Alumni Spotlight: Enya Seguin on Yapili and her Path as an Entrepreneur

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Profile:

Name: Enya Seguin

Nationality: Canadian

Year of graduating: 2017

Major: Governance, Economics & Development

 

 

Interview by Tessel van der Putte, 12 June 2020

Enya Seguin is an alumni you want to keep an eye on in the future: she is extremely driven and entrepreneurial, down to earth and not afraid to give her honest opinion. In her last year at LUC, Enya took an entrepreneurial path, where she married the fields of technology with healthcare, aiming to tackle the problems surrounding access to healthcare on the African continent. Besides that, as a friend and former floormate, I know she is very funny too.

Before our interview, I asked Enya to send me some pictures she would like us to feature as the cover of her interview. A few that would represent her as an alumni of LUC. She sent me these two:

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So let’s start with that. Enya, I feel we can already stop the interview – these photos say so much about you! Can you just briefly tell us what are you doing in them and why you chose them?

Enya: Work hard, play hard! The time period of the first photo definitely had more emphasis on “playing” but I shortly discovered a balance… I chose it for this interview because it is always good to portray the true persona before taking a more grown up tone when speaking of career paths. The other photo was during the photoshoot for ‘Het Financieele Dagblad’s Young Talent 2020 issue’. Same character, just with a slightly more dignified accomplishment!

 

Young Talent of 2020, wow! You got our attention. How did you end up there?

I co-founded a startup called Yapili. We are leveraging the increasing presence of mobile phones on the continent to enhance access to healthcare. Yapili is an app that connects health-seekers in Africa to health professionals anywhere in the world. This venture is the achievement that got me and Yapili into the FD Young Talent of 2020.

To rewind: I had started taking electives in the Global Public Health (GPH) major at the end of my second year and it was a heart-throb. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED my major (GED) too – it was one of the best choices I ever made – but now I could approach GPH through the GED lenses. I became specifically invested in learning about digital health in Sub-Saharan Africa. I did an internship in that exact topic, wrote my thesis at that company, and started working on Yapili. It was almost that sudden. Through merging my appreciation for the private sector and NGOs, I found a special synergy in social entrepreneurship.

After LUC, I took a year to focus on Yapili; I went back to live with my mom (that is the reality of the startup life!) – and I am proud to say that I moved out again by 2018. In those months, we conducted a pilot in 7 African countries and the team developed the app that now connects African health-seekers to doctors anywhere in the world.

 

Pitching at Afric@Tech in Paris where Yapili won the Sanofi Telemedicine Challenge
Pitching at Afric@Tech in Paris where Yapili won the Sanofi Telemedicine Challenge

It is quite an inspirational story! It is also really refreshing to talk to someone who started their own business, with not even having graduated from LUC yet (congrats!). What was it like for you to study at LUC, having such an entrepreneurial spirit of mind?

Not going to lie. LUC was, and still is to this day, one of my most challenging experiences. I have always found academia challenging so it was important for me to make my LUC experience more than academics. My LUC experience was 50/50 academic and non-academic activities, which also highlights why I am not referring to LUC as a “degree” but as an “experience”.

I got involved in as many activities and committees as I could and enjoyed every bit of it. I would say that my internships, networking, and the various committees have been more rewarding to me today than the courses. That said, I may not have been pushed to explore public health in Africa had I not taken that one course. Likewise, I may have not selected that one course unless I had taken that one internship. There is an element of chance in every decision, but I was mainly able to discover my interests because I was curious and attentive.

 

YAPILI was selected to attend a week-long session with other innovators to discuss scaling digital health innovations in Africa.
YAPILI was selected to attend a week-long session with other innovators to discuss scaling digital health innovations in Africa.

And to start your own business as a young student, do you feel that LUC prepared you well with the right skills for all of that??

During my final year at LUC, it became very clear what I was most passionate about and wanted to put my energy into. Although starting a new adventure at the same time as your Capstone is tricky, striking that balance seemed natural because I loved it. I momentarily dropped the “play” part of “work hard, play hard” that year!

When you do what you love, things come more natural to you – that’s a wise lesson actually. What would you say to those people who are also thinking of pursuing something they love – like a project or business – and start something for themselves?

If you are interested in starting your own company, even mildly interested, REACH OUT! Your alumni community is here to support you. I would have really valued having more people to talk to back in 2017.

Also, since LUC was still in its earlier days when I was studying there, there weren’t many networking opportunities for us. I think the students today have a huge opportunity to reach out to the expanding alumni community to help guide and orient them into their next adventure. So I would strongly urge the current students to be proactive in reaching out to the alumni community!

 

Enya’s graduation in July 2017, with Dean Judi Mesman.
Enya’s graduation in July 2017, with Dean Judi Mesman.

That is so great to hear Enya, thank you for emphasizing that. It is actually an important part and potential of the alumni community of LUC and of Evolucio of course… Talking about the LUC community, something I always ask is, what was your best memory from LUC?

Meeting new people, discovering The Hague, the beach clubs, staying up until sunrise, passing classes I thought I had no chance in… The ecstatic feeling of wearing our caps & gowns! Also, meeting my now 5-year partner who I have a lovely flat with in The Hague. Neither of us are from the Netherlands, we both left after LUC and came back to The Hague for our careers.

 

And from that Romantic note, there is one very mandatory, serious question I need to ask you. In our previous interview, Nynke Sylline asked the next interviewee: what is your favorite soup of floor 2? Could you please tell us.

Those soups were terrible and pricey.

 

Finally, for those people reading your interview now, is there a life-lesson you would like to share with students or staff (apart from not buying the soup at floor 2)?

Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Equally as important, diversify your experiences to meet people from diverse backgrounds. In my time, LUC was mostly homogenous in terms of people’s backgrounds and ideologies which made for a restrained learning curve in the classroom. Get out, meet people and build a network. Equally, make friends with everyone whilst at LUC because you never know who you may want to connect in the future or even work with!

 

Enya at at the Best Social Impact Startup at Southern Africa Startup Awards 2018 with Yapili.
Enya at at the Best Social Impact Startup at Southern Africa Startup Awards 2018 with Yapili.

Thanks so much for your time Enya, we will be on the lookout for how Yapili develops!

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