The next generation of entrepreneurs – interview with a startup girl from Riga

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Elizabete Dikmane is 18 year old and she is a student at one of the Secondary Schools in Riga. She is young, passionate and has already made some significant experiences with startups. I would say that she is also very inspiring. Elizabete, together with her teammate Daniel, recently has succeeded at the TechCrunch hackathon in London. Now she is back in Latvia ready to continue her work on ideas. In the future, Elizabete wants to build a product that improves people’s lives and contributes real values such as humanity and tolerance.

Where does your interest in startups come from – how did you start?

My school demands 11-graders to start their own companies. It is possible to choose whatever you want – offer baby-sitting service or home-made cosmetics, the sky is the limit. I came up with an idea of creating a bracelet-emergency button in order to avoid health accidents among ill people who live alone. The fact worth mentioning is that my team had no experience in any kind of electrical engineering. And I had no idea what startups are about.

How did you get to the TechCrunch hackathon in London?

I met my teammate Daniel at a conference in Riga. At that time we started to work together. He told me some inspirational stories about this particular hackathon. It could be easy to find some excuses for not participating but luckily I was brave enough to accept this challenge.

What was your project about? Describe your team a bit and also some of the brightest moments of the 24 hour hackathon.

We created KikLearn with the aim to disrupt the traditional education system. We created a platform for motivated young people who want to start their thing right away instead of spending at least 4 years in university while obtaining mostly theoretical knowledge. The website aggregates all the alternative education possibilities such as coding bootcamps, hackathons and online courses in order to offer the student approximately customized curriculum for the one year period. We were only two people in the team. I was responsible for the data, research and presentation while my partner put this all together in a working algorithm.

I don’t want to lie – hackathon is not fun. Maybe it is for more easygoing people… My personal aim there was to do the best I can, so it took a lot of nerves and effort to deal with another programming bug, disagreements and that ultimate stress right before the final presentation. This was really tough, because you got only 60 seconds to outshine between 75 other presenters! So can not deny that pizza and Corona’s at midnight felt like a blessing.

What is your impression on TechCrunch Disrupt? Please share your most important takeaways?

We only got tickets to Disrupt because we ranked among high-scorers in the hackathon. Otherwise I wouldn’t have an opportunity to be there and see those spectacular speeches from most important investors and industry stars such as Transferwise, Deliveroo etc. The moment I remember the most is question from Thomas Korte, founder of AngelPad. He asked – what the investors are looking for? And he gave the answer himself – of course, any fresh ideas are interesting, but the hottest and most desirable startups are those which COMPELETELY DISRUPT existing arrangements, like Uber did to taxi system or Transferwise to bank payments. I remember some fantasy movies about future I used to watch as a kid, but the startups I saw at Disrupt made me believe that future’s already here. Artificially intelligent robots, unique music composer software and more and more.

How many startup projects do you have yourself?

Currently I am developing three ideas, but I’m really focusing on one of them.

What about the school – you should finish it this year, shouldn’t you? What’s the attitude from the teachers and your schoolmates?

Yes, this is my senior year in the high school and this is the place where it all started. That’s why my classmates and especially teachers are really supportive and willing to help me in different ways.

What personal characteristics have helped you to succeed in startup projects?

First of all I am a dreamer and I believe I can make anything happen at this point of my life. Therefore I just step out of my comfort zone and talk to people. I ask for help and I am not ashamed of not knowing something yet. If someone manages to ignore my previous five emails, I’ll give them a call in the most tactical and proper way I can.

What is your advice for young people who are afraid of entering the business world?

My experience shows that potential partners and investors are not always looking for the best educated and experienced ones. The more important thing very often is the energy and the urge to actually make something happen. Of course, a proper knowledge is essential, but sometimes the absence of experiential background allows me to take actions without being afraid of failure. So don’t ever let someone make you question your abilities. Even if it seems hopeless, just take an attempt.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to create something that improves people’s lives. Not just in terms of making some processes easier or quicker, but I want to build a product that contributes with values such as humanity and tolerance.