In my last post, I talked about the inception of Explore Interactive. In this post, I’ll detail the next difficult part of the successful startup equation—creating a passionate, dedicated, and talented Edtech team. Just reading these words, it seems like a simple task to accomplish. However, it has taken several months to build the right team to execute on the vision.
A venture capitalist advisor of Explore Interactive once told me, “Your most daunting job as Founder is to pick the right people. Choosing incorrectly could cost you the startup.”
And several times it almost did.
The Initial Search for EdTech Team Members
I had the educational know-how and school connections to make the idea flourish, but I needed a techie. Interestingly enough, at the Purdue Foundry, I had met someone else interested in entrepreneurship that had built an App for destroying zombies around campus. I came to Alex Bussan with the hope that we could work together to build a product capable of disrupting the educational paradigm. He loved the concept, and we set out on a difficult journey. Over the next several months, Alex and I would spend over 40 hours a week creating content, designing code, and figuring out the basics of programming for augmented reality apps. Keeping in mind that we were both taking a full class schedule.
I’ll never forget around December of 2016, Alex and I spent 16 hours per day the week after finals completing a business plan and polishing up the app. Eventually, we ended up creating the alpha version which was showcased to various school systems and investors. Our efforts paid off as we were accepted into Purdue University’s Boiler Accelerator Program (and winning it!) However, at that time, Alex was feeling the pressure of school, family life, and Explore!. He had to cease his involvement with the company.
The Second Round
I believed in our mission and vision enough of democratizing STEM learning to all students that I continued to push on. Over the next few months, we hired many undergraduate and graduate students from Universities across Indiana. Surprisingly few, if any, stuck around. Chris Palermo was one of the crazy few, brought on in February 2016, that became extremely passionate about marketing Explore!. But for the majority, it was a hit and miss.
However, we continued to make progress on the app through testing, iterations, and various contracting work. Then, in January of 2018 a longtime advisor to Explore!, Amanda Thompson, came to me with the idea to become more involved. She believed in the vision of Explore! and wanted to see it succeed.
Finally a Breakthrough!
Amanda had previously raised funds for other startups, was a parent, taught corporate finance, and had a broad network across several continents. With that in mind, I thought it was the right move. Amanda joined and started working with our current team, recruiting new members, and helping define our revenue model. Over the past few weeks as part of our #AnatomyofaStartup campaign, you’ve seen some of our newer edtech team members, along with some of the ones that have been around for quite some time. All of these members play a crucial role in making STEM education accessible, fun, and interactive. We wouldn’t be where we are today without all of the hard work and dedication of all team members who work/worked for Explore Interactive.
In my final post, I’ll talk about the last important piece as part of the Explore! journey—resources and mentors.
-Wesley Virt, Founder, and COO