Join me for a conversation with Alma Moya Losada who is the founder and CEO of Aequaland, an award winning edtech startup. I previously spoke to Alma back in 2021, and since then her business (and lessons) have come a long way.
The core focus of Aequaland is to build educational experiences whilst combining digital game play and physical activities. An interesting way to keep students engaged.
Listen to today’s episode to hear the difference that two years has made for this tech startup company.
I recommend that you tune into my previous conversation with Alma in Episode 14 so that you can better follow along with the growth story of her company.
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Hi everyone and welcome to a new episode of Narratives of Purpose, a podcast that is all about amplifying a social impact. If you are tuning in for the first time, my name is Claire Murigande, I am your host on this show. I bring you unique stories of changemakers’ stories of people who are contributing to make a difference in society. By showcasing these individual journeys, I would like to inspire you to take action. As you already heard in our previous episode. This season, I am welcoming back former guests to find out how their companies and their organisations have grown, since they were first featured on narratives of purpose. On today's episode, I am catching up with Alma Moya Losada. Alma is based in Switzerland, she is the founder and CEO of Aequaland, an award winning edtech startup, which builds educational experiences combining digital game play, and physical activities. Aequaland’s mini games enable children to develop including creativity and critical thinking skills. Please take a moment to rate and review our show wherever you listen to your podcasts. This will help other listeners find Narratives of Purpose and further amplify the stories of changemakers we bring on our show. Now let's listen to Alma's passion for technology to support greater human potential.
Because I think, more and more people have access to the internet and have access to technology, and I think education is going to get cheaper as well, thanks to that. So the idea of Aequaland is that we want to create a better world through the games we make, and we're big on the blue planet; this was our first foray that is already available on iOS and Android, and it's set in two planets - the yellow and a colourful planet to guide children through the values of respect, diversity and inclusion whilst having always fun. Our goal is really to create a positive social impact by furthering children's development, and creating this diverse and sustainable multiverse. But this is really a way of gamifying education and educating kids on the sorts of skills that they need to drive in the 21st century. So gamification is going to be a big thing because it's going to help teachers to get the students motivated, and I feel also gamification will be applied to business, not only education. But it's gonna massively grow, and we want to be part of the education and growth in the tech space. I have to say that I see that there is more and more support for women also. I appreciate that we have more and more visibility.
You just heard a short clip of my first interview with Alma over two years ago. She was featured in Episode 14 As part of our Tech for Good series, which was released back in August 2021. I encourage you to listen again to that conversation, to hear about Alma's amazing journey, and what led her to create Aequaland. Like every guest I talked to on the podcast, I have been following Alma's work since we first spoke. I caught up with her a few weeks ago to learn more about Aequaland's growth, but also her personal journey as an entrepreneur. Take a listen.
So Alma, welcome back to Narratives of Purpose. How are you doing?
I'm very happy to see you again, it has been a while that we haven't really chatted. So I'm very happy that I'm back to tell you, I'm sure, a bit of all this roller coaster. I'm happy to see you!
Great, it's good to see you too. And last time we spoke was exactly two years ago, it was the summer of 2021. I can imagine that a lot of things happened, so we'll try and break it down; First speaking about Aequaland, can you just quickly remind our listeners what Aequaland is?
So Aequaland really is a content creation company focused on “phygital” experience. What is “phygital”? It means hands-on and digital games. So we are making learning motivational, but we are mixing reality with the digital world for the students. And we are dedicated to kids between four and ten years old.
So since we last spoke, I know that you've been out in many schools and you had your product tested already. So what was your feedback? And especially, how did you learn from the users, in order to evolve Aequaland?
We have learned a lot from the teachers, a lot of insights from the different teachers, we are in Switzerland, Spain, France and the UK. So we have collected different feedback and input from different countries and regions and what we have discovered actually, and pivoted actually the business as well as, is how the curriculum is very rigid and solid and it's very difficult to enter into the curriculum as a new tool as we are. What we have seen and spoken with the schools and teachers about is that they are more open to extracurricular activities. So that's why we have slightly pivoted our tools to be used also for extracurricular. But the idea is also in the long term we keep on going on the curriculum, because the curriculum is shifting towards the future of education more into social emotional development, as well as global citizenship. So this is happening, and it's going to take five to ten years. So we need users now and we need growth now. So that's why with people from curriculum to extracurricular, that's something that happened, while listening to our users. There are still users that are using us within the curriculum, because they are users that are more tech savvy, they are seeking tools, and they want to use them. So there are still certain users, but there is a big, also what we have discovered by being on the market, is that there is a big skill gap of teachers. Some teachers are afraid, that is one thing, and don't know how to use a whiteboard, or they don't know how to integrate, so there is also digital literacy development for the educators themselves. So I think the younger generations are ready to use the technology, but most of the educators are a little bit resistant about some technology.
