completely submerge yourself into what’s there and get lost in the problem solving or get lost in the code. For me, it was just a wide range of possibilities and just trying to figure out what those possibilities were, and it would be a long time before that happened for me because I would go onto really focusing on sports, and art, and schoolwork, and being exposed to the computer there, continuing that.
Cat Noone: I remember working in high school with, what was it Dreamweaver?
Josh Pigford: Yes, I lived in Dreamweaver for a couple years.
Cat Noone: So being there in school and doing that, and then being exposed to Photoshop, and that was frickin mind blowing. At that point it validated what I thought years prior that okay this does allow me to redesign a can, Pepsi’s can design, which was something I did at one point, just bring this information that I wanted to know or share to live and with the rest of the world.
Josh Pigford: Let’s see, trying to figure out timeline here. You’re big into sports, into art, you realize the computer enables you to do a lot of things. Was this all still in high school?
Cat Noone: By now that’s high school, yeah, that’s high school yeah.
Josh Pigford: After high school did you go to college anywhere?
Cat Noone: I did. I went to college for a couple of years. I was bio major with intent and desire to pursue pediatric neuro, but a few things came into play. I eventually realized that I was pursuing that head on for the wrong reasons. I didn’t have the calling, despite being absolutely fascinated with that world, clearly. I didn’t have the calling that I thought everyone who is in any form of medical doctor position should have. Especially working with children I felt like in order for me to do that job as efficiently at possible it needed to be something I lived and breathed and I didn’t have that. That was something I thought about as I was pursuing that and taking the classes, and doing it, it eventually became me stopping attending the classes that I needed to and dropping in on pottery classes with one of my best friends, the one who doesn’t have the internet, and pursuing pottery classes and computer classes.
Cat Noone: Eventually, my grandfather got very sick. He was diagnosed with cancer. That eventually increased, got much worse and finally not long after that he got sick I dropped out and focused on both family and also running from all of that, which is obviously not something that I’m proud of now but it is what I did and we all cope and deal in our owns ways, but did that.
Cat Noone: I think, looking back, it was the best thing simply because I wasn’t doing what I loved. I knew how much I loved the computer. I knew how much I loved design. In a world where the computer existed I spent my time looking at products and feeling like certain things always should work a certain way and they didn’t, and could I identify beautiful products, just of how they felt and they looked. For me, I didn’t know it then, but design was what I absolutely loved.
Cat Noone: I had been freelancing and learning in my spare time between work, and school, and whatnot, but once I quit school and was working full-time I’d then spend my evenings designing.
Josh Pigford: So for a couple of years you’re working on this I would guess a pretty intense set of coursework and going down this very medical heavy path. What was it that took even a couple of years for you to realize or to I guess finally make the jump out of it? Was it just you wanted to be this doctor/medical sort of person and didn’t want to get passed that? What was it that made you stick it out even for two years?
Cat Noone: A mix of things. One was that I absolutely loved the world of medicine, and neuro, and the brain, and figuring it out. It is arguably the biggest problem to solve, which I think pays tribute to my designer brain. I wanted to figure it out. I wanted to figure out how to fix brains that needed fixing, and that coupled with loving the world of practicing medicine. For me it was like okay this seems logical but I think it started back in early days of high school when my father told me that I simply wouldn’t be able to do it. I think that was the catalyst to be completely honest.
Cat Noone: I grew up with my grandparents. My grandparents raised me. I never had a true relationship, one that was formed through closeness and all of the basic principles that you have with your parents. I think for me, at that moldable point in my life I was trying to figure out what I was and what I wanted to be. To have someone like a parent say that I think it really cuts deep, especially because at the time I was told that because I got my first C plus and I was told that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do with that. I think that may very well be true, but that completely lit a fire under my ass. I think it was more proving then it was calling. That doesn’t take away from the love and fascination I had with that world, but the catalyst was for all the wrong reasons.
Josh Pigford: Sure. As a kid, especially at that age, I think for some hearing something like that is either just world crushing or, like you said, it makes you want to go prove somebody wrong. It sounds like for you it was the latter there, it made you like, “Oh I’ll show you.”
Cat Noone: Yeah and I think at that age there’s a mix of, with that fire under my ass it’s a mix of anger, and sadness, and disappointment, especially as a kid or a teenager, rather, but a kid who couldn’t figure out where they fell in line with their parents anyway. I was always taught by my grandparents to never let anybody tell me I couldn’t do something, never let anybody tell me that my dreams were too small, or too big, or too whatever. I think in a lot of ways I had, excuse my French, but I had this very go fuck yourself attitude, that mix of emotions, that pit in my stomach was like yeah I’m going to do this, I’m going to show you.
