Recap: StartupHouse Foundry Program, an incubator program @ SF

Hi, my friends! Almost Happy Halloween🎃 I am Leo, the CEO of ConnecPath.

It has been almost 1.5 months since the end of the incubator platform, StartupHouse Foundry Program. Today, I would like to look back the sweet memories of this amazing pre-accelerator program that I was part of for 8 weeks this past summer.

 My sweet SF days started here.

My sweet SF days started here.

To begin with, StartupHouse Foundry Program was established by Elias Bizannes, the founder and CEO of StartupHouse. After the severe recession caused by the crash of CDS and sub-prime loan markets, SF Bay Area regained economic momentum and saw an influx of talented people rush into this small region. Rent skyrocketed. Many frugal entrepreneurs and engineers struggled to support themselves. That was when Elias started StartupHouse which provides both accommodation and shared office space to these people at affordable rates.

Elias, a serial entrepreneur, also started Foundry Program because popular accelerator programs such as Y Combinator and 500 Startups became competitive year by year and very early stage companies were losing places to get mentorship and support to kick-start their businesses from them.

ConnecPath was not the exception. I started preparing to start my company while I still was completing my MBA at the University of Michigan. Since then, I tried out every single opportunity I could, from pitching to accelerators to mentoring programs, and except for a small in-school incubator program, all I faced was rejection.💩

I saw this as a chicken and egg issue. Very early stage companies (technically ConnecPath didn't exist as an entity back then), like ConnecPath, struggle to come up with robust business plans, launch fancy prototypes, and gain traction. They definitely need the helpful hand of supportive mentors. On the other hand, groups of mentors such as accelerator programs have gained popularity of late, which is why they often have no choice but to be selective and to eliminate spots for very early stage companies because the low success rate  of these very early-stage companies.

"That's why I run Foundry Program."

Elias’ motivation to work with very early stage companies comes from a genuine interest to help startups who are in weak positions to gain momentum, and this is no easy feat considering the fact that most of these companies have an unpredictable survival rate that’s as low as 1% for a 5-yaear spectrum.

Anyways, back to my story. One day, around a half year ago, I had a plan to go to SF for several days. I surfed the internet to find affordable accommodation. Somehow, I found StartupHouse. I reserved the place right away and flew to the city.

 "Hey man! Is this the place?" That was my first impression lol.

"Hey man! Is this the place?" That was my first impression lol.

I fell in love with the place. Stylish co-working space, like-minded people, and very convenient location. It was just perfect for me. Then, luckily, I heard about the Foundry Program. Since I struggled to move forward my prep to start ConnecPath in Michigan, the program resonated greatly with me.

 I love these crazy guys👻

I love these crazy guys👻

After a while, there was a submission deadline for the program. I applied for it. I did my best at the interview, and finally, got the spot in the program!

The Summer Batch 2017 started in mid-July. The first day there was a workshop with Elias about vision. Vision is the most important facet of business operations all the time. Crystalizing vision in one word is harder than it looks. That was the learning of my first day of the program.

 Memorial selfie 😀

Memorial selfie 😀

Then, the non-stop eight-week program started. Each week, we covered critical startup-related topics such as traction, UX design, marketing, finance, legal, etc. The cohort, every week, had 1 or 2 workshops, 3 questions to answer regarding certain topics, and a one-on-one mentoring session with Elias.

 Batch... Ah! BTW, I love cooking 'food batch' 😎 Food batches refers to huge amounts of food that are cooked at one time, zip-locked or wrapped, and thrown into the freezer to warm up later.

Batch... Ah! BTW, I love cooking 'food batch' 😎 Food batches refers to huge amounts of food that are cooked at one time, zip-locked or wrapped, and thrown into the freezer to warm up later.

For me, the timing was perfect. I was about to set up a company when, during the program, I met a potential candidate, Pradeep, who’d serve as ConnecPath's CTO (today he's my co-founder!).  Akaash, a UX/UI designer intern, was present at that time as well, and I gained countless lessons from the program.

 An eye-opening picture presented by a mentor at the program about how to make MVP.

An eye-opening picture presented by a mentor at the program about how to make MVP.

