One of our ambitions at the MIC Brussels is to empower girls and women in entrepreneurship and IT. During the next weeks, through the series of portraits “Women, IT & Entrepreneurship”, we will bring in the spotlight inspiring key-actresses of these worlds.We are dedicated to have more women take the step and become successful IT entrepreneurs!
Aurélie Merckx: Once you have made the first step, being a woman is not problematic at all
As a young geek and entrepreneur, Aurélie Merckx is passionate by new challenges and her startup, Qwerteach. This online courses platform, the result of a will to enhance the current tutoring, is also an entrepreneurial adventure.
Putting together tools that already exist
During most of her studies, Aurélie financed herself by giving private lessons in math and sciences. With Stéphane Panier, her friend and future associate, she quickly noticed issues with the current tutoring system: the prohibitive costs; the loss of time in the public transports, especially when a student lived in a remote area; the urgent need for help of some students during the exams period.
Like any good entrepreneurial stories, frustration gave rise to ideas: after university, they created an interactive tutoring platform that allows a better support to the students and that will offer lower prices than the current market.
“The goal is simply to put together tools that already exist and to build a platform where we can see and hear each other.” At first, Aurélie tried this tool with her own students. They decided later to open the platform to other teachers and students; Qwearteach was born.
The project will go through various stages including the Boostcamp program of the MIC Brussels where they were awarded the 1st Prize. Determined and encouraged by their early supporters, Stéphane and Aurélie kept working on Qwerteach and made it the platform that we know today.
“Once you have made the first step, being a woman is not problematic at all”
The platform brings new technical and human challenges to the founders. Like any growing project, they are simultaneously pulled by the need to develop themselves in the most optimal way and slowed down by the questioning about multiple possibilities and issues.
Regarding her gender, Aurélie has an atypical profile. Indeed, only one entrepreneur out of ten in Belgium is a woman and this ratio declined when we had the IT factor.
Nevertheless, once you have made the first step, being a woman is not problematic at all. “It is an environment where people are very helpful and are happy to share their knowledge, to give tips. You feel well supported.”
Qualities that are not encouraged among women
Aurélie notes that she knows fewer women in entrepreneurship than in the IT sector. How does she explain that? «The personality traits of a typical entrepreneur are generally qualities that are not encouraged among women: taking risks; putting yourself in the light; managing conflicts.”
Today, this role asks her a lot of energy but she sees there a new way to learn: “Being a leader is an ungrateful job. The objective here is to take all the fails for yourself and to share the successes with the other members of your team. Also, you always need to promote the others to keep a group cohesion.”
It is ok to fail
Aurélie suggests to future male and female entrepreneurs: “You have to take the first step. It is ok to fail because you almost always fail and this is how you learn. Moreover, fails are more quickly forgotten than we think they are. You don’t need to be afraid of them.” She adds: “Most of all, do not start alone. It is a real strength to be a team.” In addition to the support they give to each other, being a team helps to have a set of different skills needed for the success of a startup — a great example here with Qwerteach, who keeps growing and emerging in the local ecosystem.