fbpx

Founder Stories

Meet Maya Lingam, Founder of EcoSpot

Meet Maya Lingam, Founder of EcoSpot 2048 2560 OneTech

Maya is the Founder and CEO of EcoSpot, a community platform for climate action. The platform helps young people and their families develop lasting sustainable behaviours, at school and at home. 

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

There have been a few challenges.  One is being a non-technical founder, although it makes you more resourceful and careful with what you build. For instance, I built a lot with no-code tools.  

The second challenge would be bootstrapping. But, in fact, it was a good move not to rush into fundraising, and the focus on sales is paying off. We’re recently backed by Bethnal Green Ventures, which I’m super happy about. This will be a real game-changer for EcoSpot and it’s amazing to have value-aligned investors.

Then of course Covid has been a challenge. We had lined up pilots, then the pandemic hit and there were lots of delays due to changing guidance for schools and lockdowns of course. 

 

Do you feel that anything in your background has been an advantage or disadvantage in your journey?

Obviously, there is a clear disadvantage to being a black female founder. Looking at the data, the numbers regarding access to venture capital are so astoundingly bad they are almost funny. And my parents don’t have the cash to offer a few thousand pounds to fund my startup. But, actually, in the early days, whatever background you are from, I don’t think fundraising should be the priority or your top marker of success. Know your customers first and focus on them.

Another disadvantage is the micro-aggressions. On my first day at the co-working space, a man approached me and asked me to clean up, assuming I was staff.  People don’t expect you to be the owner of a business, they definitely don’t expect you to be working in the climate space. Or they expect there to be a male CEO who’s in charge and you are Robin to his Batman.

But these disadvantages can be advantages – I think they make you scrappier, more of a hustler.

 

Where did your business idea come from?

There are 2.2 billion children on earth today who are the least responsible for climate change but are going to be the worst affected. It’s critical that future generations are equipped with both the knowledge and behaviour to live sustainably and protect their futures.

A recent study showed that 1 in 5 children have nightmares about climate change. We need resources that are positive about the things that you can actually do to protect the planet and that aren’t terrifying for children.

I went along to a climate strike and was very taken aback by the numbers and the passion. I started to think about all the co-benefits of climate action for your home, your well-being, for saving money and being more connected to your community. This is where the concept of EcoSpot was born. It changes the narrative to show the impact people can have when they act together as a collective. We have the opportunity to teach young people sustainable behaviours at school that are modelled back to their families at home and the wider local community. We’re using tech as a bridge between these environments, so far we’ve launched an iOS and a web app.

 

What’s your business model and what stage are you at?

We sell to schools on an annual licence who then distribute the platform to students and staff. Local authorities are also a key market as they have net-zero by 2030 or 2050 targets which nearly all involve public behaviour change.

I work on the business full time. After bootstrapping for a while, EcoSpot was selected for Bethnal Green Ventures’ accelerator. We will be raising a pre-seed round later this year.

 

How has OneTech supported you?

I saw the FoundersDoor Pre-Accelerator programme on Twitter and decided to go along, not knowing what to expect. 

I hadn’t thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I definitely wasn’t one of those kids who sold sweets in the school playground! But the programme took us from scratch to the first version of MVP.  It gave us a grounding, time to test ideas out, make mistakes and figure out what we should do differently. That was over a year ago and my mentor from the programme still supports me on a monthly basis today.

Having free office space through OneTech was amazing, I was there seven days a week. It was the same space as the OneTech team so there were always friendly faces checking on how we were getting on, rooting for us.

Through OneTech I also got a hardware grant so I was able to buy a laptop and an iPad which has been crucial to building and testing the product.

Through OneTech I met a black female founder for the first time. Even though I'd been working in tech for over 2 years, I'd never met a black woman or man in management.  I clearly remember that day thinking "Oh yes, I can do this". You cannot underestimate the power of seeing someone who looks like you in a position that you aspire to be in.

Maya Lingam

 

What are your plans for the business?

I want to build a mission-driven business that scales. I’m really passionate about creating something purposeful that is also for profit, and working towards an amazing exit. We want to strengthen communities and reach those who are least engaged with the climate conversation but will be the most affected by it.

 

What is your message to inspire other underrepresented founders?

Meet people and let them know what you are working on and how committed you are to it. In the past, if I had a question, I wouldn’t know where to go. Now it’s the opposite.  

Through OneTech I met a black female founder for the first time. Even though I’d been working in tech for over 2 years, I’d never met a black woman or man in management.  I clearly remember that day thinking “Oh yes, I can do this”. You cannot underestimate the power of seeing someone who looks like you in a position that you aspire to be in. That mindset grows quickly once you have access to a diverse community of founders, like YSYS, Colour in Tech.  It’s just flipped my network entirely.

Before OneTech I wasn’t part of any of those communities at all.  After OneTech, it was like the doors opened to an interconnected world with lots of amazing support.

