Ida Tin, Founder of Clue
Ida Tin, founder of Clue. Image: Clue

Ida Tin: ‘The biggest challenge is figuring out what you want to do’

4 Dec 2017

Whether you want to start a business or just want to excel in your career, Clue founder Ida Tin is sure to inspire you.

Medtech Week

Not everyone’s career journey is a straightforward one. We all have different stories to tell, whether you always knew what you wanted to do, you thought you knew and have changed your mind, or you have no idea.

It can often be helpful to find out more about inspirational leaders and successful founders, and how their career journey brought them to where they are now. sat down with Clue founder Ida Tin at HR Tech World (now known as Unleash) in Amsterdam to talk about her background and her career. Tin started her first business when she was 18 years old, but it was almost by chance.

Starting out

“It was one of life’s super-random serendipitous moments where I was going to visit a university because I wanted to apply for an art course,” Tin said. “I ended up getting lost in the corridors and I ended up at a random office where they were expecting some other candidate to do an interview for some course.”

She said both she and her interviewer realised they weren’t talking to the right people. However, they went through with the interview, which resulted in Tin ending up on a business management course. “It was about giving business skills to people in the creative world,” she explained.

‘I had two regular positions in my life and was fired from both of them’

Part of that course was coming up with a business idea, which led to Tin’s first business venture of making crystal glass jewellery. “That was the year everybody wanted crystal glass jewellery in London.”

The idea that she could create something out of nothing and make money from it spurred Tin on to go further down the entrepreneur route rather than the arts, so she enrolled in business school.

“I had two regular positions in my life and was fired from both of them for very random reasons,” she laughed. “I always kind of did my own thing.”

Part of her entrepreneurial journey included creating a motorcycle touring company with her father. “It was a lot of fun. I had a really great lifestyle for five years, I was travelling all over the world, but I could see that I couldn’t scale the business and I wanted to do something that could scale.”

Can I have a Clue?

It was then that Tin thought of the idea of Clue, a period and ovulation-tracking app – but it wasn’t a new passion to her. “I had travelled with my parents all around the world so I’ve seen so many women’s lives around the globe,” she said.

“When women can control their child-bearing and be in charge of their own health, then you can have all the good development cycles you want to have.”

‘Was it harder than it had to be because there aren’t many female investors? I think, yes’

Tin then met the man who became her husband and also her partner in starting the business. “We met at a tech conference and it was the first thing we spoke about,” she laughed. “He has also been a very important part of being able to do this.”

She spoke about the problems with searching for investment from men who didn’t feel comfortable investing in an app they wouldn’t use and therefore knew nothing about.

“I think it’s hard for everybody to raise money,” she said. “Was it harder than it had to be because there aren’t many female investors? I think, yes.”

However, Tin said things are getting better for female founders and for those in the ‘femtech’ space. “I do think it has become easier to raise money for femtech products than it was when we started, so that’s a good thing.”

Finding your dream career

With a colourful career background, from jewellery and motorcycles to health tech, Tin’s voyage to her dream job wasn’t straightforward. Then again, she could argue that all of her jobs were dream jobs. “In many ways, I feel very privileged because I’ve been able to create a living out of the things I most wanted to do in life,” she said.

“The biggest challenge as a young person is to figure out what you really want to do,” she said. “There is a huge amount of life energy being wasted because people can’t focus on what they’re really passionate about.”

‘You just have to take some action and do something’

Tin said that even though she decided she wanted to go down the entrepreneur route, she still wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she graduated from business school.

“I spent a whole year scratching my head trying to figure out what to do with my life,” she said. “In the end, I figured out that I couldn’t figure it out, and learned that you just have to take some action and do something.”

She also said relaxing is an extremely important skill. “To be a high performer, you need to relax, and that is much harder to do than it sounds.”

Sending the ladder back down

For those a little further on in their career, Tin advised taking time to really think things out. “Make room in the calendar with nothing in it. I’m trying to do that very actively because I think thinking is totally underrated as a leader,” she said.

“It’s easy to look like a great leader if you’re busy running around but it takes a little bit more courage to say: ‘I’m going to take half a day where I just wander around and think about things.’”

Tin also tries to help others who want to talk to her and ask for advice. “I have a mentoring day per month, so I try to give back.”

On stage at HR Tech World, Tin spoke about the importance of diverse personalities. “You don’t need a team that are alike, you need a team that are really different.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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