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Guitta Ortet: Leading the way for Cape Verdean women in Tech

· Social Impact Invest

For a while now I've been impressed by the development of the Cape Verdean tech & start-up scene. I was interested in hearing a few stories, and wanted to understand both the motivation and challenges. In this series of interviews I'm speaking to young (start-up) entrepreneurs in Cape Verde. Despite challenging circumstances they are able to discover solutions and bring these to the market. Products that can create a better society. This is part 8:

Company Name: PassID

Interview with: Guitta Ortet

Age: 26

Location: Praia (Santiago)

Problem/Solution: Digitizing the events sector

Stage: Seed/Early

Guitta Ortet is another beautiful example in this series of interviews. Unlike Hilaria Jesus, who designed and developed (coded) her application, Guitta is not a developer. So, she had to take a different route in getting her solution developed. As one of the few 'Non-Technical' founders in this series, she is an inspiring example of how to get things done without technical skills.

The creativity and persistence she has shown in the process of making a name in the tech scene reminds us of how there are always more options available to us when trying to achieve our goals. Sometimes, people who don't have programming skills are the one who are creative enough to see certain solutions, or marketing that solution. But, the first problem the solve is answering the question “How can I develop this product?”

Guitta knew she had a good idea, and did not let the circumstances stop her. Convinced of her own ability in creating a product together with a technical partner, she started her search. She knew the solution was good enough to hit the market, and had decided that a partnership with technical co-founders was the way to do it.

In 2011 she was selling tickets voor events in the city of Praia. She was making CVE 50 (about $ 0,50) per sold ticket, money she used to pay for school. Because she was not from one of the popular neighborhoods in Praia, and therefor knew less people, she had to work much harder than other to sell the same amount of tickets.

What is the story behind the creation of PassaFree?

“Back in the time I was selling event tickets there were different challenges. One of the issues of the job for me was the fact that I had to go around the entire city to deliver tickets. So when one day I saw the word application somewhere, it stuck with me. I started to do some research and came to the conclusion that it would be a logical next step in my work. I was using my phone a lot back then, so why not?”

“I don't have a technical background, I studied Entrepreneurship & Retail Management. Because I could not code the app myself I partnered up with technical partners. I was responsible for the functionality of the app and all the testing.”

“We started development in 2017, and the application was launched in 2018. We were working with different promoters, and a 2-person administration team. After an internal conflict because of a difference in the product's vision, I left and later joined PassID. “

“Today I am the representant of PassID in Cape Verde. This new partnership, with a Portugese company located in Praia, will make sure we can bring new products on the market. One example is the creation of intelligente wrist bands, equipped with a chip. This way the wrist bands can be used as an entry ticket, but also for paying consumptions.”

“We see a lot of opportunity in the market, and we want to innovate. Of course a lot depends on the wishes of event partners, which is why we're able to deliver based on their needs. We will be able to play a bigger part in Praia's nightlife in the future.”

“But there is more. We're working on the launch of our mobile app. And we're adding an option for Creditcard payments, so was can easily work with international partners. We're also looking at opportunities in tourism. We want to be able to offer tickets for various tourist spots.”

What can you tell us about how you got here?

“It definitely was not easy, but I think that's true for any entrepreneur. When you start out, there is nobody who believes in you, and that is not easy. But I really wanted to succeed. Waiting for opportunities does not exist for me. You need to go for it, and stick with it when gets harder. That's what I've done, despite of financial problems, for example.”

“Networking is something I've always done a lot. I love talking to other entrepreneurs. This has been important, but in the end what mattered was working even harder when things were not going my way. It continues to be difficult, even today. That's just part of the game. Covid has created a few challenges, which force you think differently, makes you look at diversifying.”

What plans do you have for the future?

“I'm thinking about starting an online program for entrepreneurs soon. There's a certain group in Cape Verde with many priveleges. They get to study abroad, speak mulitple languages, and have all the right connections. I'm definitely not part of this group.”

“My first time traveling abroad was last year for a UN event in Rwanda and the Web Summit in Portugal. I've always had to work very hard to achieve something, nothing was ever given to me. Now I'm starting to feel that people reckognize me for everything I've done. That's why I want to be able to help others.”

What role do you see for Cape Verdean women in tech?

“It's clear something needs to change. It's a pity I don't see a lot of girls who are learning to program. Way too often, 'we' still choose for the easy and traditional options, and go for a job or career in something like handcrafted artwork.”

“Yes, I'm not a programmer myslef, but I do understand how it works. I think in general there is not a lot of confidence, and that starts at a young age. As if it doesn't matter anyway, because a woman needs to focus on marriage and children.”

“When it comes to working in Tech as a 'non-technical' founder, you really don't have to understand everything. By working together with a partner you can complement each others skills, so the most important thing becomes the matching of those skills."

“I truly believe that the position and situation of women can change through tech and startups. In general, but definitely here in Cape Verde as well. It would be awesome if I could play a part in that as a 'digital influencer', so that I can teach young girls and women a few things. I really want to help others achieve their goals.”