Sheena Allen is the founder and CEO of tech companies CAPWAY and Sheena Allen Apps. We chatted with her to find out how she went from having no coding experience to running businesses with millions of app downloads.
SB: What inspired you to start your tech companies?
SA: I started Sheena Allen Apps as a senior in college. I was in school double majoring in Film and Psychology and had no plans of ever going into tech.
Even though the first app didn’t do well as far as traction, I fell in love with the process and the potential of having people from all over the world using an app that I created.
My second startup, CapWay, is financial technology. CapWay was started after visiting my hometown in Mississippi and noticing the people in my community were still using the predatory economy – payday lending, check cashing, title loans, etc.
I knew I had to create a platform that can prevent the next generation from falling into same the cycle of relying on the predatory economy. I want to provide them with a better understanding of money (financial literacy), and a financial platform that provides services they actually needed.
Traditional banking has not worked out in our favor for financial health or wealth. It was time to create something new, so I created CapWay.
SB: Not everyone who wants to create a tech business is tech savvy. What suggestions do you have for those an idea but lack the tech skills?
SA: I had no clue how to code or anything when I started, so I understand having an idea for a tech business but not being tech savvy or a non-technical founder. First thing first, you do not need to be 100% tech savvy. Some of your biggest and most well-known tech founders weren’t/aren’t technical founders.
The key is it to learn enough so that no one can beat you out of your money and time. For example, you may end up outsourcing the development. You need to learn and know enough so that if a developer tries to charge a rate at 10 hours to add a splash screen, he/she is lying and just taking your money.
Things like this happen a lot and it can be scary for those who aren’t tech savvy, and it is why I wrote my book, The Starting Guide. It’s a guide on how to get started if you lack technical skills and all in between.
SB: What are your thoughts on how to overcome the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley and still succeed?
SA: Five years ago or so, I would be the first to say make your way to Silicon Valley. When I first got started, it is where I went. However, times have changed.
You no longer need Silicon Valley to be successful in the tech world. Silicon Valley will always be Silicon Valley – the bad and the good that comes along with that reality. However, as minorities, there are other up-and-coming tech hubs that we can now take advantage of including Harlem, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and New Orleans.
SB: Since there’s a lesson in every experience, what did you learn from your most successful app and what did you learn from your least successful one?
SA: My least successful app to date was my first one, and I’m happy it worked out that way. I learned that no matter how great we may think our idea is, everyone else may not think so. It also taught me that not everything might work out the way we want but what matters is how we respond to that defeat.
My most successful app taught me to be appreciative. While some people may take millions of people using their app as a boost to their ego, it honestly humbled me. It made me appreciate the process, the hard work, and most importantly, every single person who downloaded and used my app.
SB: Where do you see your company in 5 years?
SA: With Sheena Allen Apps, we will continue to develop more apps and expand our footprint into products and other things. We are currently at a few million app downloads, but I see use reaching 30 million+ app downloads as we expand.
With CapWay, we will continue to perfect our platform and create an untraditional financial ecosystem. After all, we are using blockchain technology which is already an emerging technology and will be more advanced and understood in five years. Most importantly, we will have made an impact and see a positive impact on the financial health of the financially underserved.
SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs interested in creating a tech startup?
SA: There is information all around us. Use it. Google is your friend. Also, reach out to people who are where you want to be. Use LinkedIn to your advantage. People are more willing to help than you probably give them credit for. Most importantly, just start.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafricn)