In this profile of WiSTEM C4 members, Tiffany Mikell, CEO/CTO and co-founder of Aerialspaces talks about her journey from working as a software engineer to founding her virtual events app.
Q: Tell us a little about your personal history and background.
A: I am a software engineer and education hacker. I started my career at Accenture after dropping out of high school to design my own immersive educational program including an internship at i.c.stars and courses at DePaul and Kellogg.
After working as a software engineer for several years, I helped Dev Bootcamp launch its Chicago location, which sold to Kaplan in 2014. Also in 2014, I became Trans*H4CK’s volunteer Technology Director, an organization founded by Dr. Kortney Ziegler. It was our work together, creating inclusive education environments that inspired us to build AerialSpaces — a virtual event app that helps educators, business owners, non-profit leaders and more.
Q: Tell us a little about your company. What’s your elevator pitch?
A: AerialSpaces is a full service virtual event SaaS platform helping organizations of all sizes reach global audiences in new ways. Our focus is on immersive, engaging experiences rather than the 1-way marketing webinar of the past.
Q: How did you come to join WiSTEM?
I’ve been active in the Chicago tech community for several years, so I was familiar with WiSTEM previously. When I reached a point where it was time to get serious about taking AerialSpaces to the next level, I applied and was thrilled to be accepted.
Q: What about the program do you think helped your business the most? Are there any specific examples?
It has been amazing to have a community of so many other brilliant women entrepreneurs. The isolation of running a startup can be demoralizing. The 12-week program was like an injection of energy into my business. Also, the accountability of weekly sessions, forced me to be serious about executing and learning rapidly.
Q: What’s the greater good your company is trying to accomplish? How will it impact the community? What problem does it solve?
Virtual events have the potential to transform accessibility to education and community in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, the only event type accessible to orgs with limited budget and staff are webinars — which has proven to be ineffective 95% of the time. AerialSpaces is changing that.
Q: Give us a little insight into your perspective on diversity in the tech community. Why is it important? What do you hope to see?
Black women get less than 1% of all VC funding yet we are the most educated demographic in this country and start businesses at 6 times the rate of others. Having the institutional support (education, capital, inclusive workspaces) to start and grow a thriving a business is not only a matter of economic justice — it’s also the only way we will build meaningful solutions that solve the problems of the world and not just a few.
Fourteen businesses made up the fourth cohort of WiSTEM, which is 1871’s innovative and customized program designed to accelerate and cultivate opportunities for women in technology. The 14 women-owned companies began the 12-week program beginning in March and participated in a showcase event where they pitched to investors, business leaders and supporters.
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