Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Oana Korda is Woogie’s Co-founder and Product Manager. She started building Woogie in October 2015, when Bogdan Coman, the CEO of Woogie, first presented her the idea of building a product that will change the way children learn new things. She accepted the challenge, leaving her previous business and fully commited to Woogie. Her main goal is to revolutionise the learning process with smart technologies and great interaction experience. Oana grew up in Romania and now she's living in London. Woogie has been part of Startupbootcamp Iot Connected Devices 2016/2017 program in London, one of the most intensive business accelerators in the world.
What is your idea and how did you come up with it?
The idea belongs to Bogdan Coman (founder and CEO) who, as a parent, wanted to create something to remain in contact with his children and to have a massive impact on the way they learn. Also, he wanted to encourage them to learn easier and to find out what are their interests and passions. This is how Woogie’s story began: an alien who came to Earth to befriend children and to learn together with them. Being powered by AI and machine learning, Woogie needs to be guided by little humans in this world to help him activate all the knowledge he has accumulated.
In different terms, Woogie is a voice-activated device for kids with the purpose of delivering interactions and relevant content suited for their age, gender, preferences, and interests.
When did it all start and how big is your team?
I joined Bogdan in October 2015 when he first discussed with me about this intriguing device. I knew about his desire to stay connected with his children and encourage them to learn while knowing about their interests and hobbies.
Right now we are a team of 8 but overall, more people had an impact on Woogie’s development. We are motivated by two : firstly, we are creating something tangible, a physical device and, second, is quite meaningful: an educational product for children, meant to make a difference in the technology era.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It’s not just time, it took us efforts too. We are here because we created an MVP in the first half of 2016, tested 30 prototypes with children worldwide. Now we are in London as part of the StartupBootcamp accelerator. And we have a long road in front of us: first investment, the crowdfunding campaign, and 4000 Woogies on the market until next Christmas.
Do you have any other women in your team? If so, how many women are in your team and what are their roles?
Yes, we are 4 women in our team:
1. Myself, Oana Korda - Product Manager
2. Mădălina Ștefu - CMO
3. Cristina Popov (Joe) - Storywriter
4. Andreea Achim - Community manager
During our team’s pathway, there have been more people involved and the balance between men and women was almost equal at every moment. But this never was deliberate. The team was founded organically as the needs were constant and many people found themselves in the right context where they could join us in such an ambitious project.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The biggest obstacle was the fact that we were bootstrapped. It’s hard to maintain an accelerated pace and also, keep the team motivated, govern all of their needs. But we made it!
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder in the country you live in?
Maybe the biggest challenge of all is raising funds for a hardware start-up, especially in the UK market where the most investors were oriented more to fintech and the other ones bet on businesses as mobile apps or SAAS.
Female founder? I never was a male founder to make a comparison but I don’t really think there is any difference, at least I don’t feel any clue of special treatment. As long as you believe in yourself and in what are you doing I think it doesn’t really matter what’s your gender. In Romania, indeed, there are fewer female founders unlike here, in the UK, but I think it’s because of Romania’s progress and developing. It’s a matter of time until we'll see more women on stage, pitching in front of investors.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Definitely, our biggest achievements until now are building a great team, having 30 prototypes to test with different kids in different countries, participating in the StartupBootcamp program, being here in London, closer to parents in our target market, and, most probably, making the first round of investment - in the near future.
What are your projects you are currently working on within your company?
Woogie and only Woogie. The vision of Aliens by Daria is to create awesome experiences around natural language and to bring a more human approach in our interaction with technology. Woogie is the first step toward this!
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and IoT industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I think AI and voice control definitely will be the key trends. Smart homes are becoming smarter thanks to artificial intelligence and voice activation. But there is no doubt that those two can bring big challenges around security and integration. Right now, most IoT devices are not able to communicate with each other meaning we have a system that’s not really connected and doesn’t work well. So, I think that from now on technology need to have a big focus on interconnectivity and security. With Woogie we take this very seriously!
Why is #WomenInTech movement important to you?
I strongly believe that the word "movement" attested the fact that there is a problem which personally, I don’t want to treat this way. I think that every woman is capable of proving she can do whatever she wants as long as she trusts herself. She doesn’t need other people’s trust. In the end, it’s all up to her wish and determination just like in the case of entrepreneurs. Maybe I’m too young (28 years old) and I’ve experienced too little from the past times, but at least in the areas where I worked, men were never more privileged than women or vice versa.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?