Eight weeks passed by pretty quickly, and we concluded the wonderful program with a Demo Day in front of a group of judges consisting of early-stage investors.

I don't really know how well my pitch was, but I did my best. The winner of my cohort was Shane Barry, the CEO of BuildEasy which provides small and medium construction companies with a super easy accounting and project management web platform. His presentation was fabulous, and he had already shown substantial traction. Although I didn't win that day, I still got insightful feedback from the judges and audience, and the lessons I learned from the whole program were far more effective and impactful.

 My mouth looks like a duck's beak 🐦

My mouth looks like a duck's beak 🐦

The program ended with the pitch, and afterwards I drank a can of beer with Pradeep, Shane, and Julien Rosilio, a program coordinator of the program, which was tastier than any of the beers I’d had before then.

Interestingly, that was not the end of the program for me because one week later, Shane and I were on the stage of another pitch event, Live Sharks Tank, held in downtown SF, which we were invited to by one of the Demo Day judges.

Unfortunately, neither of us were selected as the winner, but we had another great experience, as well as an opportunity to expose our ideas to 200-300 people who came to the event.

 Please report me if my mouth is still beak of pelican 🐦

Please report me if my mouth is still beak of pelican 🐦

This series of experiences made me tough and more prepared to talk with stakeholders such as target users and investors. The biggest lesson I learned was that without proving the concept of business by gaining traction, hardly any investors get interested in a startup business. These are some of the takeaways that I got from the Foundry Program.

One month later, I was in front of a group of members from the Fall Batch of the program as a guest speaker for the first week of the program. It took only 2 months or so since I had joined the program, but I realized that so many things had happened to ConnecPath. I was surprised at my company's progress, but at the same time, I found ample room for progress that would have been made during the 1.5 months.

Alas, life goes on, so be strong, be patient, and be bold. Persistence and fortitude bring startups to the next phase of their businesses. I’ll never give up until I achieve my vision of connecting all students to their desired colleges and career pathways.

Let's rock together in the ed-tech industry, a thought-provoking intersection of tech and education!


 

An Inspiring Advisor Mr. Muhammed Chaudhry Has Joined Us!

Hello Friends. I am Leo Sanada, the CEO of ConnecPath.

We are very excited to announce that Mr. Muhammed Chaudhry, a rockstar in the education industry, has joined ConnecPath Inc. as an advisor!

As described in his bio below, Mr Chaudhry is the former CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF), and he has raised more than $100 million to provide quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs to 10,000 students in SF Bay Area.

Muhammed and I met at an ed-tech world conference, SXSWedu 2017 held in Austin, Texas. Since then, we have continued to share our passion for education, as well as our vision to advance students’ careers in a massive scale while achieving massive growth by harnessing the power of AI. The end result of our series of conversations was that we both agreed to be on the same rocket to achieve these goals: ConnecPath Inc.

Our plan is to bring all of our passion, expertise, and network into this project in order to gain customer traction and funding as quickly as possible!

 Muhammed is like master Yoda for us (although Muhammed is much younger!). BTW, I can't wait for the coming Star Wars! May the Forth be with us!

Muhammed is like master Yoda for us (although Muhammed is much younger!). BTW, I can't wait for the coming Star Wars! May the Forth be with us!


MUHAMMED A. CHAUDHRY BIO

*As of September 11, 2017, Muhammed announced to leave from SVEF. The following bio had been written before he left the organization.

Muhammed Chaudhry is changing the way people think about education—and he’s not done yet. As president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, he is revolutionizing how people respond to the critical need of improving our schools to create the next generation of innovators and business leaders. 

For most of his life, Mr. Chaudhry has immersed himself in educational causes, uniting leaders of the business, technology, and academic communities to advance those causes. As a teen he worked summer jobs tutoring “at risk” teens in math and English, encouraging them to excel in school and go to college.  Little did he realize he would soon transfer those early job skills to his current position to help at-risk kids succeed academically on a mass scale.    

muhammed.jpg

After completing his undergraduate degree in business, Mr. Chaudhry worked in the private sector as a brand marketer with the Clorox Company and Dazzle Multimedia.  Despite private sector career advancements and graduating from the Stanford Executive Leadership Program, Mr. Chaudhry’s passion for philanthropy and for causes that touched children’s lives drew him back to the non-profit sector.