So basically, you came in offering an addition to the curriculum, enabling the younger children to learn different skills like as you were saying, like global citizenship, diversity, inclusion, all these things that probably are not part of the basic curriculum, but then you realised that using it the tech tool, many schools weren't ready for that. Right?
Exactly. So there were two different things... They do already have global citizens in most of the international private schools, they are already educating on sustainability and inclusion, they are taking that into the curriculum so that is already included. But not in all of them it's mandatory the use of technology. In some of them it is mandatory to use some technology, so it’s pivoting. And it's happening also in the public sector. We have two schools in Spain, and one of them it's mandatory for them to integrate technology and to educate kids on sustainability. So that's why Aequaland is a perfect fit for them. Because they can use it for both purposes.
Okay, so you're also coming in at the right time, right?
Now I realise that we are visionaries in the sense that we are... we are early. So it's like we are the first kind of doing it, meaning many schools... we're kind of the first really focused on global citizenship, creativity, interpersonal skill development, and making learning gamified or through gaming more fun. So I think we're quite unique, and that's quite scary, but it's also a good opportunity. The thing is, if you are the first, then you are taking all of the ups and downs yourself. But I think there is a big opportunity on the market because just like everything is shifting and including technology, including soft skill development. So it's happening, but it's slow, I have to say that education is the slowest industry I ever work in.
You mean in terms of adopting technology?
Adopting change in general
And I was just about to ask because you said you are the first, Aequaland is among the first, but are there other players in the field? I mean, do you have competitors? Obviously pioneer is being among the first, but I suppose there's some other companies more or less doing the same thing. And do you compete or do you kind of collaborate because you’re all the first ones, right?
So there are many startups but most of the ed tech startups that are on the market on content creation I'm gonna say, they are focused on sixteen subjects. So mathematics, science, language, geography... It's all learning about the classical subjects. It's just like the digitalisation of core subjects. We are subject agnostic; It's not about subjects, it's about skills and it's about creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration; our key four, I could say, and that's what we are different from all the others is that no one is looking at subject agnostic or more looking into the global citizenship, health thematics that are linked to the UN that is more like inclusion, self love, self confidence, empathy and all these things. So that's why we are very different from the rest.
And in these two years, or since we last spoke, obviously, I think you've learned a lot. So I would like on one hand to know about you as a founder, as an entrepreneur, how has that evolution been in the past two years? And also for your company because you had some changes in the team? So how did you integrate that? Walk us through that?
So personally, as a CEO, I think it was the two years of maximum growth in my entire life. Because it's the year, the two years I made the most failures, fuck ups and mistakes in my life, too. So I think I want to embrace that and also share with everyone like, when you fail is when you learn. And we are in a society that sees failure or something negative, and actually should be something positive. Because when you fail is because you're trying something. And when you try something, you make mistakes, but that is when you grow, and I'm Alma version 4.0 or 5.0 - I don't know which version I'm on. I think this year, I levelled up in many ways… controlling my emotions, how I speak, how I manage the team, a crisis, how I manage investors, the stakeholders, how I can like... It's a lot of resilience, a lot of 'stepping back' and looking at things from... I'm getting a lot of advisors. I'm very happy to say they have different coaches and advisors around me who really support me, because it's a very lonely journey as a CEO. I was sharing more stuff with other team members and this was putting weight on other shoulders. And people, they want to see the CEO, or myself at least, as like "Ironwoman, rockstar, never tired, always smiling, never cry,"... But actually I'm a human. I do cry, I'm scared, I'm tired, sometimes I have no energy, and I was sharing that sometimes with my team for transparency, but then you realise that I can’t. You can’t, as a CEO have that image, even though you want to be transparent, you have to not show some things. So because if not everyone shakes and is scared. So you have to be very strong and have confident people, so someone externally to the company that you can share with that you are scared, or that you are tired, or these kinds of things. So these are kind of the learnings. Meeting other women CEOs, I was in Paris invited for the female EdTech fellowship. It was really great to see other females raising 6 million or revenue, or four million - that was like, "Oh my god, this is possible! These women are doing it, I can do it too." So that was something that was lacking also... meeting other female entrepreneurs.
That's something I also wanted to ask you because obviously you have the personal growth, but we see that a lot today, be it at board level or anything, there is a lack of representation of women, and just what you mentioned there actually just kind of answers my question. I wanted to see, how did you go through that being a female entrepreneur, a female owner and founder yourself?
For myself, it's like I have a really, like... My grandmother was a business owner. So I have very solid role models within my family and then on top of that, like now, this last year being connected to other women has really helped to see me, believe more in myself. So, I think everyone needs to have or to find that. And there, we have less, but there are more and more women owners, there are more and more women on boards, there are more women. We are taking a position, we are taking risks, we are doing things so, you just go and find them or try to because we are growing. And actually we are more successful, because we... It's proven in results that we are better investors for investment opportunities, because we think twice, we do things differently. So I think it's an opportunity for investors for women to not be afraid, to just jump into the pool and try.
