Learning by playing
Inas Ismail co-founded Autsera - a start-up developing interactive games to empower autistic children - with her husband Omar Massoud.
Autsera is a gaming studio of a different breed. Its founders Inas Ismail and Omar Massoud’s mission is to help children with autism learn valuable social and communication skills through interactive games that they can play anywhere. In this interview, we ask Inas about her future goals, female entrepreneurship, and the challenges she has faced.
What problem is Autsera trying to fix?
“Our mission is to help children learn valuable social and communication skills through effective, engaging, interactive games that they can play anytime, anywhere. We made it our goal to break down the barriers for parents and care-takers to get the support they need and help their children develop their social and communication skills at home and at school.”
What factors influence the kind of games you produce?
“To be effective and engaging, we make our games science-based and gamified. It’s important to give children enough time to learn, yet keep them challenged, so we divide complex interactions into tasks and allow children to practice each in increasing levels of difficulties. Additionally, we provide a dashboard with simple performance statistics to inform care-takers/teachers on child progress. Finally, to ensure children learn at a suitable pace in a suitable environment, we allow care-takers/teachers to lock/unlock modules and children to change environment settings.”
What was your favourite part of F-LANE?
“My favorite bit about F-LANE is that team members genuinely invest their time, their network, and their expertise in providing you with the best calibre and knowledge.”
What are your tips for starting a company?
“My number one tip for aspiring entrepreneurs is to do an MVP first, as rough as it can be. If it sells, then go for it.”
What challenges have you experienced as a female founder, both on a professional and personal level?
“Being a mother or having a household that you need to care for makes it really hard to deliver a high level of performance. I must admit that the times I was able to deliver a lot more in my business was when I had some support, for example when my mother was visiting. So, this is the personal side and I think it is probably the case for anyone who has a household to care for. Also, in my case, my Co-Founder is also my husband which means that we both understand when one is totally occupied with something in the business, the other one understands and makes up for the responsibility for whatever we need to do on the other side. So, for me, this is very helpful.
On the professional side, I think that in many cases female founders are not taken that seriously, but I think this is changing. The opportunities they get, especially investment, are not as great. And specifically, in tech! Maybe in some social projects delivered on the ground dealing with people, the stereotype is that a woman is probably more able to connect socially. I witnessed this myself, among 10 tech presentations where we are talking about using tech in innovation and using AI in certain products the only one who was questioned around tech abilities and the ability to deliver a certain standard, was a female.”
What has helped you, you as a person but also Autsera, to cope with challenges like these?
“We have been very lucky. Even before Autsera was formed, we started off in an incubator. It was funded by Deutsche Bank. It was the first cohort and it was held in London with a focus on tech for social impact. That was our first incubator and it made a huge difference to us. From that, we went to Google for Startups’ first female residency which is an incubator/accelerator which was a great boost. And now we are at F-LANE, so we got very, very lucky that we got personalized support for women founders. So, all these incubators, it was me who applied, and it was for female founders. And I found this community and support so precious. I am still in touch with the community and we still support each other. We don’t just connect for business, we also exchange about personal issues and how we balance things. These incubators and accelerators have made a huge difference for me and I am quite aware that first of all startups have a slim chance of success and I also aware that due to my age I am not the typical startup founder, and I am also aware that what I am doing is a huge task, so I really need these tools of support. I think these accelerators certainly increase the chances of surviving and thriving.”
What opportunities do you see for female founders?
“I think there are opportunities, we are having more and more incubators and accelerators. I think we need to make the most out of it rather than keep banging on the fact that we are not getting enough opportunities. To make the most out of what we got is the only way to move forward. And to support each other, the power of the community is really helpful.”
What’s next for you?
“At Autsera, we are getting ready to launch our first game which is getting tested now. We are adding more modules to this game and doing long term planning for the next one.”