Mr. Chaudhry joined SVEF in 2001, and took the helm of a fledgling foundation with 3 employees housed in a trailer, and a $150,000 budget. He spent the next 15 years placing SVEF on the map by forging fruitful partnerships with world leading firms in Silicon Valley such as Oracle, Cisco, Google, HP, SAP, Target, and Walmart, among others. As a result of Mr. Chaudhry’s efforts, these firms have actively supported SVEF’s key education initiatives to improve student performance in science and math, better prepare students for college, and advance the future of global innovation by educating our workforce on 21st century technological and business challenges. Today, SVEF is a 30-member staff in an expanding facility with a $7 million annual budget.  Since 2008 alone, Mr. Chaudhry has raised over $100 million for numerous education initiatives. 

For example, under Mr. Chaudhry’s leadership, SVEF has developed successful math (algebra) and science support programs, which have improved skills & performance for more than 10,000 students. These programs have since become a national model.  Mr. Chaudhry also led efforts to create SVEF’s Innovation Learning Hub (iHub), designed to align education software developers and classroom teachers to test the best products. Likewise, and in partnership with the San Francisco 49ers,  Mr. Chaudhry helped create the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute—which exposes 60 high-performing middle school students annually to a top-level program in STEM education. Preceding this notable achievement, Mr. Chaudhry led the charge to develop programs in Early Care and Education, Curriculum development, and community engagement.

Under Mr. Chaudhry’s leadership, SVEF has become the go-to education foundation serving Silicon Valley that supports students, teachers, and families. Mr. Chaudhry and the SVEF foundation remain focused on new and innovative ways for students to learn while closing the achievement gap—especially for under-represented and minority students.  

Mr. Chaudhry also serves on a number of for profit and Not for Profits in the capacity of board member, advisory board member or Advisor.  He currently serves on the boards of Californian’s Dedicated to Education Foundation (Co-Chair of Board), American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley, ARAPM. He serves on the Advisory board of the National Science Foundation EHR.  He is an advisor to Trinet.

Mr. Chaudhry’s personal interests include golf, long distance running, and volunteering with various philanthropic causes. He resides in San Jose with his wife, Rabia, and their boy/girl twins.
 

ConnecPath is now available at AppStore🔥

Hello Friends,

I am pleased to announce that ConnecPath is now available at AppStore!

I've longed for the day when anyone can download our mobile app through the  AppStore and Google Play Store, and today that dream has come true.

In the last blog post, I shared a story about how the app was born. From today, I would like to focus on the people who significantly contributed to the development of this app.

The person that I’d like to introduce is Akaash Tumuluri, an 18-year-old former lead design intern at ConnecPath.

 (Sorry Akaash! I stole this from your SnapChat account!)

(Sorry Akaash! I stole this from your SnapChat account!)

It was a weird encounter when I first met Akaash. Back in July when I first landed at SF Bay Area I started seeking a tech co-founder, and tried every single possible way to advertise the opportunity.

One day, I posted an entry to BrightCrowd

that I am recruiting a co-founder. I checked my message box at the website every day and night, until one day, I got an interesting message. The message went as follows:

"Hi Leo, I am a college student and have some internship experience as a UX Designer at a tech company. These days, UX design is becoming really powerful, and it can dramatically change the flow of usage at mobile apps to gain thousands and even millions of users. I can't become your co-founder, but I can surely help you in that context. Do you want me? FYI, this is my portfolio."

I was sold. To start with, his approach was bold and smart. I was impressed by his portfolio while he is just a sophomore undergrad student. I immediately set up an online meeting.

It was a perfect match. What Akaash and I wanted respectively, matched as if we brought together pieces of jigsaw puzzle. Surprisingly, a week later we enjoyed dinner at a small Thai restaurant in Sunnyvale.