Follow EcoSpot:

Discover the stories of other great entrepreneurs we have supported through our programmes:

OneTech Stories

OneTech is committed to challenging inequity and the lack of diversity in the Tech Start-Up ecosystem. We offer a range of free programmes and activities to empower underserved tech talent and entrepreneurs. We are on a mission to Change the Face of Start-Ups! Come, join us:

Meet Mohammad and Vamsi, Founders of Edicat Learning

Meet Mohammad and Vamsi, Founders of Edicat Learning 2560 2048 OneTech

Edicat Learning is an AI-driven platform that designs personal plans for students to identify and address their individual learning needs.

Where did the business idea come from?

As experienced tutors, we have collectively delivered over 6,000 hours of one-to-one teaching to students and we saw the immense impact that it can have on student performance.

Unfortunately, at a cost of £900-1000 a year, a private tutor is a luxury most parents cannot afford. 

Currently, students are being taught in large classrooms at the same pace and in the same order which does not meet their individual needs. When a student misunderstands a topic early on, the class simply forges ahead, progressing to more advanced concepts that demand a robust understanding of the previous topic.

We realised that we could leverage the latest advancements in psychometrics and machine learning to enable access to high-quality personalised learning for all students, irrespective of their socioeconomic background. 

How does Edicat Learning work?

Firstly, students can use our adaptive assessments that intelligently selects’ questions to ask students based on previous responses to identify their individual knowledge gaps. 

Thereafter, students, parents and teachers will be provided with live performance reports that highlight which learning outcomes in the national curriculum are holding them back.

Finally, our platform uses machine learning to design personalised learning plans for each student that tells them precisely which concepts they need to work on, starting from the most fundamental concepts, to maximise their performance.

Have you raised funding?

We are grateful to have been selected by Queen Mary, the University of London for the Build It Award, where a £10,000 grant was provided to develop the product. 

We are also humbled to be part of the AWS EdStart Accelerator, where we received $10,000 worth of credits. We also received a £1,500 special grant from Santander Universities for being a socially-oriented venture.

How has OneTech supported you?

The OneTech ecosystem has been extremely helpful. FoundersDoor gave us a community to share and refine our idea as well as develop our ability to communicate it to the stakeholders. 

Yes, we benefited a lot from OneTech. An important part was understanding how start-ups operate at the early stage. One of the most important mindset shifts that we had in product development was taking an agile approach, where you build a product with a minimum feature set, test it in the market, get feedback from customers and then continue to iterate until you have a product that customers love.

We also took part in accountability circles. It was great to be part of a group where sharing failures was celebrated as a learning opportunity. This allowed us to pool our knowledge together and support each other on our entrepreneurial journeys by ensuring that everyone learns from each other’s experiences. 

Above all, OneTech has given us access to a powerful network of experts who have an understanding of the industry that we’re operating in and that was monumental in gaining validation and traction.

How have your backgrounds have influenced your journey so far?

We are both really passionate about learning and teaching. We want to democratise access to personalised learning.

What challenges have you faced?

While we’ve had our challenges, as all startups do, we’ve managed our challenges strategically. One example is the struggle we had with recruiting technical experts to implement our vision. We’ve thankfully managed to recruit an experienced and passionate tech team. 

A capable team with a diverse skill set is critical to the success of a startup. We also place a high priority on the culture we create in our team, especially given the disproportionate impact a new member has on a small startup. It was challenging to foster the right culture, to be open and critical, relentlessly passionate yet flexible, but we have been lucky to create that.

What are your dreams for the business?

We are driven fundamentally by the vision that one day every child will have equal access to high-quality, personalised education irrespective of their socio-economic background. We have high-minded ambitions on democratising personalising learning based on prior knowledge, ability and preferences to meet individual student needs by intelligently bringing together the strengths of psychometrics, machine learning and cognitive science. Every decision we make as a business is evaluated on whether it takes us closer to achieving this goal.

Further, we are very excited about eventually delivering a blended learning model where our technology can empower teachers in their classrooms to pivot their pedagogy and achieve improved student learning outcomes. We also aim to prepare our students with 21st-century skills to ensure they face real-world challenges with great confidence.

What’s your message to inspire other founders?

The first is to persevere. The second is to connect. Talk with as many people as you can because everybody has something insightful to share. The third is, it may sound cliche, but it is of paramount importance to understand your user. Understand what their needs are and develop your strategy around addressing those needs.

My advice is to regularly and critically reflect on everything that you do. Is this the best way of achieving our objectives? Are there alternative methods that incur fewer costs? What value are we actually delivering to students? Since when we started this project, critical reflection allowed us to pivot in the right direction

Discover the stories of other great entrepreneurs we have supported through our programmes:

OneTech Stories

OneTech is committed to challenging inequity and the lack of diversity in the Tech Start-Up ecosystem. We offer a range of free programmes and activities to empower underserved tech talent and entrepreneurs. We are on a mission to Change the Face of Start-Ups! Come, join us:

X