Startup Stories: Katy Brown, Co-Founder & CEO at Magic Mountain

Magic Mountain co-founder & CEO Katy Brown stopped by Startup Stories to talk about building a health-tech startup, her career path and entrepreneurial journey.

by hao-nguyen on August 31, 2022

Katy Brown is the co-founder & CEO at Magic Mountain, a platform where you can collaborate or compete in team movement challenges with your friends, family or colleagues.

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

Hey Katy, great to be chatting with you again. For those who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Magic Mountain?  

It’s great to be chatting with you Hao! So, where to begin. 

I guess you could call me a bit of a career nomad! I started out in management consulting, working in financial services for high-profile clients all over the world, from the UK and Switzerland to New Zealand and the US. I then spent a couple of years working for an investment manager, where I was a member of their management team and board, before co-founding a social enterprise supporting charities. It’s taught me a lot!  

I’m now the co-founder and CEO of Magic Mountain, a health-tech start-up on a mission to give everyone the motivation they need to move. Through Magic Mountain you can collaborate or compete in team movement challenges with your friends, family or colleagues. You track your activities, set daily habits, and chat and share your progress with everyone. Put simply, we’re the community that gives you the motivation to keep moving.  

It’s amazing bringing everything I’ve learned to try and help people lead healthier and happier lives.  

I’m also a keynote speaker, talking about purpose, resilience, wellbeing and invisible illness. I’m a committee member for a philanthropy charity and a trained crisis volunteer with Shout, the UK’s crisis text service. We support people going through a crisis from suicide, self-harm and abuse to depression and anxiety. 

On a personal note, I’m a farmer’s daughter from North Yorkshire who grew up with a real love for books and the great outdoors. I now live in Scotland and spend my free time climbing mountains with my partner and dog Lucky. I’m very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place! 

You’ve had a really interesting career path – from management consulting and investment management to co-founding a social enterprise and now running a health-tech startup. How do you think your background in those various careers has translated into your role now as a CEO?  

My path has definitely been wiggly! I’ve been really fortunate to have some pretty diverse experiences across different sectors and geographies, taking a few detours, juggling and experimenting along the way. I always used to worry that I was a generalist in a world full of specialists. To use the old cliché, a ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ 

But actually, being a generalist is really helpful in a start-up. It means I can think broadly, embrace different perspectives and often ‘bridge the gap.’ At heart I’m a strategic thinker, a hands-on doer and a creative problem solver – and those are skills you need wherever you go. 

I’d encourage anyone who is worried their skills won’t transfer across sectors to give it a try! You’ll be surprised at how well your experiences translate and you never know where it might lead you. 

And for any other generalists out there, check out David Epstein’s book, Range! 

What do you think have been your biggest challenges as CEO over the past 12 months running Magic Mountain, and what sort of lessons have you learnt from them? 

Start-up life is a rollercoaster and one of my biggest personal lessons has been learning to accept, even embrace, the uncertainty. I think making peace with uncertainty and the very real risk of failure is the best thing we can do to support our mental health. 

Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of agility – as a start-up you’ve got to learn fast and fail fast, there’s no other way. It takes grit and drive, patience and perseverance! 

I’ve also learned the vital importance of focus. You must have discipline, focus and clarity around your proposition and your plan. I think that focus really has to be grounded in what’s going to create the most value or deliver the most impact. You can’t be all things to all people. Of course, you also need to balance that with the flexibility to be able to respond to opportunities should something fantastic arise! 

Reflecting on my experiences of start-up life, I think you need 4 things for an early-stage business to work. The story must make sense, the numbers need to add up, the team has to be right – and you’ve got to enjoy it! You need to enjoy it, because it will be a hard slog at times and you’ve probably given up a lot to be here. So having that sense of purpose to guide you is hugely important. 

As an advocate for wellbeing, how do you juggle that priority with the hectic life of running a startup?  

It can definitely be a challenge at times! I spent 10 years as a workaholic, regularly sacrificing my wellbeing for my career, so I know how easy it is for work to become all-consuming. 

I also suffer from chronic migraine, a debilitating brain disorder that leaves me in severe pain most days, so getting that balance right is even more important to me. 

For me, healthy boundaries and daily habits are how I try to achieve the right balance between work and wellbeing. Most importantly, I’m really strict about holding myself accountable! It’s easy to sacrifice the time you’ve set aside to move when your ‘to do’ list gets too long, or a client wants to squeeze in a meeting. Your healthy boundaries have to be non-negotiable, you can’t compromise on them. If you do, that balance starts to gradually slip away.  

Flexible working has also helped massively. I can manage my chronic health conditions much more effectively and do great work without sacrificing my wellbeing. I firmly believe that no one should have to choose between meaningful work and their health. Creating flexible, accessible and truly inclusive workplaces goes a long way to making that possible.  

If you were looking to hire new team members to join Magic Mountain, what do you think your startup’s biggest selling point would be?  

Impact! We have such a strong sense of purpose here and a truly transformational mission – to give everyone the motivation they need to move. It sounds simple, but movement is literally the best thing we can do to support our wellbeing. It can have the single biggest impact on our physiology. The more we move, the less we experience chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. At work, we’re more engaged, more productive, and more fulfilled. 

I think the opportunity to really help people lead healthier and happier lives is our biggest selling point – or at least it was for me! 

Oh, and the fact that we’re very dog friendly too of course!  

One last question before we let you get back to it, where do you see Magic Mountain in the next few years?  

So far this year we’ve worked with some fantastic organisations to support thousands of employees around the world with their physical, mental and social well being. We’re also working with some inspirational charities to deliver incredible social impact. 

So where do we go from here? Ultimately, our vision is a world where everyone has the tools and community they need to live the happy and healthy life they want. We believe Magic Mountain has a potentially transformational role to play in helping create that world! 

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

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