Cat Noone: Then once I got to that point in time where I said I can’t do this anymore it was a no I’m going to show you that you’re not going to do this to me. I’m not going to wake up in 30 years and be completely unhappy with what I’m doing with my life all because I listened to you, someone who didn’t know me from a rock in the road. At that point I was like no, I need to be happy. I’m not going to show you anything, I need to show me. I need to be happy. It was that mixed with I didn’t realize at the time that design was such a big deal. I didn’t realize that it was lucrative. In that regard, I was very naïve.
Cat Noone: Then I started truly doing my research and pursuing clients, freelancing, learning more, learning my craft. That’s not long after, this is I’d say a year or so after college, I started to embed myself into the design community on Twitter, on Facebook, Dribbble, that was huge at the time. I realized, “Wow, this is something that I love,” but, “Oh shit, it pays well too.” That for me was like okay I’m going to do this. I’m going to figure out how to make this work best. I took the plunge and went [crosstalk 00:22:15].
Josh Pigford: You’ve kind of got this couple of year period of college where you’re pursuing medicine. Was design really not even on the radar for you at that point or were you always doing it on the side, you mentioned pottery but…
Cat Noone: Oh no, since I was about 17-
Josh Pigford: Okay, so-
Cat Noone: … I had been doing it on the side.
Josh Pigford: … I assume there were a lot of mixed feelings with you’ve got this medicine thing you’re pursuing motivated by your dad giving you some harsh feedback. Really no kid should ever be told that, but was that hard, that transition from that whole world where there’s so much wrapped into that, very complicated thing, to then transition into design and just let the whole medicine thing go or was it a freeing sort of feeling?
Cat Noone: No it wasn’t hard only because I knew in my heard it’s what I needed to be doing. At the same time, the whole thing with my grandfather was going on. He would eventually pass away in November of 2009. For me it was okay, now I have something to get completely lost in because I did not want to face the fact the man who arguably was my father, my grandmother and my grandfather, but my grandfather was my father, was no longer there. Design was the way that I can escape all of that for … At that time I was working between 12 and 18 hours straight getting lost in it and looking back it’s horrible. I don’t understand how people do it. Maybe if you’re 19–20 it doesn’t bother you, you’re doing whatever, but it was an outlet and at the same time it was glorifying because I could work, and take on more clients, and get paid, and escape at the same time, and still do what I loved. For me, it was a very enjoyable but vicious cocktail.
Josh Pigford: Do you feel like when you were design stuff, especially the freelance side of things, did you enjoy the business component of finding new clients and obviously making sure that you’re making enough money to live or was it that was sort of just a necessary part of being able to do the design work?
Cat Noone: No. I did not enjoy the business side of things only because that was like the one area where I was winging it. I was learning on the job and very much faking it until I made it. I learned my best from that I think, but I had to learn the hard way to take 50% up front of the project, the rest of the 50% when you’re finished, and how to properly vet clients for that matter, how to pick them eventually because at some point you start picking, you get a nice selection to choose from, which is cool. Managing it, outsourcing it if I needed to because I would really never so no to a project. I’d take them on be like, “Yeah I can do it,” and then outsource if I needed to. So just managing all that was tough at first.
Cat Noone: Eventually I got into a groove but looking back I think there are some people that just kill it in freelance, they have it all down. I love the business side of things in general and I love design’s role in the business and how it services the business, but for me, freelance, just managing all of that as a one woman show was tough. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do forever, but I knew that. I knew that eventually I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to start my own company. With that, I said before I even jumped into design full-time I said I want to explore freelance, I want to work in corporate, I want to work for an agency, a startup, et cetera, in order to learn the ins and outs, what works and what doesn’t, business-wise and I did just that.
Josh Pigford: You go from freelancing for a couple years or something, then where did you end up after that?
Cat Noone: After that I was leading the design team at ADP’s Innovation Labs.
Josh Pigford: Cool.
