International Women's Day: Q&A with Summer Petrosius

To celebrate International Women's Day on 8 March, we're shining a spotlight on some of our exceptional women founders and the innovative ways they're making a big difference in their respective fields.

We recently spoke with Summer Petrosius, Founder and CEO of Kindship, about how she came to start her company, the challenges facing women in emerging technology, and advice she'd pass along to women considering a career in the industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am 31 years old and am originally from Canberra though have spent much of my life travelling and have called many places home. I earned my Bachelor of Speech Pathology at the University of Newcastle and chose to specialise in paediatric disability. After graduating, I spent two years working at a Sydney school for children with Autism, which is where the idea for Kindship originally bubbled from. During that time I also met my now-husband, Andrius Petrosius, and he encouraged me to pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions. This meant packing up my home and moving halfway around the world to a city called Plovdiv in Bulgaria where the low tax rate meant I could afford to invest my time and energy into figuring out the problem I wanted to solve and what a solution could look like. Aware that this discovery process would need to be community-led, I interviewed 500 parents of children with disabilities to understand their individual journey and pain points. These conversations led me to understand that the vast majority of parents experienced chronic social isolation and loneliness, which put them and their family unit at greater risk of ill-health.

It was on the back of this research that we were accepted into Remarkable, Australia’s disability-tech accelerator, where we built and launched our first MVP.

Since then, we have grown in stumbles and leaps. Today, Kindship has a product team of 10 and a community team of 4 mothers of children with disabilities. Still pre-public-launch, we have welcomed 1,600+ parents to the app and facilitated thousands of peer-to-peer connections. In 2020, we closed our first investment round, led by the South Australian Venture Capital Fund totalling $595,000. I have also been recognised for Kindship’s contribution to the disability community with a Westpac Social Change Fellowship and Winston Churchill Fellowship.

You founded the company Kindship, can you tell us a bit about the company, and what made you decide to launch it?

Kindship is the first digital social networking app for parents raising children with disabilities. Available to download for free on iOS and Android, Kindship operates like a platonic dating app, connecting parents with individuals and peer groups matched on diagnoses, child age, parent interest, and locality. Other features include an indexed library of community-authored educational content, a local parent-hosted events calendar, parent reviews of local providers, and in-app audio chat rooms.

Our story started with a passion for parent advocacy and a dream to change the world. Growing up with undiagnosed Autism, I recognised and wanted to do something about the isolation and loneliness experienced by families living with disabilities. So, I started talking to parents - literally, hundreds of them, and those conversations led me to Sandy Golder and Steph Wicks.

As founders of one of (if not, the most) successful grassroots parent communities, Sandy and Steph joined me as Kindship’s co-founders. Together with Tara Thompson, Kindship's head of all things education, we share an unstoppable passion for supporting parents to build friendships, share knowledge, and truly own the narrative around what raising a child with a disability really looks like.

What three words would you use to describe working at a startup, and why?

Rollercoaster - because you experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows

Lifechanging - because whether your startup flourishes or fails, you will never be the same again.

Uncomfortable - because you are forever operating outside of your comfort zone.

What does your typical day look like?

I have a 2-year-old little tornado, so my mornings usually look like wrestling him through breakfast and onto the day’s activities. Then, I’m off to the office. We are fortunate to be a part of the Stone & Chalk community at Lot14, which has been game-changing for productivity and networking, and also for my marriage - it’s not always easy to live and breathe your business alongside your husband.

In between work and meetings, I try to fit a lunchtime workout in and then I’m on the tram at 5 PM to be home for dinner, bath, and bed. After that, I tend to use the evening hours for big-picture dreaming and planning.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced launching your company?

We operated on a shoestring budget for a number of years, which caused a lot of stress. It was a huge milestone for us to close our first investment round in 2021, which was led by SAVC and totalled $595,000.

I think that running a startup also demands a certain amount of personal growth which, at times, was unwelcome, exhausting, and down-right confrontational.

Do you notice a lack of women in emerging technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

Yes. Although, I have noticed that numbers are increasing. It is my experience that the problems women are often looking to solve with technology are systemic and complex. I believe that our limited number is not due to a lack of ideas or ability but rather the archaic and often patriarchal systems that we rely on to give those ideas wings. We need more dedicated funding sources and incentivised eco-system backing in addition to all of the female-oriented mentorship that is on offer.

What advice would you give to women considering a career in the emerging technology industry? What do you wish you had known?

I would tell them (and myself) that you don’t need to have all the answers or in-depth knowledge of how all the cogs in the wheel will work. A successful startup is the result of teamwork and one of the best parts of building a business is recruiting people who know more and can upskill you.

At Stone & Chalk, we believe in supporting innovative women who are making a difference. That's why we've launched the Stone & Chalk IWD Scholarship, aimed at supporting a Melbourne-based startup whose founder identifies as a woman.

The 6-month scholarship will be geared towards helping take a woman-led startup to the next level, offering curated services to drive impact, growth, recognition, and investment, as well as 24/7 access to our start-of-the-art facilities in Melbourne.

For more information, visit here.