Jenene Crossan, serial tech entrepreneur

Thursday 1st December 2022

Women in Business, sponsored by Eclipse Recruitment

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Welcoming guests, Eclipse Recruitment’s Lisa Hill reflected on “this whirlwind of a year”, thanking Business North Harbour for their in-person event calendar and for inviting such high-calibre speakers to the Women in Business (WiB) series. She also gratefully acknowledged the generosity of the WiB community for their support of the recent collection in aid of Pet Refuge NZ.

Jenene Crossan is known as a serial tech entrepreneur and, more recently, a social justice advocate. She’s created some high-profile tech platforms, including NZ Girl, Bloggers Club, and Powered by Flossie, but in the last couple of years, has found herself in a very unexpected and unwelcome spotlight.

Having explained that she is a “chronic over-sharer”, Jenene talked candidly about her life. She was born in Invercargill, the youngest of a blended family’s seven children. Being almost the “forgotten child” had its advantages; she learned to pick herself up if she fell over and was instilled with a desire to be visible through over-achievement.

Jenene’s love of tech began in about 1994. She’d had to take a year off school suffering from glandular fever, which “created a fork in the road”. Instead of returning to education, she applied for a job with a research software company “in the days when emails came via Compuserve and took about 30 minutes!”

Before she came up with the idea for NZGirl in 1999, she’d already learned a valuable lesson: “Some of my best bosses were my worst bosses because they taught me so much about how not to be a leader.”

After Lloyd Morrison invested in NZGirl, Jenene felt “10 feet tall and bulletproof”. This climb and inevitable fall taught her how to back people and instil confidence in others. “It’s not just about throwing down a ladder; you have to help people up and down.”

During the second recession, Jenene started to look more at what data could tell businesses. Through this research, Flossie (version one) was born, although its true potential wasn’t recognised at the time. Now, Powered by Flossie is used by major brands like L’Oréal and Schwarzkopf to aggregate product sales data from their networks of salons across the world.

In 2020, Jenene’s life took another unexpected twist when she returned from London with what she thought were allergies. In fact, she was New Zealand’s 37th case of Covid-19. This traumatising, scary and painful experience made Jenene aware of her privilege – “I realised how ‘ableist’ I was” – and inspired her to set up an online support group for other people living with the health repercussions of Covid. Still today, she channels any spare energy into social justice advocacy.

Discussing her experiences and health challenges, Jenene says that the last few years have helped her truly understand the meaning of purpose and encouraged her to learn more every day. “If you know better, you can do better. It’s about mana enhancement. We are all responsible; everyone in this room can help make New Zealand better.” This could be anything from striving for more sustainable business practices to calling out and acting upon inappropriate behaviour, including ableism and sexism.

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Bernadette Robert

Bernadette Robert