Career

Girl you need to know: Tech entrepreneur Alliv Samson

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Meet 29-year-old Alliv Samson, the bright co-founder behind the tech startup helping millions of classrooms across the globe go paperless: Kami.

Heralding from Aklan – a remote province in the Philippines – before immigrating to New Zealand with her family to further her education with an arts degree, Alliv had always been curious about technology and website creation. In her final year, Alliv met her Kami co-founders with a shared goal of starting a tech company. Thanks to the university’s Velocity 100k programme, the three co-founders got their jump start and have been growing their company ever since.

Now splitting her time between Auckland and San Francisco, scroll below to find out why Alliv is a girl you need to know: 



What’s your story? How did you get to where you are today?
My interest in tech started while I was still young. I was ten years old when I did a summer class in MS-Dos. It was love at first click and I became fascinated with technology. When I was 15, I would skip school so that I could learn how to program and build a website which sparked my interest in software development.  My interest and basic programming skills helped me get into one of the top universities in the Philippines where I studied Computer Science.

When my family immigrated to New Zealand, I wanted to further my education so I completed a Bachelor of Arts Majoring in Political Studies and Media Studies at the University of Auckland. While at uni I did a lot of freelance work. I was side hustling with web design and doing creative work (like graphics, film, and photography). Juggling all these commitments while in studying prepared me for the challenges of building a startup company.

If you had to sum up what Kami is doing in one sentence, how would you describe it?
Kami is on a mission to help people transition to paperless work and we’re currently focussed on transforming classrooms so that teachers and students can learn, collaborate and work digitally.

How did you get involved with Kami?
I started the company with my co-founders Hengjie Wang and Jordan Thomas in late 2012. We wanted to improve our notetaking and interaction in class, so we built what was then called Notable. The concept was simple: have a real-time note taking feature where the class can collaborate on a presentation slide. Unfortunately, we only managed to grow to around 5,000 users in our first year. So we pivoted, refreshed the product, and focused our marketing on the education market in North America. Now, we gain 5,000 new users every few hours. Crazy!


 

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Mum, I want to be a startup unicorn when I grow up. Snapchat everything, work all day, and drink @lacroixwater.

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Where has Kami taken you?
Kami has taken me across around the world. From a big city like New York to remote areas where we visited Kami schools. It is humbling to see our product being used by students from first graders to high schoolers. The classroom environment is changing fast, and Kami is at the forefront of that change.

Can you share what it has been like being a female working in this sector?
The tech industry is challenging and can be unwelcoming to women. The good news is that it is changing. I believe that now is an exciting time to be part of it. Personally, I want to contribute to the change and fight for equality and diversity in tech.

The tech industry is challenging and can be unwelcoming to women. The good news is that it is changing.

Do you have any advice for Miss FQ readers who want to get into careers like yours?
Tech is integrated with almost everything, being part of the industry is exciting and fulfilling. Whether your background is education, legal, retail, design, hospitality – whatever it is, the future is technology. And as technology becomes a vital part of everyone’s lives, we need more women to make sure that it is heading to the right path.

To get started, I would advise learning how to program in HTML and CSS. Having a programming skill is vital in the tech space. It gives you a better understanding of how to create a product and how it works. Whether you’re a marketer, a designer, sales or whatever role you have, having programming skill is a must.

How important is a female empowerment to you and why?
I want the future generation to have better opportunities. I want young girls to dream big and become whatever they want to be without being discriminated against and for young boys to have more respect towards girls and see them as their equal.

What has been your greatest accomplishment or milestone to date?
Building Kami as one of the fastest growing edtech companies in the world, earning revenue, receiving awards and attracting notable investors. This year I want to give back to those in need through projects that will build classrooms and provide resources to the children in the Philippines.

What are some challenges you’ve faced or had to overcome?
Being a female entrepreneur brings a lot of challenges. For example, I found that I needed to prove myself regularly and I have to communicate in a less ‘female tone’ to be heard or noticed. I got tired of that, and now I have found the courage to be myself. I now see these challenges as a chance to change the status quo and bring diversity to the industry.


 

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Visiting the new Apple Campus.

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What motivates you?
Knowing that every second, there is a child learning better and a teacher that is working more efficiently because of Kami. It motivates me to know and see them in action, and it brings me joy and purpose that our success is not just all numbers but is making a difference in people’s lives.

Do you have a favourite quote or mantra to live by?
“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other path, no other way, no day but today.” – Jonathan Larson

Which websites, blogs, podcasts, etc do you watch or listen to every day?
Girlboss Radio by Sophia Amoruso, Bloomberg Technology with Emily Chang, The Vergecast are my daily favourites.

What are you doing when you’re not working hard?
I blog and take photos. While at uni I started a website called XYNZ but had to let go of it as Kami started to grow. Now I have started building a personal blog where I share my entrepreneurial journey, musings on being a female tech entrepreneur, and everything that interests me like travelling and photography.

What was your dream job growing up?
I wanted to be a magazine editor – thank you The Devil Wears Prada.

What is it like to be a COO?
Being Kami’s COO, I have two primary responsibilities: grow the team and grow the user base. I need to understand how everything works and find ways to improve it.

Firstly, my background in software made me more aware of how our product works. I also know how to make a sale as I was the first salesperson in the company. And my humanities degree helped me manage the operations side. That said, our culture and diversity is something that other startups would envy, and I am very proud of that.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I want to be in the classroom, talking to teachers and students and asking them “what’s next?”. I want to continue what we started with Kami and further develop products that contribute to building the future of education.

Photos: Supplied, Instagram

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