Jenny Holmström – CEO and Co-Founder of Coupleness

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“Challenge negative stereotypes and biases. We need to have tougher conversations, and not just as women.”

Jenny Holmström is the CEO and Co-Founder of Coupleness, an app for couples with a mission to make it easy and mainstream to invest in your relationship. She has worked for the UN and big corporations, and co-founded a child rights organization. Jenny is an award-winning communicator, always striving to make a positive social impact.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I am the CEO and one of the Co-Founders of Coupleness, a relationship app for couples to actively invest in their relationship. Relationships are rarely explored digitally or with a proactive angle, so there are tons of things to do within this space. It’s so exciting! We’re using technology to help couples be proactive with the well-being of their relationships. We call this approach Active Love, as you nurture your relationship every day, not just on a date night once a month.

I strongly believe that everything is a process, and when you close one door, another one opens.

We’re lowering the barriers to relationship wellness, giving couples a shared language and a structure to reflect and stay connected in their relationship. You can think of us as a digital micro-journal that makes it easier for couples to communicate and understand each other better. It’s a 3-minute everyday practice aiming to spark conversations in real life.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

From a young age, I was motivated to make a positive change in the world, and that has been the driving force behind my career from the beginning. I have been fortunate to work in many different settings and organizations, like UNHCR as well as big corporations.

I started to realize how fragile a relationship can be. I realized that entrepreneurship was my thing after building my previous organization, and the movement Pornfree Childhood. It was a demanding job for various reasons, but also very fulfilling since the problem we’re tackling is huge and crucial to solve. The downside was that I was working a lot and I started to neglect my relationship.

With small kids and not much time to nurture my partnership, I learned the hard way that I could not take my relationship for granted anymore. When I looked for things that could support us, it was hard to find proactive tools. Couples therapy seemed to be the only solution, but that doesn’t always fit in with people’s schedules and finances. When I met one of my Co-Founders, Ted Rosén, we discovered that we shared the same frustration about how tough it can be to juggle everyday life with kids, a career, a home and a relationship.

Just like with my previous organization, it was one of those moments when I just had to take action. It was clear that a convenient, proactive tool for supporting relationships was missing, so we teamed up with Peter Viksten and created one ourselves.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

Technology has advanced to the point where I can grow my network without even meeting people in real life. It’s like the old days when we had pen pals, but thousands of them! We even closed our seed round with Icebreaker without meeting them face-to-face, just meeting virtually on Google Hangout.

I think innovating with technology to help relationships start and grow can be incredibly positive and powerful.

However, as a relationship nerd I see the downside as well, since spending lots of time looking at your phone instead of your partner – phone snubbing, or “phubbing” as it’s now known – can be detrimental. For many couples, our phones are affecting our relationships negatively. An American survey shows that 45% of people would rather give up sex for a year instead of their cell phone, and 32.7% spend more time on their phone than with their significant other. So I think it’s important that we are mindful of how, and how often, we are on our phones in our daily lives, and try to access the good without getting sucked into the bad.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

The amazing drive many women have to solve pressing problems. I think about entrepreneurs like Jenny-Ann Axson Johnson and Anna Sane who created Tilly, an app for couples who are struggling to conceive and want to be proactive. There are also other awesome female founders like Elsa Bernadotte tackling the food waste problem with a win-win tech product called Karma, and the Co-Founders Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey who are making mental wellness mainstream with their app Shine. So many women are using technology to make an impact on some of our most pressing societal and global issues.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

Raise awareness and start to close the gender gap in education! There is so much to be done with education, like boosting girls’ confidence in coding and math, and supporting their interest in more tech-oriented subjects.

Representation matters!

This is why I love what you are doing at Gal Talks Tech, lifting women’s voices and telling their stories. Hopefully work like yours, along with mentorships and other visibility initiatives will give girls the inspiration they need to go for it in tech.

Challenge negative stereotypes and biases. We need to have tougher conversations, and not just as women.

Men and the people leading the industry need to be engaged in this issue as well, as we transform the status quo together to include people of all genders in the tech space.

Which was the best decision in your career?

The times when I have chosen to move on. I am quite stubborn, so when I choose to leave something behind, I know that I have given the decision the diligence it required and fully commit to my choice, focusing all of my energy on what’s next. I strongly believe that everything is a process, and when you close one door, another one opens.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

1) You are not your work, you are so much more. Really find the balance that works for you, and discover things that nurture you outside of work.

2) It is okay to say “no” and set boundaries. You don’t need to explain or apologize for your boundaries.

3) Nurture your relationships with family, friends and partners. Harvard’s study – the longest study on happiness in the world – shows us that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what make people happiest.

Jenny Holmström is the CEO and Co-Founder of Coupleness, an app for couples with a mission to make it easy and mainstream to invest in your relationship. She has worked for the UN and big corporations, and co-founded a child rights organization. Jenny is an award-winning communicator, always striving to make a positive social impact.

See more interviews of our amazing Gals.

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