CO-FOUNDER & CEO IMAGILABS
Hey Dora, How has this journey been for you by far? Can you tell us your milestones or your turning points for you to reach today as an Entrepreneur?
I was born in Budapest, Hungary, and lived there until I finished high school. I already loved to travel and explore the world while growing up and since my 18th birthday, I have studied, lived, and worked in 10 countries across 4 continents. While I believe I was always an initiative taker (I have started and led several student organizations), having my own business was never my plan. However, when I moved to Sweden for a master’s degree that all changed! Stockholm has the second most startups per capita in the world after San Francisco, and as I was studying engineering and entrepreneurship here I quickly became involved with the startup ecosystem. On one hand, I got to meet and hear from many early-stage founders which sparked my interest, and simultaneously through a research project for one of my courses at university I developed a product idea which I believed could form the basis for a startup. These two factors together lead to my decision to take the leap.
Can you tell us a bit more about your company,imagiLabs & imagiCharms, and how did you come up with your business idea for a grander vision to tech code through mobile phone especially for teenage girls?
Let’s start with a simple exercise in logic!
I believe technology is our most powerful tool to shape the future, but today women make up less than 20% of the tech workforce in the EU, and the numbers are similar globally. Hence, today we do not have an equal chance to contribute to shaping our future.
Up until the age of 11, girls today have a similar interest in technology as boys do, but during our teenage years, the majority of girls drop this interest. In Sweden for example while at age 11, 86% of girls are interested in technology, at age 16 this drops down to only 36%. I started imagiLabs to break this trend and to create a solution that would equip and empower teenage girls to shape the future with technology. Our product, the imagiCharm, and the imagiLabs app have emerged from research and co-creation with our end-users, teenage girls themselves! Our long-term vision is to equip girls with the skills they need to pursue higher education and careers in tech and to start tech-enabled businesses!
What advice do you have for young women who as well aspire to be an entrepreneur (the things they need to watch out for)?
In my mind the most important is to find the problem you are truly passionate about solving and find teammates whom you can trust and work well within the long run! Founding a company will come with endless challenges and I believe having a clear mission and caring deeply about the problem you solve is what will help you through the difficult days. Similarly – no one can be at their best and equally motivated every day and that is when having co-founders with whom you can support each other and complement each other is so important.
You have studied Bsc in Neuroscience & MSc in Human-Computer Interaction, So tell us about your transition from Neuroscience to Tech Industry.
I have always been curious about how us humans function, how we make decisions, how we learn which is why I decided to study Neuroscience. However, during my studied and through conducting scientific research I got exposed to programming which opened up a whole new world for me. I clearly remember being amazed by how quickly one could prototype and build solutions using code. I decided to pursue a MSc in Human Computer Interaction because to me the most interesting aspect of technology has always been how it can be applied to improving our lives and society as a whole.
Was there a low point in your career or a certain incident that didn’t go with what you had planned, from which you have learned the most important lessons while building imagiLabs? (How do you motivate yourself ?)
In my experience as a founder, you have several low points per day. Every single day is like a roller coaster – investments not working out, not being able to close a sales deal, unhappy customers, and so on. At the end of the day you need to have a strong mental balance and not get carried away with the bad news. My best practice is to acknowledge and pinpoint the hardships, if they can be addressed right away then take an action and if it is out of your control just move on and don’t let it distract you from your important work!
What is a day like “in your shoes?”
No two days are the same and that’s what I love so much about my job! In fact it is a constant journey in developing professionally. I have been told many times that effective founders keep “firing themselves” from jobs they did at the beginning. I have really taken this advice to heart and like to say that while I tend to do the “first versions” of a lot of our work at imagiLabs I soon find people who can do it better than me. This means that I have pretty much worked on every aspect of our business at some point from marketing to product development, and doing all the things that simply need to be done – like shipping our products and supporting customers.
Given the current slump in the economy, how do you advise for cost-saving tips?
At an early stage company, you always have to be very careful with managing your and cutting down on unnecessary expenses. That being said being too “cheap” can become really expensive in the long run! A specific example would be lowering quality which in turn might lead to many more returns and unhappy customers – so my tip is to be smart about your economy. Some of the best cost savings are savings that also help the planet – for example, do you really need to print manuals in your packaging? You could rather have a link on your package to a digital version!
Managing companies have their own set of challenges, how do you look at work-life balance? (Do you feel to tune off from the work when it’s time & go back to personal life without neglecting the work that needs to be done – How do you balance – efficiency with time management)
Building a startup is a marathon, not a sprint which is why it is very important to learn to take breaks and develop a healthy balance. That being said that balance is very different from what it would be when working a 9-5 job. I use the concept of “timeboxing” a lot – it essentially just means blocking out time on my calendar for activities other than work – be that exercise, or spending time with friends and family. My mantra is that if you don’t plan your time someone else will waste it for you! By making the effort to plan out my schedule I can make sure I dedicate time to the things I find to be the most important. This way I can manage to work 60-70 hours a week and still have social and me time as well!
What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?
One of the biggest challenges as a founder or entrepreneur is deciding where to focus your efforts and staying laser-focused on the most important things that will really move your company forward. The tricky thing about it is priorities also shift quickly in an early-stage startup so you have to be able to both stay focused and simultaneously constantly re-evaluate your long-term goal and bath and assess whether you are moving in the right direction.
What is the most Speaking of challenges, teamwork is an essential part of a product company, How do you motivate a team in a time of conflicts? (Any specialized program that you follow/take feedbacks)challenging part of being an entrepreneur?
I think it is important to have platforms and outlets that allow you to address conflicts even before they emerge. Oftentimes conflicts emerge from lack of empathy and understanding and being under a lot of pressure which is why for example our founding team has weekly meetings where we address the anxieties each one of us has and what actions we might take to resolve them. In addition, it is part of our culture to be extremely open to feedback and do not take things personally – we are all learning and growing together.
What is your definition of being a successful entrepreneur? (How do you evaluate success – what accomplishments are considered a success for you.)
I started imagiLabs in order to make technology and programming more attractive for young women and to create an entry point to the sector – therefore the number one metric I will keep myself accountable for is how many girls we can reach and how effectively we are able to deliver on our mission. Raising funds, growing the team, launching the product – these are all important milestones we celebrate, but the north star to keep an eye on is the actual impact our work can create!
Eclectic Brains Magazine is amazed with Dora Palfi for such a grandeur vision for women in tech, we wish you all the good luck for your future endeavours, In collaboration :
Interviewer : Nidhi Mehta
Interviewee : Dora Palfi | Co-founder & CEO of imagiLabs
Learn more about imagiLabs & imagiCharm on the next page.