Alumni Profile

Alumni profile: Weina Scott, A.B. '11

Coding her way to a career in start-ups

Harvard SEAS alum Weina Scott, A.B. '11

Weina Scott, A.B. '11

Weina Scott, A.B. '11, had just graduated when a job posting on a Harvard mailing list caught her eye. Two Harvard Business School students had an idea for a company offering on-demand household services like cleaning, furniture assembly and remodeling. The two co-founders knew how to get investors, but they needed a chief technical officer to design the website and app.

Scott, who had experience building websites for her own businesses, joined the company, which at the time was called Handybook, and helped it grow to the point where it operates in 28 major U.S. cities, plus more in Canada and the United Kingdom. Today, the company is called Handy.

“I implemented the technology while they worked on finding investors and the business side of things,” said Scott. “I’d never met my partners at Handy before, but it worked out because we were all passionate about the idea and wanted to make a huge impact.”

A computer science concentrator at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Scott became interested in entrepreneurship while still a high-school student in Miami. Her father, a businessman, instilled a passion for entrepreneurship, while her elementary school teacher introduced her to coding. It wasn’t long before those two interests intersected.

“I didn’t want to work for other people,” Scott said. “I wanted to make my own money. My goal was to be the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company.”

While still in high school, Scott co-founded a podcast hosting platform called Similar to Handy, she met her co-founder through online message boards. Scott’s technical abilities helped turn it into a successful business. She sold it to a larger software company before her freshman year at Harvard.

“I did all the tech and customer service, as well as handled some business operations,” she said. “My co-founder never met me in person until we signed the contract to sell the company.”

Always planning to study computer science, Scott chose SEAS for the strength of its curriculum and the vibrancy of Boston and Cambridge. Attending Harvard fulfilled a dream she and her father had shared since she was young. Even as she was studying CS, she was gaining other skills that would pay off in her career as an entrepreneur. At SEAS, Scott had access to the Harvard Innovation Lab, which provided incubator support for Handy in its early stages.

“Harvard encourages a multidisciplinary approach to education, which can be beneficial for entrepreneurs who often need to navigate various aspects of business, from marketing to technology,” she said. “Top-notch faculty and rigorous coursework provided a strong foundation in areas such as leadership, communication, computer science, which were all crucial for entrepreneurship.”

Even after selling her share of Handy, Scott continues to pursue her interests in CS and entrepreneurship. By day, she does coding at a Fortune 400 company. She’s also become an investor in other small businesses. Scott attributes the success she had at Switchpod and Handy to strong founding teams, and when she hears a new pitch, that’s one of the big things she evaluates.

"When I invest in a startup, I'm looking for a passionate team with a disruptive idea that addresses a clear market need,” she said. “They need to demonstrate a strong understanding of their target audience and a feasible plan for achieving sustainable growth.

It’s been a while since Scott co-founded a company of her own, but that doesn’t mean she’s done with that part of her life. Every business experience she’s had has taught her new skills. When the next company opportunity presents itself, she’ll just be that much more prepared to make it a success.

“I would advise anyone who wants to start a company to not go at it without preparation,” she said. “I have a lot of ideas, and there will definitely be more opportunities.”

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