12 Year-Old Coding Extraordinaire & Entrepreneur! Interview w/ Samaira Mehta
Meet Samaira Mehta! Learn more about how she started a business by finding a fun way to share her passion for coding with others!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Well, my name is Samaira. I am 12 years old and I'm going into seventh grade. My hobbies include computer science, but besides that I love everything outdoors. I love hiking and tennis and badminton. I like going for picnics and enjoying nature. Another thing I really enjoy doing is teaching people and motivating them. That's pretty much it. I enjoy computer science, nature, photography, everything outdoors, and I enjoy teaching.
Awesome! I was looking into your work over these last few years and there’s a plethora of things I could ask you about, but I'm going to start off with Coder Bunnyz.
So what first sparked the idea?
I was introduced to coding at the age of six with a prank that my dad did on me and that got me really excited about computer science because I wanted to prank my friends in a similar way. Now I started asking my dad if he could teach me computer science and this coding thing. I realized that coding was always something that I enjoyed. When I started talking to my friends about it, I saw that they didn't have the same passion as I did. So what I wanted to do was create a fun way to get them excited because for me, coding was always something fun, but I couldn't see how they didn't like it. So I started asking and a lot of my friends said that they really liked board games. I thought maybe I could put coding into a board game and make it something that they can actually enjoy. That’s when my first idea of creating a board game to teach coding actually came to life.
That is genius. I love the entrepreneurial nuggets of wisdom in there. You did some market research and figured out what do people really want and how can you communicate that. Then when you had the idea,
What was the process to transition from an idea to a product?
The main part was just a lot of prototyping. So I had an idea for a board game. I started drawing out rough sketches. You know, I want the board to look like this and I wanted the cards to have this specific design on it. Then I started creating various rough sketches and asked the parents “so can I make these a reality now? Can I make these ideas into a real board game?” And although originally what I thought it was going to be was things from my house. I thought we were going to use cardboard, print out papers, really tape everything together and make everything homemade.
I realized it isn't feasible for the long term and that probably isn't the best way to get proper graphics or images. My parents told me that there's a concept, graphic designing. It’s when they take your ideas and then they make them on a computer, how it would look when you carry it out. Then they make it a reality. I thought “wow, that's super cool.” People can take my drawings and make them real. So they helped me get in contact with the graphic designers, but the first prototype that I got back from them was nothing like I imagined. It was completely like, “Whoa, I mean it's super cool, but that's not what I imagined.” It took a lot of prototyping, a lot of back and forth of email exchange, them sending copies, me not liking it and then re-doing the process. Eventually I think persistence throughout the entire process led us to creating the actual game to where it is today.
I hear from some young entrepreneurs sometimes they have a problem with figuring out how to tell people "no", or asserting their opinions, especially because they're so young. So how amazing is it that you were able to get that experience at this age? Knowing that you have ideas that are valid and saying "this is great, but this is not what I want. So let's fix that."
I always grew up in an environment and a family where my voice and my opinion mattered. So if I didn't think something was right - if you believed that it needed changing then you should go and change it yourself. You are the best person to take action on something that you don't believe in. So although it dialed down to something as small as a board game, if I didn't believe that the graphics or the images are how I wanted, having that mindset that my opinions matter, my voice matters, my ideas and what I have laid out with my final plan - it matters. Getting it there and having that persistence throughout was the most important thing.
Yes, absolutely. And now that it's here,
What do you feel makes Coder Bunnyz so special?
So I think the thing with Coder Bunnyz is that with computer science, there are so many concepts that go into it. It’s hard to put all of that together into just one simple board game, but I think what makes Coder Bunnyz unique is that it's one of the most comprehensive coding board games ever. It takes all of the major concepts that are used in computer programming and it puts it together into a board game. Through 13 levels of gameplay students will learn around 15 of the major concepts in computer programming. So when they go back on the computer and they do some real-world computer science, they'll know the concepts. The real crux of it is the same as what they learn in the board game.
