Meet our 2023 PARSE Cohort: Rebecca O’Higgins, KI-AH-NA

We caught up with Rebecca O'Higgins, a member of the 2023 PARSE cohort, to find out more about her journey as a tech founder.


Tell us a bit about your company, and your role, in your own words.

I’m Bex, KI-AH-NAs founder. KI-AH-NA can be interpreted as strength in Irish which means a lot to me as I am originally from Dublin. KI-AH-NA is an application that can see the colour in our skin, not just on it from a picture. We have a prototype and we’re starting to build our own original dataset to represent those currently excluded from data and software in society.

The idea first originated after seeing a customer have a poor experience with colour theory on the make-up counter I worked on. I combined my colour theory skills with my digital project management and marketing skills to envision KI-AH-NA here in Leeds. The proven experience I have from Dublin, Vancouver, London and Leeds across industries from cosmetics, retail, medical devices, recruitment, digital project builds to lecturing has empowered me to use my skills to amplify the lived experiences of people in our society currently excluded from technology, innovation and data. 


I’m really quite proud of how far I’ve come and although some would disagree about my timeline, I don’t mind – I want to represent those who haven’t been and that takes considerably longer than people often realise. 


What was the inspiration behind setting up your business?

Society is being held back by data that does not support all lived experiences and is not representative of everyone. I want KI-AH-NA to be a catalyst for change. 


Why did you decide to take part in PARSE, and what are you hoping to achieve from the experience?

I’ve got a big challenge – to create an original dataset. PARSE is the best place to support this work on data outreach. 

Collaboration is key to success and I’m looking forward to engaging with the opinions and insights of my peers. 


From your experience so far, what has been the most valuable thing you have found within the Leeds tech community?

There are diverse skills and experiences in the Leeds tech community and that can only support Innovation.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a Startup currently?

Scaling data collection is challenging when creating an original dataset. 

Looking forward, what are your hopes and ambitions as a company over the next 12 months? 

I want to scale the prototype to a more robust MVP based on the data collection and have a trial agreement with a large brand in the UK. 

How do you personally define success?

Having more questions than answers, always being curious drives motivation and satisfaction. 

Who, or what, has been the single biggest influence on your working life?

My biggest influence are the teams of people I’ve been lucky to know, whether that’s retail, marketing or academia – each lived experience has helped me grow and influence my approach to life and work. I really appreciate each shared experience. 


To find out more about PARSE, and how you can get involved, head over to our dedicated PARSE page.


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