First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Daniela Semeco: Things have been good considering all the madness we’ve been living through. Covid has been tough, but so have the California wildfires and the state of our democracy. We’re convinced we got Coronavirus in late February. Testing wasn’t available then, but the first proven case in the U.S. was in our county, Santa Clara, California; it’s very likely we were exposed. Luckily, we dealt with it before the panic set in and were able to recover quickly.
My two-year-old daughter goes to a Brazilian daycare. She recently started speaking French, Portuguese, and English. I’m so proud! It’s amazing that she gets to play with other kids and have a social life. So many kids don’t have that right now. We’ve been fortunate to have been with a small home daycare before the pandemic hit, and they’ve been able to stay open. Without that, I don’t know what I would have done or whether I would have been able to work on my business at all.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded the Polyglotte keyboard.
Daniela Semeco: Life, I know from experience, is a crooked street. My invention, the Polyglotte keyboard, illustrates this truth. It sprang from a lucky accident in my life’s journey, which has been a diverse one geographically, linguistically, and culturally. I was born in Venezuela, grew up in Georgia, and studied music for a few years in Caracas. The idea first came to me a little after returning to the U.S. from France and Berlin, where I’d studied the German language and interned in art galleries. I was visiting my dad in Georgia, applying for work, writing resumes. I was determined to move to San Francisco.
One skill I had was being able to speed-type using several different keyboard layouts. I thought about this for a second and realized that this skill wouldn’t help me get an interview. And then I thought:
Why are there so many keyboard layouts in the world? That’s when it hit me: I would invent a multilingual keyboard for polyglots, like myself!
How does the Polyglotte keyboard innovate?
Daniela Semeco: We help people type in multiple languages without slowing down. No more inserting special characters, alt combinations, or copy pasting from Google Translate.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Daniela Semeco: The biggest interruption from Coronavirus was when my daughter’s daycare closed for a month and a half. It’s funny because we had just released a new line of keyboards weeks before the first lockdown. Then, suddenly, I had to be a full-time mom and couldn’t work on anything. In the beginning, I was in denial. I started baking, waiting for the pandemic to be over. Everything froze. When my daughter was able to go back to school, my husband and I felt like the luckiest parents in the world. Recently, I started working with an executive coach, and doing all I can to grow my business. It’s been awesome and also very liberating. I made a conscious decision to stop using the pandemic as an excuse for anything. E-commerce is exploding, and there’s a world of opportunities out there. We’re determined to make the most of it.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Daniela Semeco: Luckily, we didn’t have to make many difficult choices during the pandemic. Our overhead is low, and it’s easy to work from home. Our strategic partners are also weathering the storm quite nicely. Working with a local manufacturer has benefited us because our supply chain was not disrupted.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and the Polyglotte keyboard in the future?
Daniela Semeco: To cope with stress, I used to swim, but recently I started running instead. It helps me clear my mind. I also planted an herb garden that I tend daily with basil, coriander, sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary, chives, oregano, and mint. Two of my neighbors work for Siemens and Apple, and we sit in our little courtyard and talk about farming. It’s been good to live in an apartment building and be able to chat with my neighbors. We’re all getting cabin fever these days, and that human interaction is gold.
In the future, I imagine our keyboard as a new international standard. It’s very intuitive and a good alternative to the existing international keyboards, which are overcrowded and quite frankly overwhelming to look at. Our goal is to help global companies become more operationally efficient because the difference between winning and losing is often very small. It’s like winning the Tour de France. It’s all the little things, how long you rest, how you eat, and pace yourself along the way. All the little efficiencies are what can give the winner their 20-second lead.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Daniela Semeco: We don’t have direct competitors. Our competition is the status quo. People still type with keyboard layouts that were designed for typewriters. Our keyboard looks almost identical and is easy to adapt to, which will be key to driving adoption. Right now, we are targeting contact centers, but I think there’s a big opportunity in education as well. Children won’t have the same attitude as their parents when it comes to keyboarding because they haven’t developed the habit yet. It’s a matter of overcoming that resistance to change.
Your final thoughts?
Daniela Semeco: We’re all having a rough time right now, and it’s ok to underperform. Do your best, and have faith in that effort. For a lot of businesses, it’s sink or swim. Even if you’re just treading water, at least you’re surviving, and it’s like they say: “What won’t kill you, will only make you stronger.”
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