The tech CEO who’s trying to end world hunger

Andrew Askins
Jul 26, 2018 · 3 min read

A Subscriber Spotlight from StartupWatching

Introduce yourself and tell the Startup Watching community a little bit about your background!

Hi, I’m Tessa, Co-Founder and CEO of OLIO.

Credit OLIO and Annabel Staff

I was raised on a farm in the north east of England, where my parents had no qualms whatsoever putting me to work from a very early age! With a workforce of my two younger brothers I learned a lot about management and motivation, the value of hard work and the importance of our natural environment.

At Cambridge University I studied Social & Political Sciences, and when I graduated I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I became a strategy consultant. This was a great induction into the world of business, but after a couple of years I decided to move into industry and subsequently became a divisional Managing Director at a FTSE100 media company. I then spent 4 years as the global Digital & E-Commerce Managing Director at Dyson, and a brief period as Managing Director of Wonga UK, turning around that very troubled business.

3 years ago I started working on OLIO, our food sharing app, with my Co-Founder Saasha Celestial-One who I met whilst studying for my MBA at Stanford University.

What’s your 140-character elevator pitch for OLIO (or a personal project)?

OLIO is a free app tackling the problem of food waste by connecting users with surplus food (households or businesses) with neighbours living nearby who would like it.

Credit OLIO and Annabel Staff

What’s one thing you need help with right now?

We’ve just closed a $6m Series A round that was raised in Europe, and our scaling plans are well underway. However I’m now thinking through the strategy for our Series B raise, and in particular whether to raise from the USA.

As part of this I’m investigating what the right balance between growth, engagement and monetisation should be. I know we can’t tackle all 3 equally, and so am trying to work out the right prioritisation.

Our ambition is big — 1 billion users in 10 years’ time (we’re on just over half a million today) — and so we need to figure out how quickly to chase that vs monetisation. I’m also looking for a Non-Exec Director to join our Board and help us think through this.

Credit OLIO and Annabel Staff

What piece of advice would you share with other entrepreneurs who are just getting started?

My advice would be threefold:

  1. Make sure that you are truly passionate about the problem you are solving, and ensure that this translates into a very strong mission for the company
  2. Read ‘The Lean Startup’ and ‘The Mom Test’ if you haven’t already, and really absorb the incredibly important messages that both contain
  3. See if you can test your idea in a low cost way, ideally by leveraging existing platforms, to get feedback before investing your life savings and/or raising capital.

We did a proof of concept for OLIO using WhatsApp and it was an absolutely invaluable exercise.

And finally…..have fun and make sure to enjoy the journey because life is short!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I like to run and listen to start-up podcasts! Plus spend time with my husband and 3 and 5 year old kids! And far less often than I used to, have a big night out with my closest friends.

What is your most-used emoji?

Without a doubt these two…….. 🙌🙌🙌👏👏👏.

That’s because we have over 20,000 volunteers who are spreading the word about OLIO in their local community and collecting and redistributing unsold food from retailers via our app. Every day they achieve *incredible* things and blow me away with their passion and enthusiasm and it makes me want to high-five and applaud everyone.


Curated knowledge, inspiration and background stories from the startup world.

Andrew Askins

Written by

Partner and CEO at Krit. My mission is to empower non-technical founders to build successful startups outside of Silicon Valley. Still a developer at heart.


Curated knowledge, inspiration and background stories from the startup world.

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