Four years ago, Dora Palfi was reunited with her Romanian friend Beatrice Ionascu at KTH, whom she had got to know when they were both undergraduates in Abu Dhabi. That became the launch pad for their start-up company Imagilabs, whose business concept is to help girls shape their future by teaching them to code. In recognition of this, Palfi was recently presented with a Women in Tech Start-up Award at the WomenInTech Global Awards.
“It is a big acknowledgement for us. And this award in particular focuses on companies that work towards the global sustainable development goals. So it is in recognition of the impact we are having,” Palfi says.
When she was an upper secondary school student in Budapest, Hungary, Palfi did not dream of a career in engineering. She was interested in science, and her main thoughts were about studying medicine at university.
“That is pretty typical in Hungary, particularly for girls who study science. I was encouraged to study to become a doctor rather than an engineer. Those stereotypes are pretty pronounced in Hungary.”
Took a master´s degree at KTH
However, in addition to her interest in science, Palfi has always been fascinated by computers and people. For her bachelor’s programme she chose neuroscience as her principal subject and computer science as her complementary subject at New York University in Abu Dhabi. There she met her future business partner, Beatrice Ionescu from Romania. Two years later, Palfi chose to take her postgraduate studies in the ICT Innovation Master’s programme in Human Computer Interaction Design at KTH; and Ionescu enrolled at KTH, too.
“I really wanted to find something where I could combine my different interests. And I love doing practical things that can be applied to solve genuine problems. This is why I became so enamoured with technology and coding.”
Passionate about equal opportunities
Something else that is important to her is equality – particularly with regard to opportunities in technology and diversity and female representation in the technology sector.
Persuading more girls to choose to study technology is the business concept behind Imagilabs, a company that Palfi and Ionascu formed while they were studying at KTH. .Specifically, it’s about encouraging girls to learn to code.
“Technology is shaping the future,” Palfi says. “But men and women are not equally represented in technology, so they do not have the same opportunities to shape the future.”
An app where you learn to code without any prior knowledge
At the heart of Imagilabs is an app where you learn to code in a visual interface, without the need for any kind of previous programming skills. Behind the interface is a code editor where you can see the code that is being generated in the app interface and learn the programming language Python, step by step. Users can also communicate with each other via the app and share what they are doing.
Once written in the app, the code can then be uploaded to a physical accessory, an Imagicharm. With a blinking or shining pattern encoded in it, the Imagicharm can be used as a keyring or to accessorise a bag.
“We have now sold 1,200 Imagicharms and the app has 1,500 users.
Ionascu and Palfi have organised workshops at the two KTH technology festivals for girls, KTH Giants and Tekla. Students from KTH helped them to build their prototype, by showing how to use various prototype tools.
“Beatrice and I sometimes give lectures at KTH. We received a great deal of help and support from KTH when we were launching Imagilabs and we are keen to give something back by inspiring other students to start their own enterprise.”