During November of 2019, Founders at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign hosted a two-day event in Chicago for startups and entrepreneurs around Illinois. Ananya, SwaTaleems co-founder, asked a team member to represent and pitch, so I decided to give it a try. At first I was a bit weary as start-ups are notorious for their extravagant missions and plans revolving around their product and we were about people, education, and social change. Moreover, I had never worked or had experience in this space, but Ananya assured me it would be a great opportunity to learn.
On the first day, there were many panels discussing how investors choose which companies to fund and what attributes make certain startups more attractive than others. Among these it was essential to have a running client base and a market space: both which SwaTaleem seemingly did not relate to. Then again, during the pitch, I was faced with questions about our goals and tangible target audience, and I thought ours deviated from these traditional startups.
However, as the weekend progressed, I came to realize that maybe as a non-profit we do not align with the startup steps, but we still bring the innovation, passion, and dedication that any entrepreneur brings. Everyday the co-founders treat their mission as their focus and work in their greatest abilities to reach it. From the need for funding to understanding the schools/government/girls we are trying to help, the depth and hardwork are nothing short of a technical startup. It is easy for anyone to have ideas and to create a mission, but to make a working product, to iterate it, and to come out profitable is what entrepreneurship is about.
As we all work everyday to deeply understand who we work for and the best possible way to serve the community, we also critically analyze the results to improve our models. Our target audience and market space are the girls who are forced into child marriage along with varius components of society that need to change to achrive our mission. Thorough research is done in the ecosystem, human centered design, and fundraising to reach a goal as strong as any.
Technology is not only about the newer and modern products but rather about finding new ways to tackle what was once impossible. Girls are married away without ever knowing the potential they may have, and SwaTaleem works to open that door and show girls that there is a wonderful mind where everyone else may just see a child bride. That is technology in its own form: new and now possible. From attending the weekend, I came to understand the difference nonprofits make and the way our organization conducts itself each step of its way.
About the Author: Anica Bhargava
Anica, class of 2020, is pursuing a degree in Computer Science + Anthropology at The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She joined SwaTaleem during the summer of 2019 after their mission coincided with a cause close to her heart. Since being a young girl, she has been fascinated with gender issues and passionate about education, and post graduation, she hopes to continue to work towards making a better and equal world so everyone can be their best.