Female co-founders bring “&ahead” to the next level during #EUvsVirus
Carolina Yeo and Britta Mues-Walter

These two inspiring ladies devote themselves to numerous projects with passion and full of energy, driving forward the startup & entrepreneur ecosystem in FrankfurtRheinMain. A few weeks ago they participated in the #WirvsVirus hackathon. The experience was so rewarding that they continued straight on to also complete #EUvsVirus recently with their own project “&ahead”, bringing their business initiative to the next level. We had the chance to speak to co-founders Carolina Yeo and Britta Muess-Walter about their hackathon experiences, female entrepreneurship and future plans.

How was the project born?

The idea of &ahead was born in Frankfurt and started when we as founders realised as working parents how difficult the stretch between family and career is. Especially how challenging the return to work journey is after an extensive career break. With the crisis, this challenge will  become even greater. 

2 years ago, we started developing our platform and community to support individuals with their career relaunch – many who are women looking to return after parental leave. Our vision is to enable all individuals to reach their career potential. We are a core team of 7 international team members together with an extended network of mentors, &ahead ambassadors, and advisors including our partners Britta Mues-Walter, Carolina Yeo, Margit Takacs and Eugenio Grapa. For this Hackathon we are joined by our extended team including Paola Campo, Priyanka Sathe and Adeline Lee who have extensive experience in marketing, scaling and growth. 

When we learnt  about the #EUvsVirus hackathon, we decided within the team to apply and use it as an opportunity to work on digitizing our product and platform further and look into what challenges our target group is facing with the lockdown situation and how we could further support them. 

How was the #EUvsVirus experience for you? 

Compared to the previous hackathon, our team already knew each other from working together the last 2 years but had never experienced a hackathon together. The team size this time was limited to seven members. From the #WirVsVirus we knew how important the coordination, timeline, milestones and the split of tasks was. By leveraging our international team based in Europe, US and Asia we took advantage of the different time zones – one of us could go to sleep while the other one could continue working after being well briefed. Before we started, we also onboarded to our team an external advisor who came in as team member and helped us with digitising our offline coaching into a simple digital product (MVP) and also our job matching tool. During the 48hrs we also had a mentor at our side who guided us through the process and provided us with some tools and tips from a business perspective. The team work experience was amazing, we got to know each other under time pressure, with our different perspectives, strengths and skills. We further defined our user persona, and our customer and user map and developed a pitch video explaining our concept and platform. We also developed our job matching feature (MVP), leveraging available European wide jobs databases and research from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Our team also put together a go to market canvas and business canvas to highlight the problem we are solving, our USP, channels, revenues streams and cost structure. 

We also had a team coordinator and mentor who advised and helped us throughout the process so that we keep track with the deliverables and continue to share our progress on Devpost. We produced a video showing what our target group, especially mid-career individuals (majority mums), is facing when it tries to return back to the workforce after their career break. With the Coronavirus lockdown, this comes with additional challenges such as having to manage having all the family members at home and 24/7 homeschooling and child caring. Our digital coaching and matching solution is more needed than ever to provide the support. At the end, we as team managed to provide all deliverables in time and were proud of our first &ahead hackathon submission amongst the 2,000 projects as part of #Euvsvirus challenge, even gaining popularity as one of the top 10 most viewed projects. We feel motivated and encouraged to move &ahead forward to the next steps.

Why did you participate in the Hackathon

We wanted to use this opportunity to dig deeper on the impact of the pandemic on the society and economy. More importantly we wanted to understand how we as a team with our combined strengths could be part of the solution. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has put tens of millions of jobs at risk. More than 146 countries across the world are affected. Based on an analysis by McKinsey, a total of 59 million jobs will be at risk in Europe alone. In 2 weeks in March alone, at least one million people have lost their jobs according to the latest data from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). 

This hackathon gave us an opportunity to test our next development phase. By leveraging AI and machine learning, we are developing a matching algorithm that could help shift the economy to sectors where jobs are needed by supporting individuals repurpose their careers to emerging needs. As we are looking into the skills, experience and passions of our users on a deeper level, we can find areas and industries where these would also fit into and help those employers who are desperately looking for talent highlighting those that offer flexible working hours and remote working.

What comes next? 

More than 500 members in our community have used our tools, platform and methodology both online and offline to support them in their relaunch. One of which is our upcoming virtual Lead Together Career Relaunch Forum and Workshop. Now with the pandemic, the career relaunch becomes even harder with more careers affected during the business restructuring processes and managing homeschooling and elderly at home.

We will continue to partner with more companies who are either looking to recruit from this hidden talent pool through our platform especially now as new business models develop and support individuals and  companies whose employees are affected from the crisis.

In addition, we will continue to work with our partners to bring the concept of a mid career relaunch program to Germany such as the Fitch CreditPath which will support mid career individuals on their relaunch journey by offering a paid & full time often 3-6 months internship with a structured program to regain confidence, upskill and work on real projects before they get hired into a full time role. 

The hackathon has allowed us to define some prototypes and possible future development. We will move forward and get feedback from customer testing and implementation experiments. We plan to grow our local community leaders and ambassadors network globally to scale to more markets and provide support to more than 15 million individuals in Europe, majority who are women planning to return to work after their parental leave. 

Dont’ miss: On May 8th Carolina and Britta host “Lead Together- Your Career Relaunch Forum and Workshop”

More reads: Click here to read about another #EUvsVirus Frankfurt team.

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