A mumpreneur making the world more productive
on October 31, 2019 • 5 minute read
Kaitlyn Hanrahan runs Simply.Digital, a small company making simple apps to organise your life. As a mumpreneur, she knows how important it is to be well organised. That's why she builds tools to help people be their best, most productive selves.
Running a software company and travelling the world
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I spend a lot of time thinking about how I should answer this go-to question. Being a software engineer is an integral part of who I am, so I tend to fall back on that answer. It also has the bonus of quickly communicating that I’m technical. However that’s not really my job title anymore. Now I’m running a productivity software company, Simply.Digital, that builds the to-do list app Simply Goals & Tasks.
Tell us a little more about the app - how does it help people?
It solves the problem of fitting a long to-do list into a flexible calendar. It doesn’t add excess detail, forcing you to set false deadlines that end up getting changed anyway. You can always see how full your schedule is, allowing you to make more informed decisions when faced with new opportunities.
Goal planning is vital for people with flexible schedules. By combining goal planning with task management, Simply Goals & Tasks lets you look backwards and see if you are really spending your time where you think, let alone where you want. Be your most productive self, and recognise where all this time you thought you had is going.
How did you hear about e-Residency?
I floundered for a long time how to get myself “legitimate” with a registered company. I grew up in the US and have almost all my professional connections there. But half the motivation for starting a company was to live a nomad life and I wasn’t living in the US. When I sought out professional advice, I would get referred to more and more specialised lawyers until I was way out of my budget.
It seemed so strange that this wasn’t a solved problem with so many digital nomads. So I put figuring it out on hold and just focused on building my product (Simply Goals & Tasks). I’m always reading content on creative entrepreneurs working remotely since those are my ideal target users. One day I saw LeapIN (now Xolo) mentioned in a blog post, and I looked them up. Lo and behold - someone had solved the problem of registering a company when you don’t really have a “home country”.
Did you consider any other countries for company incorporation? If you did, why?
I figured my options were Italy (where I was at the time) or the US (where I grew up and had last been gainfully employed). I really didn’t want to touch the Italian bureaucracy with a 10 foot pole. And US taxes are quite complicated; I would need a very good accountant to figure it all out with the complication of not actually living there.
How did you discover Xolo? What made you sign up?
I discovered you folks first, that’s how I heard about Estonian e-Residency. Your site made it all very clear and I couldn’t wait to sign up. Everyone tells you to hire people to do the things that are not your strength and don’t bring you joy -- taxes and company registration certainly meet that criteria for me. I didn’t try to find out who your competitors are; I thought the rates reasonable and certainly got my money’s worth those first months when I had thousands of questions.
How has Xolo helped you in your business life?
Not having to worry about company registration and taxes and if I’m doing it right is a big weight off my shoulders. When I won the e-Residency contest and went to Latitude59 this year, I got to mingle with other Xolopreneurs. I think those connections will be very valuable, if not for professional reasons simply as friendships with like-minded people. Finally, I’m very organised (I make productivity software, after all), but I’m terrible at staying on top of small uninteresting tasks like uploading expense receipts or signing company paperwork. Even if I had managed to register my company without Xolo, I probably would have messed it up by now.
What are the challenging aspects of your work and how do you overcome them?
My biggest challenge is actually the same one I’m trying to solve with my app: staying productive when you have 1,000 things to do but none of them absolutely needs to be done today. My app tries to make this easier by keeping task scheduling flexible until I want to get specific and by adding up durations so I know if I need to hustle or if I have some time to relax.
Still, I can take any day off without being “fired”, which makes it hard for me to ask for help with childcare or other things. Working on my own business rather than doing things for my family can feel selfish.
What were some of the challenges you faced in doing business?
As an app developer, the path is pretty well paved. I can’t think of anything besides what I’ve already mentioned.
What's a typical working day like for you?
Each evening I work through a checklist to make sure the morning is as smooth as possible. I close up the house, clean up toys with my daughter, put away clutter, pack tomorrow’s bags, feed the cat, pick out everyone’s clothes, prep breakfast, and finally go over tomorrow’s to-do list and move the tasks into specific times (using my own app, Simply.Digital).
I get up before 7 to get myself ready, then get my 1- and 4-year-old daughters ready for preschool. I walk them each to their schools (or sometimes my husband takes one), then continue to my co-working space Anticafe. If it is an irregular day, I have a nice desk set up at home. I have breakfast there while I do some admin tasks like reply to emails. Then I am working on the app the majority of the day. I try to write for one day a week, but I often end up postponing. And I also like to give myself half a day a week to work through my backlog of photos waiting to be processed; that’s not really work but there’s no other time I have “computer time”.
Working on the app includes designing features, which includes sketching the UI, listing the code changes needed, working my way through implementing that list, listing every possible flow of user events, testing each of those uses thoroughly, repeat until everything is perfect.
About two days a week I leave work at 2 to pick up my youngest. She falls asleep on the way home and I do housework then play with her until I have to pick up the other at 4:30. Then it’s the classic whirlwind of dinner and getting ready for bed. The other days I work late and my husband or in-laws pick up the kids. We always have dinner together. Once a week my husband and I try to go out just us for lunch.
What made you want to apply for the e-Residency Latitude59 contest? What did you do as part of your application process?
I’ve wanted to go to Estonia since I became an e-resident. Not just to open my bank account, but it felt like I should go since my company - my baby - is Estonian.
You never win anything you don’t apply for so I like to apply for things if I have the time. And as a native English speaker who does a bit or writing, I figured I had an edge. The contest was to write a blog post about my biggest challenge building my company. After a quick shout out to the problems that the e-Residency program solved for me, I wrote about the thing that there is no shortcut for, no tip, no secret to solving - doing the actual work. In my case, that’s building the app.
What did you enjoy about your trip to Estonia?
I very much liked Estonia and Latitude59. It’s hard to understand what Latitude59 is about, but I got a lot out of it and hope to return. I met other e-residents and learned much more about the program and community. I watched people pitch to investors and took note of the founders who were compelling, those that were not, and what I thought distinguished one group from the other. And I was very inspired by the president’s speech.
My days in Tallinn I was constantly saying, “this is how it should always be.” Public transportation is free when you have a baby with you and it’s easy to buy your ticket on board. The streets are clean. The info online is accurate. Everything seems to run smoothly and the way it should.
I also liked the Old Town, I like the beach, I liked the food (which was affordable like Italy but with a different mix of options), I like all the parks, and I liked the architecture and its mix of styles (which reminded me of Prague more than any other city I’ve visited).