Amy Whitell dropped the bombshell right at the end of our interview.
She’s the founder of Manchester firm Collctiv, which now has 170,000 users and has seen £7 million transacted through its platform for organising group payments.
“I 100% think Collctiv wouldn’t exist without my ADHD,” she tells TechBlast. “I think it makes it a better business.”
Until that point I hadn’t realised Whitell had the condition – but it’s a subject she’s happy to talk about.
She was only diagnosed a couple of years ago but she’s had it all her life.
“I tend to see things a little bit differently from other people,” she explains. “I’m incredibly visual. I can see things in my mind.
“If I’m not interested in something it won’t be able to hold my attention. I will get bored very quickly but, on the flipside, if it’s something I’m interested in I’ll hyper focus on it to the nth degree. I won’t be distracted by anything else and won’t notice time passing.
“There are three types of ADHD and mine is ‘combined’, which is characterised by being impulsive and inattentive.”
I’m delighted to stay she stayed until the end of our interview – but by talking about the condition, Whitell hopes people will be encouraged to recruit more diverse workforces, especially around neurodiversity.
“Neurodiversity is the last competitive advantage,” she points out. “If you’re trying to invent the future why would you hire people who like to work in the present?”
Whitell, whose LinkedIn profile describes here as a ‘making stuff happen aficionado’, has spent her career making things happen.
Her first job was a paper round at 14 but she quickly realised there was a better way of doing it.
“I did it for a few weeks and thought ‘this is really cumbersome’,” she recalls. “If I was getting 9p per paper to deliver 100 papers a day, there were kids out there too young to get a paper round. I thought everyone wins if I give them 3p for every paper they delivered and I keep 6p.”
Whitell isn’t afraid to make tough decisions or speak out on matters close to her heart.
Between 2012-2015 she owned a pottery business called Baked Well that was making good revenue with plans to grow when she sold it at the suggestion of a mentor called Charlie Shuttleworth.
“I remember we had a coffee and he asked how I was then asked for the figures,” she recalls. “They were the sort of figures you’d see in a lifestyle business or cottage industry and he said ‘shut it down’.
“I was outraged and told him so. I quickly changed my mind when he explained his logic. I’m a fairly opinionated, if not argumentative person, but as soon as someone presents a more logical argument I’m not wedded to my original view.”
After selling Baked Well she had a business idea for the legal industry and joined leading law firm Hill Dickinson to get an insight into the industry. She left before becoming qualified.
“The reality is it’s quite a set path and the opportunity to work at Twinkl came out the blue,” she adds. “I had a friend who worked there and working in the tech industry seemed a more exciting idea.”
Whitell was the chief operating officer at the growing EdTech for two years but left to set up Collctiv after finding herself £80 out-of-pocket on a colleague’s baby shower present.
She decided there must be a better way of collecting money and when she couldn’t find one she set up the group payments platform with co-founder Pete Casson, former CTO at Twinkl.
Collctiv allows people to collect money together easily from their groups of friends or family and the money pooled can be used to pay for products and services including gifts, hen and stag parties and group holiday bookings.
Whitell decided to make it free to use, with 70% of customers choosing to make a voluntary payment or tip while business users pay set fees.
The FinTech has gone from strength-to-strength and employs 10 full-time staff and four part-time staff.
Collctiv has already raised £750,000 in investment but Whitell describes fundraising as a ‘recurring nightmare from which you can never wake’.
She explains: “It’s the biggest irony of a startup founder’s life because your job is to grow a business and build a product and instead what you end up doing is talking to people about how you’re going to do that thing or how you need some more money to do something else.
“The time it takes you to do that takes you away from the thing that they’re asking you for the metrics for!
“It’s a broken system and it’s completely broken if you’re from a background where you don’t know anyone.”