Cat Noone: Went to corporate after that yeah, which was really cool, completely different side of things working on a product for internal, so an internal project for company wide, which was major. I did that for a while and then I started working at Prolific Interactive which is a mobile agency in Brooklyn and now San Francisco. I’m not sure if they’re anywhere else, but they’re huge. Fantastic group of people, the clients are amazing. They’ve worked with companies like Threadless, and Lululemon, and Rent the Runway, and several really big companies. I did that for a while. Then after that where did I go? Not long after that I was living, while working for them, I was living in San Francisco, then met my then-boyfriend. It was just a matter of okay, am I going to move where you are, which he was in Berlin, Germany. He’s a former chief design officer of Wunderlist. It was like all right, well are you going to come here or am I coming there? We decided that I was just completely done with San Francisco, so went from there moved to Berlin. Then not long after started my first company.
Josh Pigford: Okay, so you’ve got all these design roles heading up the design of the product as a whole or heading up even a team of designers. In the back of your head had you always wanted to start your own company? Was that sort of always the plan?
Cat Noone: Yeah that’s why I wanted to, like I said, I wanted to get the ins and outs of the business in different areas because I knew corporate would be very different from agency, would be very different from startup.
Josh Pigford: What was the first company that you founded?
Cat Noone: First company was Liberio. We essentially wanted to do for self-publishers what the app store did for developers, just to democratize that whole experience and make it very easy to get your work out there. We made it very simple to create and publish an e-book.
Josh Pigford: Was this in Berlin?
Cat Noone: Yeah this was in Berlin. I was co-founder of that and Chief Design Officer.
Josh Pigford: Gotcha. How long did that last?
Cat Noone: Two and a half years.
Josh Pigford: Then acquired or shut down?
Cat Noone: Shut down.
Josh Pigford: To me, the way you’ve laid it all out it’s like a lot was leading up to founding a company. You’re doing all this design work at lots of different companies trying to figure out the ins and outs of how to build a company. You start your company and then a couple years in have to shut it down. Tell me about that.
Cat Noone: That sucked. That really sucked. It was my first company. All the while doing these different things, having these different roles over the course of the years I knew that I wanted to start my own company at some point but I wasn’t going into it like okay here’s what I need to learn from corporate about business. I was just doing my thing and I knew when the time was right the time would be right. I didn’t even realize moving to Berlin that would fall into my lap. Shutting down the company, the funny thing is I think it was hardest because we really didn’t have to, there was another way to avoid it. The company was doing very well and people loved the product. We had significant traction. We got to a point where we said we have the traction, people love it, but we can’t do this on our own so we went looking to fundraise. We were trying to fundraise in Germany, just because timing wise, at that time it wasn’t the right time for self-publishing here in the states, e-books and stuff.
Cat Noone: We were a Berlin-based company and investors were wanting to actually build on this baby startup ecosystem that was there, it was growing. Berlin as a startup ecosystem was starting to really boom. We looked for investment there in Germany. We synced up with this one investor, get a term sheet, the whole nine. They alone were investing half a million, which was clutch and we would have gone on to pursue other investors after that. Got a term sheet and then as the final piece of their vetting or investment process, due diligence, they had advisors who were in the self-publishing world come in and do their due diligence, so they were looking through our codes, there was a lot of back and forth about what we were up to, questions. I think it was very foolish of us to not see it then, but one of the people who was vetting us was working on their own publishing company.
Cat Noone: Not too longer after that the investors pulled the term sheet, and not too long after that the advisors launched something ridiculously similar to what we were doing and replicated a lot down to the naming of their product. For us, it was like, “Oh fuck.” I think that morale and overall feelings about what we were doing were just really shitty at that point, but we kept trucking, and boot strapped it, kick started our first monetization method. Then eventually got to the point where from a personal standpoint we weren’t enough people to handle the load of work. It was just three of us at the time, two or three of us at the time and we had too many, I don’t want to say this because there’s no such thing, but we had too many users and we couldn’t keep up with that demand. Things were starting to break and we had built such a good experience for people using the platform and established a brand that people really fell in love with.
Cat Noone: My partner who was the CEO just wasn’t fond about bringing people on for equity. Then we got to a point where he had some family things that came up and we just couldn’t make it work at that point. We said we’re either going to let it go like this or we’re going to let it drag. The company that people fell in love with and depended on will have a completely different image in their heads, so at that point we shut it down.
Josh Pigford: Man, so much of that’s crushing. How much time was it between the advisor launching their little competitor to you guys deciding to shut things down?
Cat Noone: Oh goodness, maybe six to nine months.
Josh Pigford: Okay, so not that long. I say it was crushing, that seems to there’s so much of that, that to me it would make you kind of jaded to the whole thing. Do you feel like it had that effect on you or was it similar to as a teenager how your dad telling you that you couldn’t do something, did it light a fire or-
Cat Noone: Oh for sure. I’m someone that when I commit to something I commit. I’m going to run with it until the wheels fall off and then when the wheels fall off I’m going to run with you until literally I’m done. In this regard, I think if the personal stuff from my partner hadn’t come up I think there would have been a way to scoop ourselves out and fix the problem, but a lot of things came together at once as they usually do.
