Katelyn Prendiville is the Co-Founder & CEO at SeedCulture, a gamified sustainability learning and engagement platform upskills, engages and mobilises employees to deliver on their team’s sustainability and net zero targets.
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
It’s funny: looking at my career background, you might be surprised at where I’ve landed with my current role as Co-Founder and CEO of a sustainability software startup. But in many ways, this venture is leveraging everything in my non-linear career path.
The very early days of my career were as a marketing consultant within my own consulting business. One of my early clients, Australia’s largest premium online equestrian store, hired me as their Marketing Director for nearly 5 years. At the same time, I was competing in equestrian (eventing and show jumping) at a high level throughout Australia, and had ambitions to compete at the Olympics.
In 2017, having noticed a gap in the market, I decided to start my own eCommerce-powered equestrian brand. What started as fun patterned equestrian socks (think ‘Happy Socks’ for horse riders), expanded out into an entire line of fun patterned equestrian wear, with thousands of customers across the world.
A whole new world of passion for startups opened up for me; something I never thought I’d find outside of the horse world. It was also during this time that I started thinking more deeply about my role as a founder in giving back to society, in having a purpose beyond just selling for selling’s sake. As I explored different ways to embed social value and reduce the environmental impact of my brand’s supply chain, I realised that I’d crossed a ‘tipping point’ in my career (and life) trajectory.
I believe that we all have these tipping points within us. For some, it’s a clear moment in time: for example, seeing school-aged children march the streets for the ‘Fridays for Future’ strikes. For others, including myself, this is a longer process that requires us to reconcile different parts of our identity.
Anyway, as I am sure that many in the sustainability space can relate to, the more I learned about the various environmental and social challenges we face (particularly the climate crisis), the more concerned I became.
The more I wanted to leverage my skills and experience, to do my bit. I also realised something fundamental: most of us are concerned or even alarmed about climate change, but don’t know how to translate this into meaningful action. We feel our role is too insignificant to make a difference, and so we do nothing.
And so, after obtaining a number of sustainability certifications, I began working as a corporate sustainability consultant. I figured that this would be the fastest way for me to learn and understand how these challenges fit together more systematically, and the role of businesses (and individual employees) in driving solutions.
All of this has led me to my software startup, SeedCulture. I started SeedCulture with the aim of helping others to go through the same journey that I did – i.e. through awareness and understanding of the sustainability challenges we face, and through connecting dots between my identity, my work, and how they can translate into meaningful action.
Our product is a gamified sustainability learning platform to help organisations upskill and mobilise their workforce, to deliver on their sustainability and net zero targets. Our goal is to not only make sustainability content more engaging, role-specific, and relevant to employees – but to turn this into business and planet-positive behaviours and innovations.
Underpinning this is our core belief that the key to addressing climate change is in mobilising people. Our lever for reaching people at scale is the workplace, and our vision is a world where sustainability is embedded into every business, department, and role.
As co-founder and CEO, I’m wearing a lot of hats, Including fundraising, sales, marketing, and even product (I built the first version of the product myself; although thankfully, my new co-founder is taking over this role!).
Fundamentally though, I’m leveraging my background in marketing and sustainability, to help bridge the gap between sustainability teams and the broader workforce – and ultimately enable organisations and people to translate their sustainability ambitions into meaningful action.
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I like to structure my day with ‘work sprints’, broken up according to my circadian rhythm and the day’s priorities.
A day in my life involves waking up around 5-6am, and getting at least 90 minutes of work done before I start the day (ft coffee). I actually love this time to myself, to think strategically about the day ahead and to work without distractions on the ‘important but not urgent’ tasks.
I’ll then shower, have breakfast, and get back to work for a few hours, usually from home. Depending on how many meetings I have, I try to get out to work from a café/library/co-working space for a few hours in the middle of the day, to break it up a little. I try to go to different places every day, and walk different routes; it’s amazing how creative the unconscious brain can be when you’re taking in new scenery.
