2018 SVP Startup Profile: Gaido
Colleen Leung MBA‘18
Mazen Danaf, MIT PhD
Marion Benitez MBA‘18
Tell me a little bit about yourselves and your company Gaido?
Gaido is an online career counselor for university students. We help students understand what types of jobs they like, evaluate their current skills sets, and then identify the skills needed to get that job. Gaido recommends courses for our students to take at their current university or an external course provider in order to develop those skills.
What is the story behind Gaido?
We came together through an incubator program and noticed we were all passionate about education. Building off of that, we were all working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development goal number four of providing quality education specifically by closing the skills gap. We delved into this space and did some market research individually. We surveyed Boston graduate students and found that 43% of student believe they do not know the skills they need to land their ideal job. This was shocking to us, as grad students ourselves, because most of us are choosing to pursue a graduate education. So you would imagine we would be actively trying to gain the skills we need to join the workforce. We wanted to see how we could contribute to the solution of this problem and that is what brought us to Gaido.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve gained from the Summer Venture Program thus far?
I (Mazen) am an engineer and PhD student who is constantly striving for perfection. Being in the Summer Venture Program (SVP) I’ve had to shift from wanting everything to be perfect to wanting things that actually work. Adapting to the fast pace of the program was something I really learned this past summer.
I (Colleen) learned to be open, flexible and not so headstrong about your first idea. Before SVP started, we talked to our mentor and he questioned our approach to choosing a platform for Gaido. We had originally planned to do a mobile app, and he immediately asked why we eliminated the possibility of a website. After becoming more open to this new idea, we realized how much it made sense for us to create a web platform in terms of iterations and costs. SVP has taught me to truly be open to suggestions and ready to pivot.
In addition to that, the most valuable thing for me (Marion) has been all the advice we’ve gotten from our advisors, peers, and David. Everyone is so bright and willing to help.
What’s been a milestone/accomplishment you’ve made since the Summer Venture Program started?
Before SVP, we had prototypes but nothing tangible to show for Gaido. I (Mazen) am really proud that we’ve been able to develop and build something functional. Also, we have enhanced the team with new members and our network has expanded greatly since SVP. Specifically, in the edtech space in terms of investments, we are really starting to make out mark. Making these connections, attending events in our space, and building partnerships has been key for us this summer.
What’s been an obstacle/surprise you’ve faced?
It is so important to find the right partners, whether they be teammates, investors, etc. We have had both good and bad experiences in adding people to Gaido and have really learned to evaluate every aspect of a potential partner before onboarding them. On top of that, it’s been a bit challenging managing all of the connections we’ve been presented and prioritizing which we wanted to pursue first. Everyone is so well connected and it’s all about being respectful, grateful, and careful in maintaining those relationships.
What are your favorite memories or moments from the Summer Venture Program?
Our dorm welcoming party was so much fun. Ralph Haddad (TastePal) showed us his numerous skills in both piano and BBQ. Also, the first day Mazen came to the program he mistook an earplug for a marshmallow and ate it.
I (Mazen) was hoping no one saw, but Collen saw the entire thing play out.
If you could run any company in the world, existing or not, what would it be and why?
I (Colleen) would create a foundation to provide scholarships to underserved students globally.
I (Marion) always want to be surrounded by the startup community. So I wouldn’t be surprised if I end running some sort of accelerator or incubator.
I (Mazen) would want to run SVP!
What is your go-to restaurant around Workbar?
We went to Trade, a Mediterranean restaurant, the other day and that was pretty good. We also like Al’s, the sandwich place! I think we are still on the search for our favorite spot to eat though, so ask us in a few weeks.
Any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs that you want to share?
Just try it out. You can have the best idea, and never get the courage to actually pursue it. It will never be reality, if you don’t even try. Also, take the time to find good partners and teammates – this is crucial. Find people that have the same passion as you do and that complements your skills. Most importantly, have fun. If you’re not having fun, you are doing the wrong thing.