Meet Marina Isaksen Sellstad, Co-founder and Chief Communications Officer at Diwala, a Norwegian-based company that is focused on building opportunities for youth, addressing the global issue of identity theft and certification fraud.
Marina Sellstad is a passionate designer who studied and worked in Australia for 4 years before making her way back home to Norway. She studied mass communication at RIMT University and worked at design studios, focusing on packaging design. A fun job pushing her to learn and do better every day, freelancing gigs, and an apartment on Chapel Street in Melbourne, Sellstad had everything to lead a content life. But something didn’t feel right, and she came back.
Marina grew up in Tønsberg, the oldest town in Norway, next to forests and sea. As a child, she was an energetic and creative soul with an interest in sports and creative outlets like painting, illustration, designing, and even performing arts like dance and plays. She was a nerd for science, computer, fantasy books, solving mysteries, and quests.
Coming back to Norway, she had to start from ground zero and initially felt she had made a mistake until her trainer at the gym, Thea Sommerseth Myhren, invited her for a hackathon in Oslo. Knowing very little about the event, Marina joined her. At the hackathon, they had to come up with digital solutions for refugees using blockchain technology. After 36 hours of brainstorming, their team presented an idea which is presently the concept behind Diwala. They were declared one of the winners of the competition and were given a chance to present it on the stage. Thea is now the CEO of the company, and Marina holds the position of Chief Communications Officer.
Talking more about her organization, she says, “Diwala is a digital credentialing and verification platform that, through leveraging blockchain technology, enables any organization to safely issue digital certificates or credentials that’s quick and easy to verify. Any digital proof issued through the Diwala platform can easily be accessed online anywhere at any time by the recipients, whether or not they have smartphones. Anyone who could be an employer or investor can verify the validity of the information shared in these credentials digitally in seconds. Diwala is not only a more eco-friendly, resource-friendly, and time-efficient solution for certification & verification purposes but aims to give people control of their own information in a much more secure, accessible, and flexible way.”
After 4 years of endless efforts, working countless hours, sacrificing relationships, houses, rejecting high-paying jobs, the Diwala team has successfully built a platform and skill identity application that will change how organizations deal and showcase a person’s or business with information in a new and much better way. Sellstad went from working in a design studio to co-founding a tech company, which brought a change in both her work and working hours. However, she isn’t complaining as she loves wearing many hats and feels entrepreneurship is meant for her.
Diwala pushed her out of her comfort zone, took up challenges and came up with viable solutions. This wasn’t easy initially, as Marina was not able to identify with the challenges and solutions. In order to get a full understanding of the problems, she wanted to come in face to face with them. She moved to Uganda a few years ago to develop the platform and app with the organizations and people to solve on-ground challenges. Currently, she has to prioritize the work with pending tasks shooting from all directions in a day. She is also trying her best to not get overwhelmed with work and take care of herself at the same time, which is quite common in startup culture.
Diwala has enabled organizations to issue their certificate online and speed up the process. It is presently being used by various institutions in 6 African countries, all thanks to the effort of the team. They also have won many awards. Marina is proud of the decision she took several years ago to come back home and be a part of a venture that is helping so many people today.
Leaving an inspiring message for her readers, she says, “If you want something enough in life, you will always find a way. Don’t be afraid of change or uncertainty. Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth. Good things can only come from taking risks, making a change, going out there, and grabbing what you want! Don’t rely on other people or external things to give you happiness, but find that happiness within yourself. Work on the important things in life; self-love, self-discipline, and self-development. Do something that makes it worth waking up every day! Remember, work-life balance. Don’t stress or worry so much; there is always a way. Don’t settle for just fine, but go for the best!”