Jess Dornan Lynas is the founder of Afterbook, a tech company which offers users a platform to create digital memoirs for lost loved ones, or indeed, their own memoirs.
We learned about Jess’ inspiration to start Afterbook and her experience of being a woman in tech.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
I have always been a creative person and grew up being artistic and adventurous but a problem solver too. When I was 19 my Mum died and it really turned my world upside down. It determined the course of my life from that day forth. That was 20 years ago now and I have realised over the years (and after a career in fashion) that I yearn for a way to remember her better and to celebrate her life and legacy. I want my children to know more about their Nana Lorna and I want to share and hear her stories. I have realised that it’s not just me; people struggling with loss and grief find the creating and curating of memories to be very cathartic. So I created Afterbook as a digital home for the memories of the ones we love.
What or who influences and motivates you?
Love and life and people. I wrote recently in a blog post that having lost my Mum at such a young and pivotal age, I know that life is for the living and people are for the loving. I meet so many people who want to honour their loved ones and feel happier on their journeys and that’s what it’s all about I think. That’s why we’re here - to love and leave a legacy. I don’t mean that you have to find a cure for cancer, though that would be beyond brilliant of course, but to love and be loved, that is a real legacy. It’s a life with meaning and experience that I strive for and I endeavour to show that to my children.
What has been your biggest hurdle proudest moment or accomplishment in your career?
a. biggest hurdle
Founding a tech business in a world that I really know very little about ie. tech! I, unfortunately, know a lot about grief and so I can craft a message of what we are trying to do. But I couldn’t write a line of code if my life depended on it and am slowly, slowly, learning more about tech products and user journeys. Being a woman in tech and trying to achieve investment also has its challenges. I’m very often the only woman in the room. There’s a lot of talk about change but I often don’t see it. But I believe, as Ghandi said, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world”.
b. proudest moment/accomplishment
I have been selected onto two accelerator cohorts - Entrepreneurial Spark (now Ulster Bank) and the Ignite Propel Programme. I was runner up in the NI heat of the Startup World Cup and went to the finale in San Francisco and I was nominated for a Great British Entrepreneur Award this year. These are all great achievements but to be honest my greatest achievement is that I am still here, doing this, making progress, 18 months after leaving my part time job and all whilst I’m on my own Monday-Friday with our 2 children as my husband works away. I look back and wonder how on earth that has been possible!
Could you give some advice for any young, emerging designers?
Be true to yourself and the message and product you wish to create. It’s great to be inspired by others but your path is your path. You’ve got to have immense tenacity and a little audacity to keep creating and producing. Because there isn’t a magic wand or fast-track to get you to where you want to be. The most brilliant, brightest creators failed and failed and failed again. I have learned this and continue to learn this all the time. Please know that there are incredibly low days but they end and something, however small and seemingly insignificant, will happen and the sun will rise on a new day and the landscape will look a little different and a path will become clear.