My goal was to introduce my friends to the concepts with Coder Bunnyz so that they can go into computer science and coding to be like, "we learned this in Coder Bunnyz, and now I learned it in a fun way, and now I can actually do coding.” It's all being made fun. The first reason my friends didn't like coding was because of the way they were introduced to it. I was introduced to it with a prank and I loved it because it was fun. Now maybe my friends were just not used to it in a similar way. So therefore they lost interest. Maybe they were just told, "go do coding now." The thing is, if you tell a child to go do coding, there's so many websites out there. Kids can get caught up in the web of websites, I guess. By the time you actually start the coding, all your interest was lost along the way. So I think it's important that the way you're introduced to it is simple. That’s the idea with Coder Bunnyz, it's simple and still comprehensive.
Absolutely. For you, it was already framed as fun. So I love that you decided to take that experience and create something that was scalable, something that other kids could enjoy in a similar way that you did.
Now that Coder Bunnyz is here and you've spoken at all of these events and you've just done amazing work, you're coming up with your Boss Biz Pitch Fest.
What lessons are going to be put into that experience for other young entrepreneurs?
I'm starting this new initiative called Boss Biz (sign up here!) and with Boss Biz, the idea is that me, alongside well-known entrepreneurs across the world, we'll sit and we'll share the process of creating a business in a two week course. Then along the path, students will have the chance to create their own business and then pitch it for the chance to win $1,000 as seed funding to kick off their business. One of the major concepts of creating a business and a startup is idea generation. Without your idea, you have nothing to build upon. I think teaching students what it takes - how to come up with the idea is important. It’s basically just the problems that you've come across in the past or some that you may not have even realized - you're really digging into those problems. Then the rest of the business falls along. There's things like analyzing the market, developing the concept behind your product, the business and marketing side behind it, the testing and improving, and then finally bringing your idea into market. This is when they present it. The idea here is that we'll basically have a two week program because some days we'll have work days and some days will be mentoring days and some days will be office hours. Students will be provided with complete support and mentorship along this entire path.
They shouldn't hesitate to reach out to me or any of the other mentors with any of their questions. And the idea is it's fully supportive. I think one of the main things that I wanted to do with Boss Biz was make it open to everyone and by everyone I mean everyone. No matter your ethnicity, your race, background, abilities, gender, I want to welcome everybody. And recently I had a few autistic kids already sign up, so I think that's something I really want to do - create a safe space where students don't feel scared to present their ideas. Where students should not be put down based off their ideas, where they should feel welcome to speak their mind, and that's really my overall idea with Boss Biz.
Well, that is excellent. I'm sure that it's going to be a really worthwhile experience for all of the students who get involved and it sounds like you don't even have to have an idea to get started.
Not at all, no prior experience is necessary and all you need is the willingness to come up with a solution for becoming an entrepreneur.
I'm really excited to see what you come up with, what the students come up with and to share what you're up to. The last question before I let you go,
What so far has been your favorite event that you've done - speaking workshop, anything that comes to mind?
I was fortunate to get the chance to speak at the Mobile World Congress in front of a hundred thousand people. Similar to those, I've spoken at other conferences across the world, but as much as I enjoy those, I think my favorites are probably the workshops I do. I think it's the little things that bring me joy and I really like each workshop that I hold with each new brilliant kid that comes in. My favorite part of this all is just seeing the smiles on kids' faces after they write their first code. It brings me so much joy to see that something I started four years ago has now finally come to something. A kid is able to write their first code through a board game that I've created. So I think overall the workshops are probably my favorite part of this entire thing.
Well, thank you so much. I love that idea. I wish I had gotten involved with coding when I was younger and now I'm trying to figure it out. So thank you for creating a safe space for kids to learn about coding and to enjoy it while they have the time and while there's all of these opportunities. So I certainly hope that you have wonderful success with your Boss Biz Pitch Fest and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next!
If you want to get in on the entrepreneurial fun, you can sign up for the Boss Biz Pitch Fest here!
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