From Scientist to Entrepreneur: One Founder's Journey

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Denise Abulafia describes how the winding path that took her from being a lab scientist to an entrepreneur passed through three countries.By Denise Abulafia (Co-founder & CEO, Educatina)

Many times during these last months I have sat down, looked back at my professional career and asked myself this simple question: How did I become an entrepreneur?

I was clearly committed to becoming a scientist. I had always loved science and enjoyed every biology class I took, so I never hesitated about studying biochemistry. However, I never thought I was going to live in three different countries, let alone that was I going to quit the lab bench, and become the CEO of my own company!

As a scientist I usually try to identify patterns in my own behavior that might explain how I became a startup founder: as many others, I have the ability to see an opportunity when it is presented to me. But most importantly, I am committed to making this happen.

I was in my second year at university when I met a fourth-year student at a party: he told me he had just come back from Israel where he had been doing an undergraduate scholarship program at the Weizmann Institute of Science. We talked about the application process and the next day I was filling out the forms to apply for my own scholarship as I understood that it was an amazing opportunity for developing my scientific career. That summer, I traveled to Israel and experienced one of the best feelings -- the power of making things happen, the art of being committed to a goal.

My second chance came a couple of years later while I was visiting a friend working at the University of Miami. I met her for a coffee on campus. She introduced me to her mentor, an associate professor working at the cell biology department. Even though I had never considered doing my PhD abroad, this professor guided me through the various advantages of studying in the US. Not yet convinced about moving out from Argentina, I realized that was another big opportunity that I shouldn’t miss, having also discussed the program with other members. It took me three to four months to complete the application process and get my GRE and TOEFL exams ready. Four years later I received my PhD.

On my first month living back in Argentina I met a friend and we were chatting about my teaching experience in Mexico and how passionate I was about changing education in Latin America. At that same moment, he got an email which read: "We need high impact educational startups to invest in." I did not know my friend was involved in venture capital and both of us realized we had a huge opportunity right in front of us. So two days later we were having meetings to envision Educatina, and a month later the company was kicked off by four passionate people that had the ability to see this opportunity and the expertise to make things happen!.

About the guest blogger: Denise Abulafia is co-founder and CEO of Educatina, the leading educational platform in Latin America. With more than 2 million students every month, Educatina produces thousands of free world-class educational videos and practice tests embedded in a gamification environment. Educatina just launched the first live school tutoring marketplace in LatAm where hundreds of qualified tutors meet their students in a one-to-one virtual room. 

Photo credit: snre via Flickr