Late afternoon, I’ll return and get another few hours of work done. I then try to fit in some form of exercise (Pilates, a run, a walk), even if it’s only quickly. That then gives me the energy to get through my ‘final work sprint’, followed by dinner.
At night-time, I try to avoid work to give my brain time to rest and prepare myself for an early night. I love to sleep! If I do need to work at night, I’ll make sure it’s something more admin focused, that doesn’t require too much brain power or creativity.
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
In all honesty, I’m not sure I believe in the concept of work-life balance. I believe in life balance overall, and that is something that every individual has to define for themselves based on their own goals and passions. I also think it changes in different periods of your life.
For me right now as an early-stage startup founder, I’ll admit that the overall balance is a little off. We’re about to enter a fundraising cycle, so getting everything prepped for that whilst running our pilot program and creating new course content, is a lot! But I love it, and I’m so lucky to have recently brought on an incredible co-founder.
While I may be hunkering in ‘hustle’ mode right now, I’m also super mindful of not burning out. I know what my non-negotiables are (sleep, exercise, healthy food, time in nature), and am ruthless about working these into my day. I also try to catch up with friends and family as regularly as I can, even if it’s a phone call whilst I’m cleaning the house.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Not really. I formed sleep, exercise and dietary habits at a young age, and I know how integral feeling good is to my overall well-being. I’ve also known for a while that being out in nature is an important ‘reset’ for me, so work to incorporate this into my weekly cadence.
One habit that I started last year, that I’ve recently stopped and should really get back to, is meditating. I was using the ‘Calm’ app, and really enjoyed the 10 minute daily calms to start the day.
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Lots! I read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction books. Fiction wise, I quite like to read fantasy, historical, and time travel novels (yes, I am a nerd!) – I think because it pulls me out of it every day, and helps challenge some of my assumptions about the current world we live in.
On the non-fiction side, I mainly nerd out on sustainability, startup, technology, and marketing content. For example, I’m currently reading Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm (a must-read for any entrepreneur and marketer), as well as Katharine Hayhoe’s Saving Us (THE playbook for talking about climate change to different audiences).
I’m also delighted that one of my marketing hero’s, Seth Godin, has himself crossed into the climate space. I believe that marketers have a critical role to play in helping us to engage and inspire the type of mass buy-in and behaviour change we need to effectively address climate change. I’m looking forward to reading his new book The Carbon Almanac: It’s Not Too Late.
Finally, I highly recommend Peter Diamandis’ The Future Is Faster Than You Think, which I may have to re-read since the release of ChatGPT.
In terms of podcasts, I’m a regular listener of GreenBiz, Outrage & Optimism, The Economist, and Katie Patricks ‘How to Save the World: The Psychology & Science of Environmental Behavior’.
If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I think it would have to be from a fellow sustainability/climate entrepreneur, Lubomila Jordanova.
Not only is she the CEO of an award-winning carbon accounting platform, but she is an incredible advocate for the climate movement in general. I’m so impressed by her passion, thoughtful content, and ability to inspire people around her vision.
She also seems to be at all the climate conferences, is the founder of an amazing community called the Greentech Alliance, and just generally so well-informed on the latest research/findings!
I think being in the nexus of startups and sustainability is extra taxing, as not only do you have all the pressures of a startup – but if you’re like me, then you’re just as concerned about the impact you’re having on the social/environmental challenge you’re trying to solve.
You’re highly aware of these existential threats that were barrelling towards us as a species, and trying to do your best to stop them/lessen their impact. And yet, some people seem to hold that against you. I would love to know how people like Lubomila handle these pressures. While staying so positive and focused!
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m in an incredibly fortunate position where my work IS my life. I love what I do, and I wake up every day with a sense of purpose and eagerness to get started. This is inherently a great thing, however, it does mean that it can be easy to fall into the trap of work tunnel vision – to the detriment of other parts of your life.
I think it’s important to regularly check in with yourself, and to surround yourself with people that know when you might be tipping too far out of balance, to course-correct when this happens (or if it happens for too long).
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