Venture Recovery Stories: Robofun

Transitioning to online learning has been both challenging and rewarding for Robofun

Robofun designs and runs tailored workshops to inspire and attract primary school girls to participate in STEM and familiarise young boys to work with girls in the lab. The programs offered cover coding, robotics and 3D design at multiple levels. In light of COVID-19, Robofun was able to reimagine its services to the online world by running virtual classes during the school holidays.

Lina Qasem, founder and managing director of Robofun said, “We’ve had to improvise in order to ensure our classes continue to run. This required us to pivot our business model to allow for 100% online remote and interactive learning. While it was very challenging to execute in such a short period of time, the feedback has been great, and we know parents needed this service.”

The ygap First Gens team spoke with 2018 First Gens alumni  and founder of Robofun, Lina Qasem about some of the challenges and opportunities arising from the pandemic, how ygap has supported Robofun through the re-accelerator and Robofun’s vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 


What are some of the challenges you have faced during COVID-19, in general as an entrepreneur and as a business?

As a business, we previously had lots of partnerships with places such as libraries,  schools, museums etc. However, as a result of the pandemic, many of these places closed and we were unable to run our workshops in person.

As an entrepreneur, it can be challenging trying to run a business from home whilst looking after a family and I experienced many pressures as a result of that. I had to change our business model completely and this was hard. However, with the support of my team, I was able to figure out the priorities for Robofun and focus on our online workshops and to postpone our partnerships to ensure our online workshops are successful.


How has your business changed or evolved due to COVID-19?

Robofun has quickly pivoted by moving our physical workshops to an online format. We couldn’t do the robotix classes in person so we had to pivot online and find the best software to simulate our robotix classes.

Some parents weren’t comfortable or familiar with registering their kids to participate online. However, after 1-2 months, our classes became full as parents became used to online learning and registered their kids to participate in our workshops. 

We changed the format by offering our partner schools and libraries with different options for online classes with various prices to make it flexible for them. As we understand that it is a challenging time for many businesses, we also began offering promotional discounts for our partners to access our workshops. For example, if you buy two classes, you get one free. 

Additionally for parents, we also offer one- off classes so they don’t have to purchase or register for bulk classes.


In your own opinion, what is the most significant change that took place with your venture in the past 3 or 6 months?

I’m happy because the most significant change to Robofun is that now we are offering classes globally. We have children from Japan, children from the United Arab  Emirates and from different states around Australia. Before, we used to only offer classes to Melbourne, now we can offer our program to everyone.


Why was this particular change the most significant to you?

This change is most significant because it will increase our impact to reach more girls around the world to learn and engage with STEM. Most kids who have registered are girls. This is great because we have access to a bigger market and most children who participated in our workshops have provided positive feedback.
When we reach more kids and increase our impact, this will help us to run more workshops and hire more people to run them and increase employment opportunities.

What role has ygap played in those changes and / or what are some outcomes your venture has achieved as a result of being supported by ygap and/or participating in the re-accelerator?

ygap has been so supportive and with their immediate help, we were able to go through this journey confidently. In the beginning, when we’re juggling different things, it’s good to have someone to hold you accountable, to let you know that we’re on the right track and to provide reassurance.  During the re-accelerator, for the financial session, it helped me a lot and I  found it useful because it showed me how I can minimise costs and increase my impact without spending more money. I also found the marketing session useful to promote our online classes and show to our audience that we’re still operating.

The re-accelerator helped us to not feel alone and helped us to see other ventures are going through a challenging time too. We felt supported. 


How do you see these outcomes improving your venture over the next 6-12 months?

These outcomes can help my venture in going ahead confidently, knowing there is a supportive team who I can rely on for any help. The next six months are uncertain, however, I know that we’ve gone through the worst and now, it’ll be easier to get through it with a supportive team and supportive coaches to ask for help. 


What does the future of your venture look like post COVID-19?

Robofun will keep offering our classes globally. We will keep running online classes and hopefully it’ll be the first option for anyone who is interested in learning about STEM. 


What are the key ingredients for successfully overcoming challenges?

Consistency, perseverance, keep trying and keep going until it works and being willing to ask for help. Also, believe in yourself and if you have this passion towards your venture, you will be able to overcome challenges, and keep focused. To keep focused, you need to stay motivated and find what keeps you motivated.


What is your advice to other entrepreneurs in regards to adapting/coping during a pandemic?

Just ask for help and stay motivated. Motivation will keep you going and wanting to give back to the community. Also look after yourself so you can give back to the community.

How likely are you to recommend other early-stage impact entrepreneurs to look to programs like the one ygap has run for support to help grow their ventures? Also why?

I can confidently recommend such a program, because ygap has been really helpful and has a supportive community to help you to keep moving forward and develop the confidence to know what you’re doing and go on the right track.

Robofun is making STEAM education accessible and fun. For more information, check here:

Robofun is a ygap First Gens alumni, and recently completed the ygap Re-Accelerator Program, designed to support ventures through the effects of COVID-19.