Meet Christina Andreassen, the Womentum Accelerator managing director, responsible for the launch and management of MENA’s first accelerator focused on female-led tech startups. Learn more about how her journey in International Development led her to transform the MENA tech ecosystem into a more diverse playing field.
Can you give us three adjectives that come to mind when you hear the word technology?
Transformation, automation, scalability.
What role does technology play in your everyday life?
Technology allows me to run a business with a team in 3 different countries, allowing us to work together instantly. It also enables me to travel and live safely (using ride-sharing). Especially in countries where communications can be difficult or conditions unsafe for female travelers. It enables me to be constantly learning during every down moment in my day through podcasts and audiobooks. The lifestyle I have currently would not be possible without technology. At the same time, technology has meant the end of privacy, which is something that concerns me a lot.
Tell us a bit about your journey? How did you get to where you are now?
I began this journey with a career in International Development, running career and entrepreneurship programs for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Through this experience, I began to see the transformative power that entrepreneurship has to empower youth and women and boost economies in developing countries. I eventually moved to the private sector, joining Womena. At the time it was the first angel investment group in the Middle East that was focusing on trying to bring more women into the investment space as a way to make more diverse capital available for female-led startups. From there, we have grown Womena to be the largest community of female entrepreneurs in the Middle East.
Please finish this sentence: I have failed in …. and these were my learnings…
For 2.5 years, Womena worked to build a thriving and sustainable angel investment group. However, the business model behind the group was unfeasible and the market size in the UAE was too small. Thus, we suffered from a very high customer conversion cost and investors that weren’t investing actively enough for us to be competitive investors.
After a few years of trying and failing to monetize – and with the departure of one of the co-founders – we found ourselves faced with the reality that the angel group was never going to become a profitable business and had to be shut down. However, in analyzing the assets that Womena did have, we identified that we had built a large and active following online and a large community of female founders. From there we decided to restructure the company, focusing on our strengths. From that point on, we re-launched a female-focused tech community and media platform, and this year we have achieved our highest revenue yet!
What are three tech trends you see happening in the next 5 years?
I feel that the largest potential for the tech industry lies in developing countries that have large numbers of potential customers. In particular, tech solutions that solve basic need problems for the growing population of people outside the Western world are going to become more and more important.
I believe that tech is going to have the greatest impact in areas such as servicing the unbanked with fintech solutions as well as agri-tech solutions that will maximize agricultural output and reduce the use of pesticides or transport and logistics solutions that can overcome broken public infrastructure.
What has been a moment of fame this week?
We closed our applications round for our year accelerator program with a record number of applications and closed 3 large paying partners, all in one week! It was the result of one year of work. It was great to see the results come through after years of trial and error, building relationships and our brand.
Who’s your superhero aka ‘Shero‘?
Ola Doudin is someone I really admire. She founded the first Cryptocurrency exchange in the Middle East, years before crypto took off. I find it fantastic that such a visionary and technical product was founded by a woman out of Jordan years before it became mainstream.
Imagine you could travel back in time and then into the future: what advice would you give your 23-year-old self and your 75-year-old self?
My advice to 23 year old self: Recognize and deal with imposter sydrome way earlier. Realize that everyone else is also faking it till they make it. Very few entrepreneurs feel confident and know what they are doing until they try.
Advice to 75 year old self: Don’t be so worried about creating a legacy—legacies are often created when you’re not focusing on it.
Christina Andreassen is the Womentum Accelerator Managing Director, responsible for the launch and management of MENA’s first accelerator focused on tech startups with at least one female founder. Womentum is an initiative of Womena, an investment and media platform focused on increasing diversity, female representation and equity in MENA’s tech ecosystem. Prior to WOMENA, Christina managed a number of social enterprises in Bangkok, Beirut and Dubai, focusing on entrepreneurship and youth empowerment. Christina holds an MA in Entrepreneurship Education from UCL London, a BA in International Development from Middlesex University and speaks English, Thai and Norwegian.