Akaash is enrolled in a dual degree program at the University Of Michigan School Of Information (computer science) and of Art and Design. He wants to work in that a fuzzy area between logic and creativity, which led to his double major which focuses on UX design. He is young and visionary. I still remember the excitement we had that evening while eating a hot Pad Thai. He said the most of the so-called 'spicy foods' are not spicy to him because he grew up eating spicy Indian curry that his parents cooked. I sweat quite a lot that evening, but he ate his meal while still maintaining a cool, innocent air about him.

 (BTW, I love Thai food)

(BTW, I love Thai food)

Since that dinner, Akaash and I spent two intensive weeks at StartupHouse. We shared everything. Vision, planned user experience, persona, font size, Akaash's college application experience, and even parties as well as family matters.

 (The first day of our collaboration)

(The first day of our collaboration)

"Communication is the most important facet of a product development project and allows you to produce something awesome, as a team."

I told him about my philosophy, and he neatly adopted my working style. Before we met, I already completed wireframes as follows:

 (OK, they’re not that fancy)

(OK, they’re not that fancy)

Since his age is much closer to my target users’ age group (he only recently left high school), I asked him to think and act freely, believing in his creativity. I precisely shared the goal and meaning of each screen.

He soon proactively suggested that I concrete design assets that evolved from my original idea. They were all great. Whenever I didn’t align with his design and asked him to re-think, he quickly re-worked to accommodate my points. We argued sometimes. But he articulated the meaning of each design and we discussed constructively to reach a common consensus. It was like a duel of two minds.

While we worked at StartupHouse, we participated in the StartupHouse Foundry Program, , an 8-week pre-accelerator programed that’s designed to push very early stage companies to the next level. Luckily, when Akaash stayed with me, we had mentoring sessions with serial entrepreneur Elias Bizannes and UX designer Silvio Sangineto. Akaash and I met with these mentors together and Akaash’s presentation of our app to them was just superb, and based on their feedback, Akaash worked really hard to perfect our designs.

On the final day of the internship, he completed all the design assets on the mobile app.

 (Look at them. You can see how my bulls*it wireframe transformed into a beautiful mobile app)

(Look at them. You can see how my bulls*it wireframe transformed into a beautiful mobile app)

At the end of the day, we went to a Mexican restaurant. As the frugal entrepreneur I am, the only incentive I could provide for him was a feast of juicy pork spareribs with hot BBQ sauce. As usual, he handled his portion of this extremely spicy fare with the coolest demeanor.

 (I perspired a lot again, but for Akaash, it was child’s play)

(I perspired a lot again, but for Akaash, it was child’s play)

Before Akaash packed his stuff to return back to the Mid-West, we took a photo using an iPhone 7 and I promised Akaash I’d make this image legendary one day. Not only was Akaash an outstanding UX designer, but he was always an excellent communicator.

 (Hey Santa Claus, give me an iPhone X)

(Hey Santa Claus, give me an iPhone X)

Now, I can touch the screen, type messages, and chatbot responses to my questions under the stylish and clean UI that Akaash created. It's just amazing.

I am so proud of him and would like to see him become an inspiring role model to high school students. I’ll definitely tell my users that this cool UX was designed by a college student who’s almost the same age as the app’s end user.

Someone told me once: "Develop a product with users."

Through experience, I’ve found this to be true. But this time I added, "Let the end-user develop a product."

That worked really well for me because I always want to be with users. I believe the world will not be changed by providers. The world should be changed by the users themselves.

So thank you Akaash! I hope you’ll come back to ConnecPath one day! Go Blue!

Our First Mobile App is Now Available At Google Play Store!

Hello friends!

Yesterday, October 2nd, 2017, became our special day: we have finally published our first mobile app at Google Play Store! We are working on making the app public at AppStore as well and will announce once it's available.

Today, I would like to share a story how this app was born.

Now that the app is available for all the Android users to download, I thought it’s a good time to acquaint you with it and share a story on how this startup was born.

What Inspired the Development of this App?

In the U.S., there are around 4,700 colleges and every year, approximately 14 million American high school students have to make their first big life decision, which is college admission.

"Is college worth going to?"

"If yes, how to get into one?"

"Which course or college is right for me?"

