According to SME South Africa, South African tech startups continued to innovate and launch solutions in response to myriad challenges, including Covid-19. Award- winning documentary She Started It, screened by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Martin Trust Center, cites that being a female entrepreneur in the technology industry is bleaker than most. More facts: in Silicon Valley, women earn only 49 cents to a man’s dollar; only 12% of undergrad computer science degrees are earned by women and only 3% of tech startups are created by women. These numbers are discouraging but not to 28-year-old Serisha Barrat.
Her journey as a tech entrepreneur began with a normal nine-to-five job. Barrat relocated to Cape Town in 2019, dipped into her retirement annuity to fund her own business and has not looked back since.
“I was 22 when I moved to Cape Town, I left my job after two years of working and put everything into my business,” Barrat says to FORBES AFRICA. “I left my family in Johannesburg, I left everything that was comfortable for me to start something new and to be by myself and navigate through life as I wished. And it was difficult, there were definitely moments of not knowing when I would get money.
“I actually remember eating noodles and sprinkling cheese and being like, ‘girl, this is gourmet for now while you work towards the bigger dream’.”
In a world where legal processes are generally expensive, time-consuming, and intimidating for businesses, Barrat continued to put her law degree to work by starting Lawyered Up. This digital platform provides packages to make it easier for startups and SMMEs get access to legal help from anywhere in the world.
Based on personal experience and understanding how much South Africa’s economy could thrive on entrepreneurs, it starts with good support.
Lawyered Up is a SaaS subscription base model also making it affordable for startups and SMMEs to obtain legal services. Furthermore, with gender-based violence being a shadow pandemic in South Africa, this led Barrat to drive more initiatives for female safety on the platform.
“My main focus is for females to feel safe and a focus for Lawyered Up is gender-based violence and helping them. I want to empower women and assist small businesses.”
Lawyered Up also has a technology partner, Athena, which provides a panic button and AI dashboard tracking, and which Barrat was appointed CEO of in 2022.
“Being a woman of color in tech in Africa, I feel I am promoting the capabilities of an African woman achiever,” she says.