Catherine Whitehead of MathforMoney tells us about the mission to develop incentive-based education.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Catherine Whitehead: It has certainly been a strange and trying time, but I was fortunate enough to spend more time with my family than I have in decades. We’ve been trying to stay busy and focus on the positive, which is all we can do. The pandemic has been a very humbling experience for me and has made me extremely grateful for my family, health, and safety.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MathforMoney.
Catherine Whitehead: My background and passion are in Human-centered Design. Growing up in South Africa, I thought my time would be best spent solving our many problems and building businesses around the solutions, which in turn, could hopefully put a tiny dent in our unemployment rate. While I spent many years working for product development companies, helping large corporates innovate and build startups, I wanted to develop a product that was important to me and my values. That’s when I joined my co-founders, Nick Hill and Nick Parkin, in building MathforMoney. Their mission to develop incentive-based education resonated with me; the potential to pay children to learn and invest in their financial future would honestly be a dream come true.
How does MathforMoney innovate?
Catherine Whitehead: It might sound cliché, but we truly do keep our customers at the center of every decision we make. They guide us and help shape our product into a solution that works for them. At the end of the day, we’re trying to build a product that integrates seamlessly into the lives of parents, so the more involved they are in that process, the better.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Catherine Whitehead: It has been a difficult period for many businesses, but we’re fortunate to be operating in the EdTech space where a lot more focus has been given during the pandemic. Online learning was already quite widely adopted, but the pandemic has almost made it commonplace. Parents who did not look to online learning before certainly are now. With children spending so much more time at home, I think our next hurdle will be how parents prioritize their children’s screen time.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Catherine Whitehead: Providing education, improving financial literacy, and decreasing unemployment is unquestionably a mammoth undertaking, and while we’d love to go all “save the world,” we need to start small. It is difficult to initially narrow the product’s focus when there is so much we want to do, and sometimes it can feel slow or frivolous. I guess it’s like digging a hole before building a skyscraper. I have also learned that even making a difference for a few people makes the work worth it.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are helping you navigate the crisis?
Catherine Whitehead: Our team has had to operate remotely from the offset because we are scattered around the globe; Our core team is divided between Cape Town and Berlin, our investors in Zug, our developers in Gurugram, and our customers, well, all over. For this reason, the pandemic has not affected how we operate and communicate. Some basic tools which we use to stay connected and productive are Miro, Trello, Lucid Charts, Google Suite, among many many others.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Catherine Whitehead: We’re trying to achieve our goal of educating children to be financially independent adults, which essentially benefits our economy and everyone in it – so we look less at how we can compete with other companies and more at how we can fill in gaps they might be missing. That being said, there certainly are companies that inspire us, for example, pocket money apps like RoosterMoney and BusyKid, and math apps like Enuma’s Todo Math, who, in my opinion, are all doing an incredible job.
Your final thoughts?
Catherine Whitehead: Building a startup, or any type of business for that matter, is difficult at the best of times, so it has been interesting to see companies that have popped up throughout the pandemic. I have enormous amounts of respect for them. I believe that this whole experience, along with COVID-19, has made all of us more resourceful and more resilient. It has also helped us slow down and appreciate those experiences that might’ve gone unnoticed before. My thoughts also go out to all of those who have experienced a great deal of loss as a result of COVID-19.
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