Creative meets cognitive with wearable technology for well-being at London research and fashion studio Vinaya. The brainchild of founder and CEO Kate Unsworth, Vinaya’s debut Altruis range is a collection of smartphone-connecting statement jewellery.
Interview by Kimberley-Marie Sklinar Green
The first thing I do in the morning is make tea and meditate. I wake up at 5.30am, and write down whatever is on my mind to check-in with myself. I’m more creative before the sun rises and meditation gives me a clear insight into what’s going on in my life before my vision is clouded by the chaos of the day.
A typical Monday includes our weekly morning team “stand-up” – a quick catch-up where I huddle with teams such as marketing and sales. Staff prioritise their three main objectives, re-prioritise new tasks if required and identify whether they need support from anybody else.
I was inspired to launch Vinaya after leaving my job as a technology consultant. I’d send work emails in the middle of the night and was addicted to social media. Most of us feel overwhelmed by our digital lives, and the journey for me was to re-establish boundaries.
My biggest achievement is getting our Bluetooth-enabled statement jewellery (the Altruis range) to market without raising any investment. (Vinaya has since secured $4.5m of funding). This technology connects to smartphones and alerts the wearer to important notifications with gentle vibrations. We want to break unnecessary digital habits to reduce stress and increase productivity. I’m proud of myself for being able to maintain momentum and finally find stability in my life. I’m a natural over-achiever with a passion for delivering, but I’ve now figured out how to keep space free in my mind.
I consciously avoid digital communication overload. Work and life blend in to one, so it’s really important for me to set my digital margins. Nothing is that urgent – things can always wait a few hours, a day, two days, even a week. Very few things need to be done within the hour. The biggest hurdle is overcoming knowing that you will annoy some people by not being instantly available. It’s about changing your keystone habit, which for me was email. A lot of the work in our lab focuses on psychology, neuroscience, and how digital habits are formed to develop our products.
Moving to working in fashion technology has been a natural transition from my previous career. Fashion is a new industry for me – I enjoy the exciting angle of working with creatives.
My schedule is unpredictable. I assist the team with product development, strategy and building the brand, and am currently growing our new offices in New York and San Francisco. I attend meetings across the globe with investors to raise money, and potential fashion and software partners for collaborations, and speak at events.
The most challenging part of my job is juggling everything. I make quick decisions, delegate, and am sure to not micro-manage. There’s always a bottom line and I’ve learned to exit conversations that I don’t need to be in.
The thing I enjoy most is the diversity in my role. In the past three years, not one day at work has been the same. I love the creative aspect but also the data-heavy side of the business. Marrying them together from day to day is something I enjoy; I’m a creative person who learned to be analytical.
My tip for anyone launching a start-up is to appreciate that it’s a step-by-step process. Focus on pulling the right people and the rest of it will figure itself out.The talent we have acquired is incredible – we have so much experience and foster an amazing culture. We meditate together every day at 4pm and it’s a real family.
I didn’t expect to act as a counsellor as well as a boss. Our team is the secret sauce of the business, so I focus a lot of my energy on making sure they’re happy.
The last thing I do at night is be sure to wind down even though I often work late. A glass of wine, a hot bath, meditation and yoga really help me find at least an hour of me-time every day.
In another life I’d be working a job where I have a positive sway on people’s lives. I’d thrive sitting on a board or advising companies that are having a meaningful impact on the world.
Studied Msc Economics at The University of Edinburgh
Founder and CEO for wearable well-being technology brand Vinaya that connects designer jewellery to smartphones via Bluetooth
Technology consultant at Accenture, London
Digital Account Executive at communications agency BJL, London