Just two girls making the world a better place — a startup founding story
A couple days ago Facebook showed me a rather underwhelming friendiversary video. It’s been 7 years since I met Beatrice, but unknown (or known) to the social media giant — this isn’t a regular friendship ! In order to do justice and acknowledge our special friendship, here is a short piece from me to honour our story: a story of two girls wanting to change the world.
We’re team B&D — one half-Romanian/half-Hungarian plus one full-Hungarian girl duo who met in college, lived together in Abu Dhabi and New York, traveled across continents, and are now starting up a company in Sweden.
But we also make a lot of sense, let me prove it.
When we first met in 2012 we were high school seniors attending a college interview weekend at New York University Abu Dhabi. It was best-friendship at first sight. Fast forward a couple of months and we began university which lead to becoming freshman dorm roommates, soccer teammates, and study buddies.
Where are we now?
Over the years we slowly grew from roommates into cofounders. Like ACTUAL dorm room founders. Our company, imagiLabs, is building a community and tools to teach programming to girls between 12–16 years of age by blending together our own software and hardware with education and social experiences. Huh, that sounds fluffy. But you can read all about that on our website.
How did we end up here?
Back in Abu Dhabi, Beatrice studied electrical engineering while I majored in Neuroscience and had a minor in Computer Science. Both of us experienced the lack of female students and faculty, hence the need for peer and role models during our studies.
We decided to do something about it, so we co-founded a student organisation for women in STEM — organising workshops and events such as a conference for high school girls to expose them to science, technology and engineering in a fun way!
After finishing our undergrad, we both magically ended up in Stockholm to continue our studies . Beatrice continued with Machine Learning while I pursed Human Computer Interaction. During my studies, I conducted a research project working together with teenage girls in order to understand what gadgets they would be interested in using in order to learn about technology. The insights from this study led to what is now the basis of our startup.
However, I would have never dared to even think of commercialising the research I conducted if I had not had my electrical engineer/machine learning/ninja/best friend by my side to start it with!
Why are we prepared to be co-founders?
It’s like all the experiences we have had were just so that we would be ready for starting a company.
Let me show some examples of our college experiences and how they helped us with the startup:
The two of us suffered through countless physics problem sets, lab reports, all-nighters, and last minute exam freak outs.
We enjoy learning together, being under pressure, and delivering. I have grown to be the big picture person reminding us that done is better than perfect and Beatrice is the one holding our standards high taking care of every single detail! We complement each other.
We have been roommates for years. Beatrice used to think she can wake up at 5 am to finish her homework and would constantly set an alarm just so that I would have to wake up to it while she gracefully overslept. Then she was considerate enough to start sleeping in the living room.
We have been bootstrapping our startup. What better way to bootstrap than sharing a 22 square metre studio? It’s like we are back in college. And it just works!
We played on the soccer and basketball team together and have scored countless goals and points through our crazy brain connection. (And also through speaking Hungarian with each other that no one around could understand.)
We read each others’ minds and can communicate in a secret language. Well, I am still waiting for the day when this will become handy in an investor meeting. But I am sure it will come.
We have applied for the same jobs and scholarships and have been able to celebrate the others’ successes.
We have been putting our common goal above our ego.
We have traveled together. We have gotten extremely lost and been nearly broke in India. We have gotten onto each others nerves suffering from the drastic cold during our North Pole expedition.
We have had to manage budgets, logistics, make plans, change plans and spend 24/7 together. What better preparation for running a startup?
The most important lesson we learned: We are stronger together.
We are committed to bringing coding into more girl’s lives with our work. We are so excited to launch our first product, the imagiCharm, later this Spring. You may be skeptical. To be honest, every now and then so are we! There is still so much we have to learn. But we are full of passion, drive, and energy. And we make a great team.
Will we make the world a better place? Only time will tell! But it will be a fun journey and we have just started this medium page so you can follow along!
P.S. This piece took a lot of courage to write. People usually write their origin stories after their companies have become successful. We have so much uncertainty around us and hope that our very real, very present account of starting up a startup can give some of you courage to start your own. Otherwise, we hope you will be entertained as you follow along with the mistakes we make alongside the successes!
This article was written by Dora Palfi, Co-Founder & CEO at imagiLabs