Catherine Nisson

Catherine Nisson, Co-founder at Renude, is an ex-Data Scientist turned entrepreneur. As a Data Scientist she was interested in investigating social issues. She discovered a way to identify trending misinformation in social media data using ML and worked with a team to build this into a product. Their tool was utilized by top world leaders to respond to misinformation in real time. She also used ML to understand the impact of urbanization on adolescent development using 4D brain imaging data. She always wanted to start a company and saw an opportunity for ML to help people with skin concerns, impacting their self confidence.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

In high school I was torn between my passions for art and science. I saw them as not being very compatible, and was always searching for a way to combine them. In university I decided to go the STEM route and got a degree in Physics, but did find a way to splash in somewhat of a ‘creative’ outlet by supplementing it with a complementary degree in Philosophy. I was determined to get the most out of my education and wanted to challenge myself to the max. I was inspired by Einstein’s approach to scientific thinking and wrote my thesis about him.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

After university I became a bit restless- I struggled deciding what I wanted to spend my career doing and wasn’t sure where to go to find it. There isn’t a very standard path for Physicists, so I did some exploring, moved around the world and tried a variety of jobs. When I discovered Data Science and ML, I felt an aha moment. These were technical tools that could empower me to make discoveries and be creative in my thinking, but didn’t limit me to any particular domain. I had always felt pulled towards London and it’s actually one of the best places in the world to study these topics, so I picked up and moved.

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea that made you start this brand? How did such a unique idea strike you, and what motivated you to “YES, go for it?”

A close friend of mine was struggling with rosacea and acne, and couldn’t afford to see a Dermatologist to treat it. Using data from online communities of  people with similar skin concerns, I put together a skincare routine to work for my friend’s needs. The routine made a big difference in their skin as well as added a major boost to their overall confidence. 

Seeing so many others struggling to access professional support in these online communities, I wanted to do something to help and knew that machine learning and computer vision could provide a solution.

Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?

Our mission at Renude is to make everyone feel their most confident in their bare skin (i.e. not wearing makeup, using filters). 

We’ve developed an accessible online platform to help people find the skincare that works best for their skin using a combination of AI and clinical expertise. At Renude, I lead out the product – this includes deciding how the platform works, how to incorporate AI effectively, what the future looks like for the technology and more.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

There are a variety of challenges of all different shapes and sizes. Having a good support system has been critical – friends and family to help forget your problems, fellow entrepreneurs who have been there and co-founders / co-workers that are there to fight the good fight with you.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level? 

We first launched our MVP 2 weeks before COVID reached the UK. COVID also brought a boom to the skincare industry as everyone was staying home and wearing less makeup. At the time we were providing completely free advice from top aestheticians online – it definitely had a strong demand!

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention? 

The first time I ever pitched to an Investment Committee, I nailed it. Since I was young I was described as soft spoken and shy. Pitching to a room full of Venture Capitalists and Corporate Executives when your whole livelihood is on the line is terrifying. You have to speak boldly and show extreme confidence. I had no idea I could do this and I think a lot of people would be shocked to learn they could do the same.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

Greater equality, acceptance and understanding amongst people of different genders/ethnicities/social classes/etc. I think we all have to fight for this one as unfortunately (despite it being 2022) there are still people that resist this notion.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life? 

Never give up on what you want. No matter how many times you fail, eventually you will succeed if you just keep going and learn from your mistakes.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

In tech there is certainly a big push to support women entrepreneurs as many VC funds are now trying to do more to shine the spotlight on women entrepreneurs. However, there is still only close to 2% of funding going to female founders and truthfully there is a lot of biases contributing to this problem. One of the largest problems is that there are not enough women VCs or partners at firms. I’m excited to see the tides changing, but there is still a long way to go.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

You can do it! Oftentimes the biggest barrier to achieving your goals is finding confidence in yourself. As women there may not be as many role models (that look like us) that have done what we are aiming to do. While that can be discouraging it’s also an opportunity to be a trailblazer and shift society’s perception. With enough perseverance and confidence, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to regardless of who has done it in the past.