That's good, well I hope at least that your experience and the fact that you're sharing about Aequaland on the podcast will also inspire other people to go for it.
I have to say also like, when you set up a business, I like this metaphor, but it's kind of like "with the founding team, you get married", so you get kind of married. So we were the 'three parents', co-parent, three women co-parenting. Then you have a baby in common and the baby's the company, and then you are co-parenting and it's very tough. You don't sleep, the baby's crying, you need to feed them, it's very complicated. And then in the end we got divorced. So this can happen, you can get divorced, but you still have the baby. So one of them has to take ownership of that baby. So I like this metaphor, because it's really, when you speak, I speak with people who are divorced, it's kind of the same thing. And it happens 85% of the time. So I think it's super normal that there is misunderstanding, conflict, and it’s part of the journey. It's another learning process, and it's like... I would say, recruitment is very key. And it's something that I want to highlight here, that is one of my mistakes. I brought one of my best friends, and then I brought someone I knew from the gaming industry, but if you really look into their skills, their profiles, there was no one really from tech or education. So when you set up a company, you really need to see what are the key profiles you need? And the skills that matter. So there has to be a hiring process as you do, if you want to "get married". I guess you need to have a recruitment process. So I would advise anyone that if you want to find a co-founding team or team really thick on the skills you need to set up your business and not bring in family or friends or something, because it's more the skills that you need that count the most to advance faster. Because I think that's really key. And that's a big learning. And also that on top of that, it’s like building a business is like… I do Ironmans, mountaineering, and crazy stuff. So endurance sports are important. Building a company is like an Ironman. When you build a company, you need endurance. It's gonna take two to five years. It's a lot of work, not sleeping. So what I'm saying is if you want to open your business you need to know that, you are going into an Ironman. And then on the other side, why am I talking about sports, so actually when I moved to Switzerland in 2012, so eleven years ago, I didn't have friends or family, I was alone and I was like "Okay, how can I make friends?" So I said "Ok through maybe sports... a ski weekend, and I raced the 10 km of Lausanne in the running club to get to know people''. So it was like a social sport kind of thing. And I started the first year I did the 10 km Lausanne, in the second year 20 km, then a trail, then a Spartan Race... and every year I have set up like a different... then scuba diving, and then every year I set up a different sport challenge. And actually two years ago, Lucy suggested to me that I should train in swimming because she was really good - I wasn't really good. And that would be a challenge if you do a triathlon. I was like "Well I really don't like swimming" I never learned when I was little because I was allergic to chlorine, anyway so she said "No you should try'' and I was like "Okay". And then I met another woman who is the founder of Little Green House, Barbara Lax, here in Switzerland, quite a successful woman. When I met her, because we had the same coach, she was saying "Okay next week I'm doing the Ironman of Thun" or something like that. I was like “What? You're doing an Ironman and then Lucy just mentioned that I have to do a triathlon”, I was like "Why are you doing an Ironman?" She said, "It's discipline, it's a good balance for my work, etc. And then also it gives you a good image towards investors and stakeholders. If you are capable of doing an Ironman, then you're capable of, like the metaphor, of running your business." And then I left, went home and registered for the Half Ironman. I said "Okay, I'm not doing a triathlon. I'm doing a Half Ironman." So that was the thing, and now this year I'm doing a Full Ironman next month on the 16th of September. But I think it's true, I have applied what Barbara suggested. This gives you discipline to wake up early in the morning and train. Also when I do I'm hyperactive, I'm fired. So when I do my sport, actually it also helps me to be more balanced and to manage better crises or problems or how to manage the team, the company, whatever happens with a client. So I think it's also a good way of managing my energy and also to be more relaxed and calm to manage any situation. So I think it's a combination of things and then adding the sports mountaineering I started three years ago as well. So I love the outdoors and sports, and it's also like, you learn so much about yourself, when you are out of your comfort zone and when you are out there and from nature. Nature has so much wisdom that can tell us a lot of things if we listen to it. And I think it's my "Me Time" I would say. What I mean by that is that when I'm cycling, I'm cycling, or I'm running, or I'm mountaineering, I'm doing that. There is no sports, there is no …no I mean there is no Aequaland, there is no team. What I like about this is that I try to focus on what I'm doing and it's kind of a meditation emotion for me.
It basically brings balance, because you can't just do one thing all the time. And at some point, you can't hold it right, it is like either a burnout or something else. So you need that to find the balance, and no, it's great to see that other founders are also doing the same thing. And it's interesting what you mentioned that it gives you so much credibility somehow to investors and stakeholders that you're able to achieve that so they can also trust you in the business. So that's something I never considered, I think it's an interesting point of view to say that. If they know you as a person who is doing this Ironman, or triathlon, or whatever it is. So they know that basically in the long term, they can count on your business skills.
