In our latest North East tech startup spotlight we turn our attention to OptiMe, the personalised employee wellbeing programme on the go.
Founder Bethany Ainsley tells us more about her startup and her experience of setting up a tech company.
Journey to start: Identifying the need first-hand
OptiMe is Bethany’s third venture. Alongside the mental health and wellbeing SaaS, Bethany is the founder of social enterprise Nuvo Wellbeing – which she founded over a decade ago – and health and social care training provider ActivCare.
Through running her enterprises, Bethany experienced first-hand the importance of wellbeing as a driver of productivity and happiness, which led her to setting up OptiMe: “I was running Nuvo and recognised that we were helping lots of people, literally hundreds of people every week, to improve their wellbeing. But I wasn’t necessarily paying as much attention to my own as a business owner. Looking at business owners around me, they were pretty much doing the same thing.
"When you’ve got a high-pressured job and you’ve got staff, often it’s your own needs and priorities that become “lost”. As result, I really wanted to see how looking after health and wellbeing could improve productivity. And it’s not just for the owner and CEO. It is about how that filters through the whole workforce.
"I initially started working with organisations such as UNW, Durham University and Wilton Engineering to look at the needs and challenges that employees and businesses face, and how digital can be used to address all of that in one easy solution. That’s how OptiMe was founded.”
Since launching the platform in early 2020, OptiMe has grown nationally and now employs three members of staff. Earlier in 2020, Bethany was awarded Startup Director of the Year as part of the Institute of Director’s awards.
The journey to starting a tech business
When asked about her journey to developing her health platform, Bethany recalled it took 18 months to transition from initial idea to platform development.
“It was a learning process. Still is! But I think it’s about making sure that you’ve got the right partners on board and to build on their expertise. No matter what sector you’re in, everybody has got different levels of expertise so it is about getting the right person involved. So, who’s really good at design? Who’s really good at user experience?”
While predominantly self-funded, OptiMe was able to secure smaller grants to help support the development of the platform.
Launching a business during lockdown
While faced with challenges through launching a business during lockdown, the move toward digitisation also helped OptiMe grow beyond the region, removing barriers to international communication. “Lockdown has been the weirdest thing. We planned a proper launch event but weren’t able to do one the way we had hoped. We were planning one in Tees Valley, one in Newcastle, and looked at London, but because of lockdown and Covid we had to do it digitally so that was really different! But then, at the same time because of Covid, everything is going digitally. It has made the world a smaller place.”
The next steps for OptiMe are to continue its growth and grow its client base. “We want to really work with companies that are passionate about employee wellbeing and who really want to develop that aspect with us”, comments Bethany.
About our North east Tech Stories...
This start-up spotlight is part of our wider North East Tech Stories series which features tech startups and growth stories across the North East of England.
Do you have a story you'd like us to feature? Get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
As part of our Tech Stories criteria, we're looking for (startup and growth) businesses who are classed as "tech", based in the North East of England and who have already launched a product or service (can be an MVP).