Josh Pigford: Sure.
Cat Noone: Ultimately, even though I was co-founder I think there’s always someone with the final say. I think as a partner, as you do, you just got to support it. I honestly think, to a certain degree, if it would have gone the other way and we didn’t shut it down I think there was the possibility where we really would have ended up creating a really shitty experience for your users. Now I still, years later, I’m getting emails on a regular basis for people saying how much they miss Liberio and how they wish that, developers wish, “We had access to the code, we’d love to build something back up with it. We miss it. There’s no other product out there like it still.” It’s shitty to read it because you’re like I know, I wish, but at the same time to know okay we powered this down at the right time. We really kept a good impression in people’s hearts and really solved a problem that people wanted and needed solved. We did something big, so it’s bittersweet, it’s very bittersweet.
Josh Pigford: How long after Liberio did you start Iris?
Cat Noone: I’m a glutton for punishment, so not long after.
Josh Pigford: Life a month later, a day later?
Cat Noone: The idea for Iris has come to me not long after I moved to Berlin. Ben and I were driving back from his parent’s house in southwest Germany, close to the French border which is about an eight and a half hour drive. I looked at him and I said midway through, “Dude, if we got into a car accident I’m fucked.” He was, “What?” I said-
Josh Pigford: So dark.
Cat Noone: … you know. Huh?
Josh Pigford: Dark conversation.
Cat Noone: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can count on me for that. At some point on an eight hour drive we’re going to get morbid, we’re going to discuss the most controversial things, we’re going to discuss space, we’re going to talk about all those things. I was sitting there and I’m still in culture shock mode from moving to a different country, and missing my family, and thinking about them. My head went to a very dark place and that was it. I explained to him, “If we were to get into a car accident we’re not married, so my health proxy is back at home. They can tell from my passport that I’m an American, by looking at me that I’m relatively healthy, but that tells them nothing. What’s going on inside? What am I allergic to? What’s gone on in my health life for the last month or two,” all of these different things. I’m allergic to the medication that they’re about to give me to try and save me. That idea had been planted then and I knew after talking to a few people that it wasn’t something I was just worried about. I was building Liberio at the time so I put it aside because I knew this is something that could be really major but I don’t want to half-ass it, I don’t want to half-ass anything. I don’t want to sign my name on that. I left alone.
Cat Noone: Once we shut down Liberio I’d say a couple months. I crawled into a hole for a few weeks and was in a really shitty slump about this. I didn’t know whether or not anybody would take me seriously as a designer, as a founder when it comes to building a new company if I wanted to raise would investors be like, “Well you have a failed company. What can we expect fro you? We can’t expect much,” all of these really shitty feelings.
Cat Noone: Obviously talking to many people about it just eventually after a couple weeks got out of that slump, did a lot of writing, did a lot of thinking, self-reflection. It took a while to get over that, but in the meantime I was like, I’m going to research and pursue this idea, research and see if it’s an idea worth pursuing. At the time I was also pregnant, which is why I said a glutton for punishment. Then that was that, I mean…
Josh Pigford: I guess what do you feel like co-founding Liberio two and a half years prior what do you feel like you started Iris with that you had, how more better or differently equipped did you feel starting Iris compared to starting Liberio?
Cat Noone: I think for me it was a mix of things because I was starting Iris understanding how to build in market, and grow a company, and a product, how to properly do a sprint, how to communicate better with your team, just communication, overall process, exploration, being able to have the tough conversations. Celebrating wins and failures was a big one, quick recovery and the understanding that with culture positive patterns are critical to culture, all these little things that would carry over. Boot strapping is hard. I learned that being lean and frugal is key, but knowing when and where to dump the cash is equally as important.
Josh Pigford: Sure.
Cat Noone: Treating small decisions the same way you do the big decisions. I learned that myself I really love working on products in traditional markets that need to be flipped on their head, that’s something I enjoy doing very much. I learned that I really needed to continue my path of not celebrating work late or on the weekends, that it’s not a badge of honor, but sometimes it needs to be done and that’s just what it is. Hire slow, fire fast.
Josh Pigford: Yep, yep.
