Visible Hands VC
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Visible Hands VC

Valerie Robert, Founder of Tech For The People

Burnout is real. Don’t ignore it; embrace it. The best way to overcome imposter syndrome is believing in yourself and constantly reminding yourself that your idea matters and will change the world for the better.
Valerie Robert, Founder of Tech For The People

Valerie Robert, Founder of Tech For The People

Founder Visibility is an interview series that highlights founders that inspire us and shares how they found their firsts: co-founder, customer, capital, and confidence.

Meet Valerie, Founder of Tech For The People (TFTP)—an online community and centralized platform for Gen Z students about interdisciplinary technologies. She is currently a rising junior at Northeastern University, pursuing Computer Science and Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy. Read about her journey as an early-stage founder and how she created an interdisciplinary editorial where social good meets technology.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey leading up to starting your company.

I’m Valerie, and I’m the Founder of Tech For The People (TFTP)—a hip-tech hub for Gen Z students. Our goal is to highlight how tech can be used for social good and do this by examining how tech intersects with our daily lives. Our website has an extremely diverse pool of articles written by our content writers (who are students). In addition to our website, we have our online community across several different social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Linkedin, etc.

I’ve always been interested in the intersection of technology and social sciences. I’ve always loved that our generation is committed to doing good and helping others, and I quickly realized that there was no platform where you could actually read about how technology intersects with the world. So I decided to create that intersection.

On campus, I am a member of the Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship (WISE) and joined their pre-idea incubator called WeBuild, where I developed TFTP. Initially, my WeBuild passion project was a cloud computing blog, but then I pivoted to a more interdisciplinary idea, which is what I have been building.

We officially launched in April, and currently, we’re fully student-run.

What was your motivation to start your company?

Essentially realizing that my generation wants to help others, influence change, and understand how we can ethically use technology to support that change. I also wanted to highlight how people worldwide are already working hard towards that goal which relates to the strong editorial aspect of TFTP.

As an early-stage company, what are some of the challenges you are facing within your startup journey?

One thing to be wary of is pivoting — there will be a lot of that in the early stages. Be open to advice and ideas, but at the same time, ensure that you don’t get sidetracked and stick to the core of what you want to do; have your purpose at the center of everything.

What was the process of building your founding team?

The process itself was a lot of cold outreach and word of mouth. We sent out Slack blasts and Instagram DMs, and friends of mine even did some promotion to help me out, which was very beneficial.

In terms of the composition, I wanted my team to embody ‘interdisciplinary’. For instance, I didn’t want Computer Science majors to overpower the team. Rather, I was mindfully looking for people with diverse academic backgrounds to make room for more varied perspectives. As a result, we currently have Criminal Justice, Political Science, International Relations and Journalism majors on board, and I’m really proud of that!

I also wanted to ensure that the people I brought on truly understood what it means to “do good” because that’s such a broad statement. I wanted people to understand the importance of inclusivity, helping others, pushing people forward, and integrating tech while doing so. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never taken a coding class; I just want to make sure that you believe that we can use technology in a very ethical way to impact our society.

How have you approached fundraising?

Given that we’re so early-stage, the only fundraising we’ve done so far is going through the Husky Startup Challenge, Northeastern’s official venture incubator and startup pitch competition hosted by the Entrepreneurs Club on campus. We came in third and won a $1,000 grant, which helped us envision what the company could look like.

My goal is to acquire more funding next year. I need to build a bit more knowledge before properly fundraising, but it is 100% on my radar.

How does imposter syndrome affect you as you continue to build Tech For The People?

It’s completely normal to battle imposter syndrome, especially as a first-time founder. I’m not a Business or Journalism major, and I’ve never taken classes in those fields. Not having those resources to build TFTP definitely triggered the imposter syndrome in my case.

Burnout is real. Don’t ignore it; embrace it. The best way to overcome imposter syndrome is believing in yourself and constantly reminding yourself that your idea matters and will change the world for the better.

Keep pushing and stick to what you want to do. People will want to give you advice from the good of their heart, but it can get extremely clouded and confusing, and you can lose track of what you want to do. Be receptive to feedback and ideas, but stick to your core goal.

What’s next?

We want to host our first panel this summer about civic tech — how technology can be used in the public’s interest and further help society.

Another goal is pivoting from a student-run company to an official startup and secure more funding ideally before I finish school. Of course, that will take a lot of work, and there will be more pivots along the way, but I am committed to it and working towards accomplishing that goal.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Valerie.

Visible Hands invests in underrepresented talent who strive to build their tech startups. Check out our manifesto here.

Take our quiz to learn which type of Visible Hands founder you are.

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Visible Hands

Visible Hands

Visible Hands is a VC fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups.