Annie Tsai is the founder of EdioLabs, which builds technology that supports purposeful and insight-driven learning during a child's early years by bringing parents, educators, and learners closer together. Follow Annie on Twitter and LinkedIn.
1. What first inspired you to learn how to code?
I learned how to code in college as a part of my interdisciplinary studies major at UC Berkeley (it's the major where you make your major up - my focus was New Media and Communications, which studied the intersection of Cognitive Science, English, and Computer Science. It was my hack to study the Internet in the late 90's, which I was obsessed with). I also designed websites on the side as an undergrad to help pay the bills.
While I don't code a lot these days having spent most of my career on the business side of software, it has really helped me work more effectively with Engineering and Product-minded team members over the years.
2. What makes EdioLabs unique?
We're unique because we are supporting early child development through the lens of a 360-degree view of the child. For several years the Department of Education has prioritized Parent Engagement in its annual strategic objectives, but we believe there is a big gap between using software to create awareness of what the child is doing at school and build an understanding of how parents can extend the classroom home or support their child's learning effectively. And, we believe that educators can use insights from the child's learning ecosystem to make better choices for personalized learning in the classroom.
Children on average only spend 10-18% of their waking hours in formal learning environments like classrooms, but assessments and learning plans are based on what the educator has access to. More and more, parents are working full time and longer hours, so they have less time to truly understand what is and is not developmentally appropriate engagement with the little quality time they have with their little ones. So, we are connecting the child's learning ecosystem together and offering a single, research-backed view that powers a recommendations engine to give parents developmentally appropriate content based on where their child is right now. We are beta testing our product JoyLine this fall in select Bay Area schools.
3. How many children do you have?
I'm the proud mother of a very inquisitive four-year-old boy. He's been attending a language immersion preschool program for the past 2.5 years, and it's been so magical to experience the world through his eyes. We also consider ourselves to be parents to a 1.5-year-old pup and an 8-year-old cat.
4. What advice do you have for Moms looking to start a business in tech?
I always used to "joke" that being a C-Level executive was nothing compared to surviving the first two years as a parent.
Founding a startup certainly surfaced similar questions as having a newborn at times... questions like, "Do I really know what I'm doing?" For me, the answers have also been quite similar. "Yes, no, maybe," "it's okay," and some combination of "go with your gut," "do the research," and "ask for help." It's in this journey (which I am still very early in) that leads me to believe that moms - or parents rather - already have the skills to go from zero to one as a software company founder.
I will say one thing that I don't believe is specific to moms thinking about founding a software startup: make sure you know the problem that you are solving and you've felt it viscerally. The people in your network know this problem, even if they can't quite articulate it. I say this because there's very little glamour in the startup life, and you will be working around the clock for several years to come. As a mom, you'll probably often feel that you're giving up quality time with your kiddos to make a meeting or hit a deadline. The intrinsic motivation around the problem you are going after, how you intend on approaching that problem, and who you are helping become the most important things to keep you going.
5. What is the most important thing you hope your son learns about women in tech as he watches you in the years to come?
Oh man. I want my son to experience that men and women are capable of going after whatever they choose to put their energy into and that the tech industry as a whole is one where great ideas mixed with great execution win no matter who is leading the company.
This is unrelated to my son, but perhaps worth sharing. I often fear that the extreme death of women executives and senior technical women leaders creates a black hole for this generation of young women looking for mentors and role models. And I want them to know that we - my generation of women and all the generations of young women born after - are going to have to work together to solve that problem. The way that we are going to solve it is that we have to step up to the plate, get uncomfortable, and become those mentors and leaders for each other.