Students and their families often struggle with these questions and then try research answers by themselves. Now there are many sources they can refer – they can research on Google, visit campuses during the summer break or reading a popular college application guidebook. But do they come out to be really helpful? Well, actually not! After shuffling through several such resources, most of them realize the following.

"I need an advice specific to me. Not a general information or 'it-depends' advice"

So in order to get a personalized advice, they often visit school counselors. But except for a handful of resourceful schools, school counselors are too busy to deliver tailored counseling to them. Indeed, according to American School Counselor Association, the ratio of school counselor to students is 1:491! It's pretty understandable that counselors are situated in a prohibitive environment even if he/she is super smart and works very efficiently.

Failing to receive personalized advice from school counselors, students and their families then resort to professional admission counselors.

There are a number of independent and corporate college admission counseling services that are absolutely helpful. However, the problem is that some families can't afford their services. Another issue is that even if families have enough budget to invest in them, they still struggle with finding consultants/counselors who fit individual students' needs.

So after spending hours on Google, standing up on the line for 20 minutes until talking with school counselors, and picking up private admission counselors from limited options, a student finally gets into the college somehow but unfortunately, this is not the end of the story!

Simply put, families have to write a check in the future. Without thinking out about themselves and researching well about colleges, students tend to change their majors after getting into colleges. Surprisingly, USA Today College says 80% of four-year college students change majors. Students are highly likely required to take additional credits and miss to transfer credit, ending up graduating not on time. Once students overruns, a statistics shows that they spend additional 6 to 18 months to graduate. Families have to pay extra tuition which according to the recent trend is outpacing income gains. Not only paying extra tuition, but families also need to consider opportunity cost (delayed income). I performed an analysis based on these statistics to estimate how much economic loss they incur due to overrun of graduation and delayed income.

Private 4-year college student: $45,500 - $129,500

In-state public 4-year college student: $32,600 - $92,800

Out-of-state public 4-year college student: $40,900 - $116,400

HOLLY SH*T! THEY'RE HUGE!!!

I was astonished to yield these numbers. So I determined that I have to do something in this regard.

Of course, I don't underestimate or deny the advantage of changing majors. Some students find what they love to do after getting into colleges and that’s completely fine. In fact, I also love the flexibility in life planning (Indeed, I changed my career path from an employee at a large firm to become an entrepreneur which was totally unexpected!). But, the fact is that many students change their majors not because they find their interest somewhere else but because they lack sufficient preparation and research before entering colleges. This is when the things go wrong.

With that in mind, I did an internship at a public high school in Michigan for 3 months. And I found a chronicle communication problem between school counselors (especially college and career counselors) and students.

As I described above, in the first place, the counselor-to-student ratio in the US is already insane. Under this crazy situation, when students get busy to prepare for college application, they come up with a lot of questions. Interestingly, many of them come up with similar (even sometimes exactly same) questions at the same time of year because college application is a cyclical event. Counselors answer the same things over and over again whenever students come to see them.

School counselors play the crucial role in the college application and helping students achieve college readiness because they are the most knowledgeable and experienced about the whole application process. I strongly felt how good it would have been if someone had answered all the frequently asked questions so that counselors can spend their time on more critical agenda with students.

Then, as a tech enthusiast, I came up with an idea.

"Let chatbot answer these questions."

What is Chatbot?

Chatbot is an emerging education technology that helps students in achieving career readiness. This technology has especially got recognition since "Machine Learning" and “Artificial Intelligence” became a buzzword. Chatbot can understand natural languages like Siri and Alexa, and respond with relevant contents. I saw a huge opportunity to apply the technology in this context.

I quickly built a crappy prototype of a chatbot and asked students opinions at the school that I interned. Some kids liked it and started asking questions. Then I saw another problem from the experience. The chatbot was not perfect and couldn't answer if new questions came. So I transferred those questions to a counselor. She answered all the questions. But I still felt that the approach did not fundamentally reduce her efforts to answer repetitive questions from students.

Fortunately, one day, I met a serial entrepreneur who succeeded in exiting a few tech businesses. Thanks to his advice, I finally came up with another idea that rather than assigning to an individual counselor, it would be great if chatbot could transfer those new questions to a "forum" where counselors and other students in the school can interact. By doing so, all the non-personal questions would be answered and shared with other students who may have the same one.

