Award-winning game designers EAK are on a mission to change the lives of young girls with coding. The fact is: the percentage of women in STEM in the UK has fallen from 25% to 24%, while fewer than 10% of engineers in the UK are female – the lowest percentage in Europe. If girls aren’t encouraged to explore STEM subjects by the age of 11, they’re unlikely to ever discover that passion.
A few weeks ago, EAK’s ‘Mario-style’ adventure game reached 150,000 players worldwide, with girls making up more than half that number (compared to the 18% estimated for other coding tools). Although the coding education market is crowded, there currently aren’t many tools which teach children transferable skills, and none that are designed to strongly appeal to girls aged 8-12.
Two months ago we welcomed EAK to Huckletree Soho for a 12-month residency at our investor-first hub to help take the team from start-up to scale-up. We caught up with Founder Dee Saigal to find what they’re working on and how the current fundraising round is going…
Historically the biggest challenge for EAK has been funding. They’ve spent the past 12 months working with education and gaming experts on R&D for a far bigger version of EAK and are looking to raise £500K from strategic investors in the next few months to develop and launch the platform they’ve designed.
We believe in the power of curated spaces – that’s why we opened an investor-first hub to bring together VCs and innovative teams who’re looking to scale all under one roof.
“At Huckletree Soho we’ve been introduced to several VCs who we have upcoming meetings with. It’s great having this extra level of support with fundraising, particularly at a time when access to EU funds is very limited. Several investors have confirmed that they will be putting funds into EAK, and we’ll be looking to close our round by November.
Being part of the Huckletree community, we now have access to a huge network of entrepreneurs and mentors in London, and it has been very helpful meeting more founders who are at a similar level to us.”
On lessons learned
“Share your lows as well as your highs with people who are smarter than you. As a founder, you are constantly working on different tasks and facing different issues – never underestimate how essential it is to surround yourself with awesome, intelligent people and ask for their support when you need it. You will feel happier and get to where you need to be, faster.”
Dee’s second most valuable lesson?
“Only work with people who have integrity. There are incredible career opportunities in tech so it tends to attract individuals on both ends of the spectrum – don’t mistake confidence for competence.”
Dealing with industry bias
Forbes recently released their “100 Most Innovative leaders” list. Just one woman being included shows that this isn’t a ‘pipeline problem’. It comes as no surprise that three men compiled the rankings.
As a female founder in the tech industry, Dee has a lot to say:
“My experience as a female founder has been mixed. I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received from both men and women in the tech industry, but I’ve had some pretty negative experiences as well. And occasions where I’ve been mistaken for someone who works in fashion or marketing… by investors. In the same way that girls are brought up to believe boys are better at maths and coding, we are programmed to think we know what the founder of a company looks like. It’s sad that some people are unable to override their natural biases.”
This is what Dee is hoping to help change, for the younger generation.
“An organisation recently reached out to us saying that they want EAK rolled out in all of the primary and secondary schools in Paraguay, which is incredibly exciting, and we’re currently discussing how this initiative will work. We are also in talks with STEM organisations worldwide about forming distribution partnerships once the full version of our product has been developed.”
We believe you can’t change the world alone. It takes a community of founders and original minds who are willing to make it, together. If you’re inspired by Dee’s story and would like to help EAK empower millions of girls worldwide to code with transferable, digital skills, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.