Cat Noone: I think a lot of things, but with Iris I would be coming into it having founded a startup already, but I would now be a CEO for the first time, which was very different. Now, having said that, still until now I’m learning on the job. But I think a lot of what I did learn from the first company and from working at all these different companies in general has helped me see what it truly takes to build out a world class team. When I say world class I don’t just mean the most talented, I mean the most genuine world class human beings, which I’m very proud of. I think also doing remote for the first time, which has been an adventure and a first. As with anything, you take what you learn from your past experiences and you apply it as much as possible, and you make it work, but there’s always new adventures within every new adventure, new experience, new adventure. That’s what I’m dealing with now, which is great. It’s exciting, it’s hard.
Josh Pigford: What was it like going from you’ve had just years and position after position in design roles, including at Liberio you were co-founder, but still you were Director of Design, going into Iris in the CEO role what expectations got thrown out of the window the fastest?
Cat Noone: What expectations got thrown out the fastest? Well the one that because I had run a company before this would be a breeze.
Josh Pigford: Like it gets easier.
Cat Noone: Right, exactly, exactly. I think that was the biggest one. I think I assembled a tool kit and I think because of that I was like the construction worker that was showing up to the job and I’m like, “I’m ready.” Then you find out that the hammer is different and that the nails are tougher, and you end up whacking your thumb a few times. I think that’s the case now, but I’m happy that I’m surrounded by a team of people that believe in not only the mission but in me and understand that I’m learning from them as well and they’re willing to teach me as much as I’m willing to teach them. I think we have our own internal community, which is great.
Josh Pigford: By the time Iris was started, you mentioned you were pregnant when you had the idea, so as a parent starting a company, which is the same case for me when I started Baremetrics, what are some things that you feel like as a parent that you want to convey or pass on to your daughter about starting a company, that being this path that is one you can go down? I think me as a kid I don’t know that I knew anybody who had started their own business. I knew things like you think an optometrist or something that has their own practice, but I mean actually starting this whole thing, building something from the ground up was foreign to me until I just sort of stumbled upon it. I’m curious what’s something you hoped that your daughter gets out of seeing you in that role?
Cat Noone: I hope that she sees that I’m hardworking and that doesn’t mean that it means work hard and never be around, because I think that’s the life that a lot of us with our dad’s or grandfather’s, or mom’s or grandmother’s whatever, you see them just completely busting their ass to come home, and put food on the table, and pay the bills. I think a lot of us in this industry are very fortunate to not have that, but we seem to still run back to that behavior because it’s what we’ve seen and it’s what we know. I hope that she sees that you can do what you love, and work hard, and be a hard worker, but still prioritize family where it needs to be prioritized, and that she still has a parent and parents, both a mother and a father that are there, that are always there. I think that from a personal side of things.
Cat Noone: I hope that she sees that I and our team are building a product in hopes of changing and ideally saving the lives of many people who suffer or are not well on a regular, daily basis. I hope that she sees what it means to give back and to use the tools and the resources that you have no matter what those tools or resources look like to give back to the world in some way, and make a difference if you have the ability to. I hope she sees course correction and resiliency at the same time, that just because things go bad doesn’t mean you quit, you adjust the sails and you continue on. At the same time though, knowing when to put something aside and realize that it is no longer beneficial and that’s to other people and to you as a person. I think through learning those soft skills it will make her significantly better at those hard skills that she’ll have to learn.
Josh Pigford: A lot of times you try to show … To me, in my head I think obviously I want my kids to be whatever they want to be and do whatever they want to do. I have to be really careful to also not push on them like you guys can all start companies.
Cat Noone: That’s one thing … It’s cool just like … Well it’s not cool, but it’s good to know that Ben and I aren’t the only ones because you find yourself saying, “We’re building this. If this does really well it can just continue and then she can take it over one day.” She’s like, “No, no.” Maybe she doesn’t want to.
Josh Pigford: I have three daughters and my oldest is 15. She’s at that age where it’s like … Well so I have a 15 year old, a 13 year old, and an 8 year old.
Cat Noone: Nice.
Josh Pigford: My 15 year old she’s firmly in what you would typically think a teenage girl is into, her friends, and Snapchat, and all that terrible stuff. I also think anytime she talks about, “I’m kind of interested in this,” or, “I like that,” I have to try really hard to not be like, “Look, you don’t need to go do that for anyone. You can do that yourself.”
Cat Noone: Right.
Josh Pigford: “In fact, you should.” Being an entrepreneur is not the end all be all.