I believe this combination is good for students in the following perspectives.

1) Since the conversation between chatbot and a student is private, the student can ask chatbot as many stupid/classic questions as possible.

2) Some students have hard times coming up with questions because they can't ask what they don't know. These students can go to the forum to learn from what other students ask.

3) After using the chatbot and the forum a lot, a student eventually brings up questions which are highly personalized and strategic, which definitely need a consultation with counselors. This is the right time that (s)he goes to see the counselor. If every student behaves like this, counselors will be able to spend a quality time with students, which is mutually beneficial for both.

My Vision is Finally a Reality

I was very excited to turn this bold idea into a reality and finally I have realized my dreams by putting up my first app on the Play Store. Now, I am looking forward to continuous support from your side and I hope you will help me make this startup a great success! On my part, I will keep updating the app to make it just more awesome every time. So if you or your friends are interested in trying this app, please do let me know. As a team, we promise to provide any support to closed beta users.

Our Great Journey Has Just Started!

Hello friends, I am Leo Sanada, the CEO of ConnecPath.

I am excited to announce that ConnecPath Inc. was filed to Delaware State Division of Corporations as of September 5th, and today, on September 15th, all the post-incorporation documents have also been signed! Finally, we are officially beginning our journey of helping aspiring minds achieve career readiness through continuous support and mentorship!

Since this is my first post on this blog, I thought it would be great to share my story with you on what encouraged me to lay the foundation of this startup and what were my sources of inspiration on the way. After so many ups and downs in life, I am finally able to achieve what according to me is the biggest milestone in my life, and I am super excited to tell you about that.

A Bit about My Childhood and Education

I was born and brought up in Tokyo, Japan, a beautiful place where centuries-old traditions and cutting-edge modern technology coexist. I completed my elementary to high school education from public schools in Tokyo. My father worked for a large corporation as a regular employee and my mother worked at a local clinic. So a simple family with simple living, jobs and duties. When it comes to education, my parents believed that 'freedom' is important. It worked in some way as I was my own boss and I didn’t have to face any restrictions.

However, it didn't work in other ways. As can be seen anywhere in the world, public schools are not necessarily an ideal place to learn and grow, and my schools were no exception. I made some very good friends there and I still chill out with them, but they were just friends and ignorant like me. We didn't know how studying would help us in the future. How helpful college educations are. How to make right career choices. What are the college admission criteria and more. But above all, we were not aware how persistence and getting out of comfort zone would change our long-term career developments in the future.

The Boy Leo – My First Inspiration

So in my K-12 school days, I was just doing seemingly fun and cozy stuff, which didn't help my endeavor afterward.

I finally realized that I have lost a lot of precious years of my life when I was 25 years old in 2009. One day, I was invited to my ex-boss's casual home dinner with his family. There, I met with his thirteen-year-old son whose first name was coincidentally same as me. The boy Leo (his Japanese spelling is Ryo, but let me call him Leo here), was an outstanding boy. Since the father’s good position in the company required him to meet with professionals in many industries, the boy Leo was also able to meet and interact with his father's friends, business partners etc. In fact, my ex-boss was also passionate to educate his son on many aspects - not only academic but life lessons too. The boy Leo’s exposure to intellectual people helped him learn a bunch of lessons that I never learned in my own school days. In addition, Leo went to a prestigious international school and grew up with smart peers who were also well educated by their parents.

Surrounded by the amazing people, the boy Leo was able to be ambitious, self-motivated, and forward-looking. Compared to him, I spent my young days vegetatively, doing almost nothing. I regretted my days and thought that if I'd grown up with such a terrific people whom the boy Leo met, my life would have been completely different. Eventually, I digested that experience, but learned some important life lessons that really inspired me going forward.

