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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org