20 Questions: Divinia Knowles, Mind Candy

By on November 18, 2013
Divinia_Knowles

Divinia Knowles, COO and CFO of online games firm Mind Candy, gives her take on Amazon, antiques and enterprise education.

1. IF YOU HAD DONE SOMETHING ELSE, WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN?

I interviewed as a graduate for a job at MI5. It would have been amazing if I had got it! Alternatively I would have loved to own my own antiques and design business; I hope I will in the future. That industry is ready for digital disruption and I’m keen to have a go.

2. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NAME YOUR BUSINESS?

I love the name Mind Candy so I wouldn’t change it. Founder Michael Acton Smith was very clever to come up with it.

3. IF YOU COULD BE BASED IN ANOTHER CITY, WHERE WOULD IT BE?

San Francisco. It has a fantastic vibe and culture. People work hard but are also very upbeat, ambitious and friendly.

4. WHEN YOU STARTED, HOW DID YOU RAISE MONEY?

When I joined Mind Candy in 2006, Michael had already raised initial capital for the business through angels and family and secured Series A funding. I’ve subsequently taken the business through three major financing rounds, and have been out to pitch both in the UK and in Silicon Valley. The difference is quite marked in terms of investment appetite and the understanding of the power of digital disruption.

5. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DECISION SO FAR?

Sticking to the kids sector. This is a difficult market as it requires a lot of care and diligence. It is, however, lots of fun and very rewarding.

6. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?

Not moving onto mobile and tablet devices fast enough. We have talked about it for several years but were always focused on other things. Children have moved quickly to consuming entertainment on mobile and tablet devices and we need to be on there!

7. WHAT IDEA DO YOU WISH YOU HAD COME UP WITH?

The Jawbone UP band and other similar devices that help you monitor your activity and the quality of your sleep. I love the idea that you can use data about yourself to improve your health and well being. Within medicine, I think self diagnosis and monitoring is going to be a big thing in the future.

8. HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

I have a number of methods for dealing with stress: running; reading; getting enough sleep. I indulge my creative side by drawing and painting.

9. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

I worked in a cattery and kennels when I was 12, cleaning out and feeding the animals, walking the dogs and generally looking after all the animals. I wanted to be a vet when I was younger.

10. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?

I worked at British Gas as a temp the summer before I went to university. It was a really dull, soul-destroying environment and everyone hated the place.

11.WHAT WAS YOUR BEST JOB?

I enjoyed working in antiques and bespoke furniture design. It was amazing being a crucial part of the restoration and creation of such beautiful things with such history and provenance.

12.  IF YOU WERE ON THE APPRENTICE, WHAT WOULD YOUR TEAM NAME BE?

I would call my team GamePlan, as I would have one and I don’t think many of the teams on The Apprentice stop and strategise enough.

13.  WHICH COMPANY WOULD YOU INVEST IN RIGHT NOW?

I bought Amazon shares about a year ago and am really pleased with how they have performed. I use Amazon all the time and am a big believer in investing in companies that you personally love.

14. APART FROM PROPERTY, WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU’VE BOUGHT?

An 18th century bookcase, it is beautiful and can hold lots of books so it has a dual purpose!

15.  SUITS OR JEANS?

Depends, I switch in between the two depending on how I feel that morning and what my schedule looks like.

16.  FLEXIBLE WORKING OR OFFICE HOURS?

Again, it depends on my schedule but I don’t believe in presentee-ism. If you are passionate about your work, you will get it done no matter where you are or when you do it.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOUR OFFICE?

It is a wonderfully creative and inspiring place to work.

18. WHAT APP CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

I love going to gigs so I’d have to say the Songkick app. It lets you know about your favourite bands’ upcoming gigs.

19. WHO IS YOUR BUSINESS IDOL?

I have many although Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson and Ken Robinson are probably my top three because of their passion for their work and their drive to change the status quo.

20. IF YOU WERE PRIME MINISTER FOR THE DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

Education in this country. I would make sure children are well equipped for the digital age and for roles within those businesses that are ultimately going to shape the future. Education is behind in this respect. I would also make sure that children understood that entrepreneurialism is an option for them and their career.

Divinia Knowles will be part of the “How to raise finance as a female entrepreneur” panel at this year’s Inspiring Women conference on 27th November. Check out the full programme and book tickets here.

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