2018 SVP Startup Profile: ignitED
Larissa Moreira ‘20
Mara Steiu ‘20
Georgia Gabriela, Stanford ‘20
Tell me a little bit about yourselves and your company ignitED?
ignitED is an educational platform for high school students to connect with and receive mentorship from college students who attend the best colleges in the world.
To tell you a bit about us, I (Larissa) am a rising junior at Babson College and I am concentrating in business analytics. Georgia is a rising junior at Stanford and is studying computer science. Finally, Mara is rising junior at Babson focusing on business analytics as well as taking computer science courses at Wellesley College.
What is the story behind ignitED?
Just a few years ago, we were in the process of applying to colleges ourselves. It’s hard to do it on your own without any support from knowledgeable individuals. When private college counseling is on average $110/hour and with a ratio of 1 public high school counselor to 400 students, the only option for many students is to face the college application process alone. Another problem we noticed is that these college counselors could not empathize with their high school students, since they hadn’t gone through the college application process in a while. As students, we know how stressful it is to manage extracurricular activities, get good grade in schools, and apply to colleges all at the same time. ignitED will focus on understanding and helping students with this life changing process.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve gained from the Summer Venture Program?
Throughout the Summer Venture Program (SVP), our main goal has been to test product-market fit by doing market research, responding the question: “Would anybody use ignitED?”. We have so far learned and evolved so much as people since the beginning of the SVP. Every day our model is getting clearer and that comes from so many people giving us their insight and feedback. Other entrepreneurs, our advisors, and people from SVP have told us about their own experiences in the startup world and we have learned so much from that. The people here have been most important for our growth and in fully understanding ignitED. SVP has great mentors and sessions; it is really a community of people helping each other to do their best.
What’s been a milestone/accomplishment you’ve made since the Summer Venture Program started?
I (Mara) am really proud of the progress we have made in terms of market research; we are really putting ourselves out there more. It used to be such a slow, tedious, and time consuming process, but during SVP we had tried a different approach. We physically go down to schools and see if they can talk to us. This lead us to organize a workshop with 280 students!
I (Larissa) think an amazing accomplishment for us has been our conversion rate from students to users from these workshops. 90% of students actually converted into test users of our platform. This has been great for us as we are able to tweak our curriculum to fit students’ needs.
What’s been an obstacle/surprise you’ve faced?
Balancing out tailoring the mentor curriculum behind ignitED while also reaching out to more students and schools has been challenging. We are doing this so our product will provide quality service to our students. Not everything works as expected and we have to take that into account when planning.
What is your favorite memories or moments from the Summer Venture Program?
As a team, we constantly want to promote having fun, especially having fun together. One of the ways we are doing this is that I (Georgia) am keeping a quote book of all the funny things we have said throughout our time working together. One of my favorite quotes is when Larissa said to me “if you don’t come get ice cream with us, you are going to lose 3% of your market share.” Mara then made sure to add “which is nothing yet, but it’s going to be worth something sometime soon because I’m getting pretty impatient.” Fun moments like these have made this experience working together so amazing. Sometimes, we just gather in one of our rooms and have a dance party together. We plan to carry this same spirit and energy into ignitED.
If you could run any company in the world, existing or not, what would it be and why?
I (Larissa) love this company called Geekie. It is a Brazilian company I used to work for that personalizes learning plans to help prepare students for the national college entrance exam. The impact they are having is so substantial and I’d love to run it!
I (Georgia) am really passionate about what Khan Academy is doing in the education space. They are democratizing access to education which is similar to what we are doing with ignitED except in the college application field.
On another note, I’ve (Mara) noticed that a lot of people my age do not know how to cook for themselves. This has been something I’ve struggled with a lot recently. If I could run any business, besides ignitED of course, I would create an app where you could request a chef on – like uber but for cooking!
What is your go-to restaurant around Workbar?
We love pretty much anything in Chinatown, especially the dumplings. Asian food is definitely the way to go.
Any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs that you want to share?
It is easy think “wow, there are a lot of players and competitors in the market right now, why should I come on?” Of course there is always going to be a lot of competition, but it is important to remember why you thought of this idea in the first place. With ignitED, we noticed the gaps in what our competitors were doing and knew we could fill those gaps and make something better. It is crucial to talk to you customers and understand the ways that you can tweak your business to best serve them. This will help you understand where you fit into the marker and realize “Oh, there actually is space for me.”
I (Georgia) would also advise that you need to do more than just online research about your market. It is easy to think of something that could rationally be feasible, but that might not actually fit into something your customer needs. To make sure your business is fulfilling a need, you have to talk to them.
Startups are counter intuitive. In school, your teachers will provide you with a rubric that outlines what you need to do to get an A, B, or C in a class. So you simply do what you need to do to get the grade you want. With startups there is no recipe for success. You can do something completely different and succeed. When I (Mara) first got into entrepreneurship, I thought I needed mentors to tell me what the next step was, I soon realized that there is no “correct” next step. You need to go to market and get feedback. Apply the skills you learned in school, but not the approach of getting the grades.