Cat Noone: For sure. I think there will be these moments where we’ve got to catch ourselves and if she’s like, “I like development,” it’s just like, “What do you mean you like development?” Ben and I code as well, but we’re designers by trade, so I think needing to curb ourselves there and then curb ourselves when it comes to starting your own company. She’s like, “Well you have a problem that you’re interested in solving? Nothing exists like that, we can totally-
Josh Pigford: We can make it a business. To me, I think the bigger take away is I want my kids to be able to teach themselves how to do anything, like to not be scared of, “Well that sounds like a cool idea, but I don’t have any idea how to do it.” That’s fine.
Josh Pigford: My eight year old was telling me last night, she was like, “Dad, after school tomorrow can you teach me how to make circuit boards?” “Okay, yeah, absolutely.” There’s a series, two books, I forget exactly the name of it, so like “Stories for Rebel Girls” or something like that.
Cat Noone: Yes, absolutely. We have them.
Josh Pigford: Yeah. We were reading those last night and it was like Ada Lovelace was one of the first ones in there so she’s just like … I kind of geek out over electronics and stuff, so I’ve got all the circuit board electronic junk sitting here in my office. But yeah, I ultimately want to equip my children to be able to think of something and then do it.
Cat Noone: It’s interesting, because I feel like us being tech-enabled we’re still the generation I feel like that knows to go looking for the information that they want and need. Whereas, our kids are tech-submerged and they have literally the world’s information at their fingertips, but they find it very hard to … or rather, it’s not first thought to go check Google for it or check the encyclopedia. Whereas, as soon as we want to know it’s all right, I’ll just Google it. I agree, I want her to know that anything she can possibly want or need to know to get herself further is available to her at any given time. So yeah.
Josh Pigford: So kinda to start wrapping things up here, what’s the next year look like for you and Iris?
Cat Noone: Hopefully successful. I think we’re not trying to solve a simple problem for us rather having this goal of being the modern day critical health service, trying to reshape what emergency health looks like is not easy. I think just over the course of the year making moves that are necessary to enable people to take their health back into their owns hands in this really seamless, dependable, and individualized way is the goal, doing what we got to do to make that a true reality. Hopefully, get to the point where we’re predicting and preventing medical emergencies before they happen. That, for us, is the big north star. This year is a lot of building, a lot of research. We’re currently fundraising, which is always fun.
Josh Pigford: Lots of foundational stuff.
Cat Noone: Yeah, like submerging ourselves in [inaudible 00:57:28].
Josh Pigford: Yeah, that’s good.
Cat Noone: Yeah, that’s right.
Josh Pigford: To me, that’s like one of the most fun … Obviously certain things like fundraising are not entirely pleasant, but also there’s still something really nice about early days where you’re building the framework for like-
Cat Noone: I love it.
Josh Pigford: … what’s possible down the road.
Cat Noone: Absolutely. I love this. The one thing I always talk to people about when getting into anything, whether it’s being a founder, building a company, building a product, learning your craft, whether it’s development or design. I always tell everybody build the foundation of the house before you start thinking about the paint.
Cat Noone: For us right now I think in a lot of ways seems just a bit nauseating just because there’s so much that you got to do and so many facets to this. This is the most exciting because they are the building blocks of what this beautiful and important house will become. I think the team also realizes that and you see that just in general they’re working harder than they ever have just because they’re like, “Yeah, we got to do this.” At the same time, like I said before, we’re fortunate to learn from them and share what I know with them as well. They’re people that understand the importance of personal health as well, which I think in building a health tech company is important. It really, really is a culture that I think anybody coming into, that foundation has been solidified enough to where as it evolves will evolve healthfully, which we also keep tabs on. But yeah, foundational stuff and also fun, fun, fundraising.
Josh Pigford: That’s good stuff. Okay, so how can people get in touch if they have questions or just want to learn more about Iris?
Cat Noone: Sure, I mean to get in touch with me personally feel free to send over an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, then on Twitter is @imkatnoone. For Iris, if anybody wants to see what we’re up to you can always go to getiris.co for the website. For Twitter it’s @irisapp, and we’re always on there talking, sharing a bunch of health stuff, talking shop on our personal accounts or the business one, so let’s talk shop on design, product building, overall healthcare if that tickles your fancy. Looking forward to it.
Josh Pigford: All right, good deal. Well that’s all I got Cat. Thanks for helping on a call. I really appreciate it.
Cat Noone: No thanks for having me and even caring about my and our story. I hope it’s beneficial.
Josh Pigford: There we have it, Cat Noone of Iris. Thanks for listening this week.