AiThority Interview Series with Roberta Antunes, CEO at Hack
Enjoying and having fun is also an important part of the learning process because it sparks a child’s curiosity and encourages them to push beyond their limits.
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What is Hack? What makes the Hack laptop offerings stand out in the market?
Hack is a full-stack, Linux-based laptop that is designed for everyday use but has a very unique superpower — the benefit of inspiring kids to learn how to code. Through a playful and fun narrative, kids are encouraged to access real computer code and change the parameters to directly impact their experience.
The product evolves along with the child and as it does, more and more paths are opened for them to explore. All of this “learning while they play” occurs in a safe, ad-free and virus resistant sandbox environment with parental controls. The Hack is the screen time that parents should feel good about for their kids.
Is Hack only beneficial to children or could people of all ages use it?
Although we are targeting kids 8+ and have been developing and testing the product with that demographic in mind, getting familiar with coding is something important for all ages. When you learn by doing, it is much more impactful.
Enjoying and having fun is also an important part of the learning process because it sparks a child’s curiosity and encourages them to push beyond their limits. We encourage Hack to be a family experience and are bolstered that this is, indeed, the case. We continue to receive positive feedback from our beta program that suggests that parents are having a lot of fun using Hack with their children. We are hoping that grandparents will join in too!
Tell us about one industry that will truly benefit from using the Hack laptop other than education.
We are surrounded by software! Computer programming is significantly affecting all industries today, from the most obvious like science and technology to the auto industry, food production, fashion, and even diamonds! It truly does not matter what profession your child will find themselves interested in. If he or she wants to be an artist, a musician, a doctor, an engineer or a farmer, being familiar with coding language is going to be a necessity.
At the end of the day, we are committed to empowering the next generation with creative problem-solving skills that can be universally applied. Success for us includes more than just equipping kids with coding skills. Rather, we aim to provide a dynamic foundation for the next generation of thinkers.
Where do you see the Hack laptop three years down the line?
The Hack is going to evolve as our children and their skills evolve. In three years, our goal is to have an even more robust content offering for kids to explore. Like most subscription content services, we hope to offer a variety of content to satisfy a variety of different levels and interests.
Unique to Hack will be that we have a cast of characters that will guide users through their experience, encouraging them to take bigger risks and try different avenues. The skills users cultivate with Hack will help them build self-confidence and challenge the status quo. Our goal is to enable a new generation to feel empowered by technology and comfortable in being proactive with it, rather than being beholden to it and consuming technology passively. We want Hack to be the laptop every family has in their homes because it is the safest and most robust, play-based coding platform available.
Will learning through gaming be the biggest disruption in pre-teen education in America?
Saying “learning through gaming” will be the “biggest disruption” might be overstating it a bit. But with the pre-teen obsession with gaming at an all-time high, it will definitely be an important vehicle for learning not only in America but worldwide.
When we were starting to prototype our product, we did a survey with our engineers asking them how they started coding. 100% of them answered that they began by trying to hack games they played as kids to gain an advantage.
“Learning by doing” in my experience has always proved more effective and infinitely more enjoyable than passive learning. I believe that sparking the curiosity and encouraging kids to want to learn coding language through the tools in Hack is what will inspire children to create innovative and exciting opportunities for a whole new generation.
Also Read: Interview with Megan Kvamme, CEO at FactGem
What inspired you to be part of a company in a niche technical sphere such as making STEM learning fun for children?
I am a woman in a tech world. If you think that tech is mainly dominated by men here in the US, you should see the industry in Brazil! It is very rare to find female entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
When I founded my first company, one of the biggest challenges my partners and I faced was that we have no coding experience.
Because of this, I had to hire and manage a team of engineers that I didn’t completely understand. Luckily, 7 years ago, a lot of us were in the same boat! I was fortunate enough to have had time to learn on the job. Today, I may not have been as lucky. If you want to be successful in any industry, you have to understand that software is going to play a very important role in whatever you are doing. Getting ahead of that and understanding how computer technology works are of crucial importance.
My biggest inspiration, however, is my 10-year-old son. He is fascinated with science and technology and can’t help himself from constantly asking, “How does this work?” about almost everything! My general response if the question does not concern a natural phenomenon is “software!” He wants to be able to build things, to hack games, to create websites, to build a 3D leg for our tripod dog among so many other pursuits. I cannot, however, see him interested in sitting still in a classroom to learn code or any of these other things. The Hack is a perfect solution to get him excited about the learning experience. He builds real things as he has fun!
We see that Hack is powered by Endless OS, tell us about Endless OS.
Endless OS is a very user-friendly Linux-based operating system. The product was first developed to serve under-served populations in emerging markets that had no familiarity with computers and limited access to the internet. Because of this, “ease of use” was always crucial in our product development. The interface is based on smartphones, which is something familiar to those users.
Because the Endless OS is open source, it guarantees access to an enormous amount of free software and content built by the community. It also comes pre-loaded with a lot of educational and entertainment content to serve areas in which data is not available or is very expensive. At the same time, the operating system provides parents with a sense of security, because their children have access to relevant content without being exposed to all the risks associated with the open internet.
As a female CEO in tech, what are the main challenges you would say women in tech face?
The challenges women face in technology are often unique and varied. For me, my challenges were simple. As I said before, I was not an engineer and my knowledge of real code was limited.
To compensate for that, I felt I needed to thoroughly study our market and how our users behaved. Armed with this knowledge, I was able to create, with a great team, the vision for the product and then hire an amazing group of people with extensive technical knowledge to achieve our vision.
I grew up in a household of three girls with an entrepreneurial mother who was an incredible role model and a father who was amazingly supportive. However, as my career in technology advanced, I realized that more often than not I was the only woman in the room. I decided immediately to make it my personal mission to both hire and cultivate female leaders.
How do you keep updated on the latest trends in the technological space?
I read a lot, study other companies’ best practices, try different products, etc. More than that, I try to implement processes in the company that allow fast learning cycles. We build, test and improve things every day and are grateful to customers for sharing their experiences.
What is one gadget/application that you cannot live without?
I think the obvious gadget for everyone nowadays is the cell phone, right?
Open doors request transportation, pay bills, listen to music, order food… and eventually, I even make a call or two!
If not technology, what would be your alternate career choice?
That is a hard question to answer! I am attracted to things that have fast learning cycles. I studied marketing in grad school and liked to understand human behavior and reactions to different stimuli. It was, however, always more fascinating for me to be able to measure the results and quickly tweak the messages to optimize the performance. That puts me squarely back into technology, doesn’t it?!
Thank you, Roberta! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Roberta (Beta) Antunes, is a global business leader and ambitious industry disrupter. Prior to joining Hack as CEO, Beta co-founded Hotel Urbano in Brazil and grew it to a $500 Million valuation in less than 5 years. As an entrepreneur and mother of a ten-year-old, she is passionate about bringing to market a computer that helps kids learn how to code through play, and giving families a practical computer for everyday use.
Hack is a real computer that uses the Linux-based, open-source Endless Operating System. Only on the Hack computer can kids access and modify the source code, see their changes and learn how to code in a playful, safe and authentic coding environment.