I’m Amanda Southworth, Founder and Executive Director of Astra Labs. And I’m going to tell you how it started. It was at a lifeguard tower in Venice Beach, on a cold June day that I found my life’s purpose. I struggled with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and PTSD all of my life. At the same time, I had also fallen in love with programming and creating digital worlds using keystrokes. I wanted to make something that would’ve made my journey easier. I wanted to be the person I needed when I was younger. And so, on June 24th, 2015, I got the idea for AnxietyHelper, the first app I ever created. Life was a combination of me juggling AnxietyHelper, recovery, and schoolwork for a couple of years. As if everything in my life hadn’t been tough already, I figured out that not only was I in love with programming, I was in love with girls and boys, too. And everyone in between. And so when me and my friends were terrified in the political climate of 2016, I made Verena, to help protect members of the LGBTQ+ community who were facing abuse. The more I got into activism, the more I learned about the systemic barriers that keep marginalized communities back in aspects of life that I would’ve never imagined. And the more I got into tech, the more I realized that innovation doesn’t have to be about cutting edge research. It can be about applying what we already know to those who need it.
In June 2017, I met who would become one of the most influential people in my life; my co-founder Coleman Oates. We started an internet friendship, which lead to an internet partnership. To this day, Coleman and I work together remotely across different sides of the US on Astra. Coleman worked with me on an educational startup that ended when in January 2018, with other two founders leaving, and our entire codebase being deleted. Coleman and I were left with a question, “Do we continue to build something that could alter the lives of people who use it, or do we give up?“. And we both decided the best decision was to push through, and Astra Labs was born.
When I attended the first Teen Vogue summit in December 2017, Teen Vogue and TOMS surprised me with a grant of $25,000 from TOMS’ Social Entrepreneurship Fund to continue my work. And when the startup I was in dissolved, I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to use technology to help people who are forgotten. I want to innovate in the areas that are ignored because they aren’t exciting. And so I left high school to create Astra Labs, the embodiment of my childhood dreams. I want to be the person I needed as a young kid struggling with life. I hope what I do with Astra Labs lets Coleman and I be that person for you.
Do you have questions? Here's our Help Center.