“ I Had A Vision Of What Education Could & Should Look Like” ; Interview with Andrea Sesum, Co-Founder at HER Digital Academy
This is part of the EdTech Female Founder (#EFF) interview series brought to you by SuperCharger Ventures.
What inspired you to start your EdTech Founder journey?
I think that often frustration with the way things are is what sparks innovation. Being in education sector for 18 years, seeing and experiencing the education and its delivery I saw a need and an opportunity to innovate it. I had a vision of what education could and should look like in the future.
Describe your company in one sentence.
HER Digital Academy is a platform that seeks to unleash growth opportunities for women in STEM.
What should an aspiring EdTech founder know before initiating their startup journey?
It’s important to understand your market and always continue to test and improve your product. It so important to listen to what your users are saying.
You may think you have the best product in the world, but your users may think complete opposite.
What has been the most difficult moment as a founder and how did you overcome it?
Most difficult moment for me was when I realized that my audience was not responding to what I had build. As an entrepreneur you can either call it quits or want to understand why and work on adapting your product. I started reaching out to my network (investors, VCs other EdTech entrepreneurs) to get the feedback. Each of them took time to look at my deck and give me advice on where and why I maybe failing.
Although I have been in the education industry for 18 years, their objective advice helped me understand where and why I was not reaching my audience. Having a great network of VC, Investors, Mentors is crucial not just for EdTech but for any entrepreneur.
What can the EdTech industry do to improve the gender gap?
Create more employment and funding opportunities for women!
HER Digital Academy creates these opportunities by teaching women digital and entrepreneurship skills.
Job Opportunities; Companies hiring talent should make internal policies and company goals to hire diversified talent. This should not only be looked at as one of the DEI initiatives but a smart business decision. Diversified work force performs better which equals profitability. We train women in digital skills and connect them with work opportunities through our “job guarantee” promise.
Empowering women entrepreneurs; Women through curated startup education which includes confidence building and pitch readiness can become investable and have an opportunity to pitch their companies in front of global investors. We train women through our digital global accelerator in entrepreneurship skills and connect them with the best investors for their sector.
Can you tell us about a role model of yours?
My role models are everyday women I meet through my work. Their hardships, stories of their resilience and celebration of their successes are what inspires me the most. I feel privileged to have met some of these inspirational women from different continents in 2020 during the pandemic. Today, they are part of my personal and professional journey and they are my power circle.
Can you tell us an example of when you had to pivot?
Most difficult moment for me was when I realized that my audience was not responding to what I had build. I had to take a hard look at why there were not responding. After extensive consultation with my network, I realized that my mission needed to be narrowed down and really focused in order to have the most impact. It was time to pivot.
What will you consider as success in 5 years from now?
Five years from now, I will consider it a success if we are able to empower 1 million women by 2026 by making them employable and investable. Our plan for empowerment is simple-for job seekers: connect them to in demand tech job and for startup: make them investable. We do this through curated digital skills, entrepreneurship education and global community of hiring partners, mentors and investors.
Looking back, what advice would you have liked to have received before starting your company?
I have been an entrepreneur my whole life and have founded several companies. I think that times now are much different than when I was first starting 18 years ago. And although we have come a long way, we still have the same core issues we need to work on, women have barriers in accessing traditional male jobs and are paid less while female founders in 2021 still have access to less than 4% of all funds. In order to effect the change we need to collectively continue to work on this by involving everyone, male, female, corporations, advocacy groups, educational institutions and governments.