Information and Motivation – The Two Tools for Success

After my experience with that amazing boy Leo, I concluded that environments are pretty influential in determining the courses of lives of people. Our environments not only help us learn general life lessons but also allow us to flourish, thrive and understand competencies that determine career readiness. However, the kids, especially which are in K-12 education, can barely control their environments (e.g. parents, friends, and school). Therefore, I sought ways to improve environments somehow. Finally, I found two important factors that could drastically enrich environments - Information and Motivation.

Information: Information gives students the power to imagine, envision and implement something. Joseph Schumpeter, an economist who laid the foundation of the notion of innovation, described that a new idea is born when existing ideas are combined in a unique way. In other words, without knowing basic things, people can't move forward. A human can't imagine what (s)he doesn't know. So, broadening the horizon by knowing what has been already available is important. From a pedagogical standpoint, the more kids are provided information ranging from school subjects, colleges, to careers, the more creative and accurate they can think their future.

Motivation: Motivation helps students to stay hungry so that they can grow continuously and quickly. Motivation is nurtured through the process of information acquisition and through random events. For example, suppose there is a high school student named Chris. He loves reading from novels to fashion magazines. One day, while he is reading an art journal, he runs into an interview article of a designer. He is so impressed and gets interested in studying art in college. Then, Chris runs into a college student Aaron who is pursuing a dual degree in computer science and art. Inspired by Aaron, Chris now can't stop learning UX design and becomes the president of a tech club in his school. Thus, motivation can dramatically change someone's life.

Asdessin – My First NonProfit Organization

After understanding the core mantras of success, I took an action. In 2011, with my friend, I co-founded a nonprofit organization named Asdessin ("As" in Japanese "Future" and "Dessin" in French "Design") on an extra-curricular basis. The idea was to expose students to as many "role models" as possible for information and motivation. A website was created to showcase life stories of various professionals ranging from politicians to engineers and consultants. We also invited these professionals to class rooms to inform and motivate students through keynote speech and workshops. Over the six years, Asdessin's service reached 30,000 students across Japan. 500+ professionals participated in Asdessin's life interviews and in-class events. Major newspapers covered it and we were on local TV news.

Leo_Asdessin.jpg

We were able to give a new direction to K-12 education but there was a problem - Scalability. My biggest frustration was that although Asdessin is surely impactful for kids, its business model was not able to expand customer base exponentially. I shared my true passion with my fellows at Asdessin that I envision to revolutionize the way for the next generation's youths to build college and career pathways. They supported me and some of the super smart guys took over my CEO position. I left Asdessin, which I'd never imagined when I founded it.

How I Came Up with the Idea of Chatbot

After leaving Asdessin, I was looking for ways to achieve my passion and goals. While pursuing and after earning my MBA at the University of Michigan, I brainstormed every sort of business model that would help young people to obtain right information and upwelling motivation. Sharing economy like Uber? Mentor and mentee matching app like Tinder? Or, simply coming back to Asdessin's business model? Luckily, while I was studying at the University of Michigan, I got a three-month internship opportunity at Skyline High School. Thanks to a fantastic college&career counselor, I was able to learn everything happening to American kids and youth.

Eventually, I came up with a robust idea of Chatbot and began my startup journey. Chatbot is an AI-driven education technology that allows students to interact with the human-like robot so that they can quickly get answers regarding college and career-related matters. Our Chatbot, named Cheryl, works as an assistant for school counselors by answering frequently asked questions to students on behalf of them. This interactive application based on Artificial Intelligence also talks to students like a friend, reminds of important college application deadline, and listens to their pain on the rigorous application process. It is actually a way of delivering quality and personalized counseling to students, enabling them to make well-informed course and college decisions.  

File_000.jpeg

My Outlook for the Future

I have got a great team now that is totally helping me realize my dreams. Pradeep, a visionary technologist is on board of my journey. His excellent experience in full-stack software development and data science promises ConnecPath's bright future. StartupHouse Foundry Program fully supported my embarkment on this great journey. In addition, I have support of an uncountable number of people, including my family. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to all of them. With all this wonderful things happening in my life right now, I am very optimistic towards my future plans. I would like to grow my startup and empower more education seekers with the right information and motivation.

All set! We will keep posting our awesome journey here and expect you to keep coming back for more! Should you have any questions and opinions, please send a note to: info@connecpath.com