Because doing endurance sports or mountaineering and things like that, you need discipline. You need determination, commitment, there are a lot of skills, resilience, persistence, that you need to do an Ironman or to do a marathon. And if you have that skill set, then you can apply that to your business.
I wanted to ask you as well... Now, you mentioned that you're pioneers, and you've kind of also pivoted or even switched a bit your business. How is the landscape? And where are you headed? What are your main goals at this point?
So now the main focus in the short term is really focused on sales. So we've been focused more on the product development on the methodology and getting the right product market fit and team fit. So that was like the first two. And now it's more focused on conversion of all the leads, all the schools, moving from pilot to paying customers to really focus on doubling the sales. So far we have achieved growth and expansion and so now it’s going to be a big weight on sales. And then secondly it’s going to be version two of Aequaland, like being in the platform more focused on educators and how we can support them with the content and tools that they need to deliver a new way of learning or the future of learning that is more “phygital” and more fun, and yeah, more focused on the skills that kids need in the future.
Yeah, it's a good time, because you see all these changes, and you see that you need different skills. And also with AI coming in, there are so many things that AI is enabling. But the fact is that technology is evolving, and it's more and more part of what we do.
And it's great in the sense that we all need to learn how to use it for our benefit and also how to use it for us to be focused on the things that we are...we can use our creativity, our problem solving skills, or communication and focus on the cool things. Because AI, if you need to draft an email, it can do that. If you get the right input, it can do the newsletter for amazing content. And then you can just be more creative on the content and on the visuals and it's a great tool for us. We are integrating a new layer for internationalisation so we are making Aequaland available in French, German, Italian and Spanish on top of English and this is thanks to AI. We can easily translate. We can easily have voice actors that are robots actually translating the voice. It's just incredible how fast we can internationalise now with AI and also how we can also reduce our cost because we need less people doing that type of job but people are like, "Oh no AI is gonna take up all of the jobs". No, we need the jobs but it will be us using more of our soft skills, or like our creativity to use these tools you know, and these tools can help us to do more of the admin or heavyweight of... For example, for the semester for the physical activities, we are like proposing activities, and then we ask for more activities. And then you have the whole semester planned down like that. When before you needed a person to build that.
Obviously, it can help you draft and help you find new ideas. But then you also mentioned voice actors, which are not natural voices, and your products are for kids. So isn't there some sort of contradiction that you're not using natural voices? Or is this AI so good that you can't tell the difference?
What they use is like a natural voice, you give them text, and you can accommodate, if it's more soft, or if it's nicer, or if it's bitter or sweet. You can adjust, but it's a human voice at the end. Some of them can be more robotic, yeah, you can kind of feel it, but we try to...every voice that we have picked feels like a human.
One last question I wanted to ask you is what would be your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and specifically women in tech, who are either just starting? Or who are still thinking of how they can do it? Because you said, there's more and more women, and they're quite successful. And you're especially in the tech sector. So what would be your advice today?
I would say my first advice is to look at what is on the market. Because maybe someone is doing what you want to do, and you can join them. So it's like joining forces. I think it's a great thing to do, don't start something over from scratch, if someone is doing it, so really check the market on where you are heading, what is your idea? And if you want to collaborate with someone already doing something. So first market, deep dive into the market. And then second is like, don't do it alone. And do a recruitment process - Like what are the skills you need to build that company really focus on that. And then third, you need to have a 'cheerleader', an advisor or a role model, or another women in tech who is already successful, who can mentor you, or try to have a life coach or business coach, someone that can really follow and you can talk to and share all your failures and all your fears everything to that person. Yeah, that would be my recommendation.
So make sure you have a support system, basically, right?
Great. Thank you very much!
Alma's commitment and dedication to empower children and educators to respect and celebrate diversity is absolutely inspiring. If you're curious to know more about Aequaland, then check out their website at aequaland.com. As always, you'll find the link in the show notes. If you want to try the Aequaland educational minigames with your children, you can also download them on your favourite app store. Thank you so much for tuning in today. I appreciate you taking the time. That was episode 59, "A new conversation with Alma Moya Losada ''. Join me again in two weeks, we'll shift gears to talk about closing the gender funding gap in Africa with another returning guest, Pauline Koelbl. Make sure you leave us a review everywhere you listen to podcasts. And if you like what you're hearing, remember to share our show with a friend, a colleague or even a family member. You can also connect with us through our website at narratives-of-purpose.podcastpage.io or through our social handles @narrativesofpurposepodcast.
Until the next episode, take care of yourselves, stay well and stay inspired.
This podcast was produced by Tom at rustic studios