Does anyone else feel like 2019 came and went in a flash? As we continue to push forward to the end of the year, it’s nice to take a brief pause, look back, and reflect on how much has happened. I caught up with the team at InScribe – a BoomStartup alumni company based in Denver – to hear about how far they’ve come and the major milestones they are set to achieve in 2020. InScribe was one of the first companies to participate in BoomStartup’s new virtual program. Read on as Co-Founders Katy Kappler, Ana Hernandez and Matt Self provide an inside look at their journey to scaling a business. They also give some seriously good entrepreneurial advice that they wish they could have told their former selves.
What is the biggest challenge to starting a company?
The unknown! Being an entrepreneur means a life full of unknowns. You take on roles for which you have no previous experience – but need to execute. You wake up many days without a formal “to do” list – and must understand where to focus your time to keep the business moving forward. You take on customers that pull your product in new directions, and have to decide whether to embrace the change or forgo the opportunity. If you have trouble with uncertainty – being a founder probably isn’t the gig for you!
For those new to the BoomStartup community, tell us about InScribe.
InScribe is an intelligent Q&A platform that leverages the power of community plus artificial intelligence to connect learners with the answers, resources, and individuals they need to succeed. InScribe’s digital communities cut across the traditional silos in higher education, giving students a single place to turn when they need help. It connects students with peers and experts at their institution, so they can work together to ask questions, find answers, and share knowledge.
What problem are you setting out to solve?
Institutions today are under tremendous pressure to increase student completion rates while also decreasing costs. InScribe’s unique combination of community plus AI allows schools to tackle both issues together by offering a highly scalable, 24×7 space for students to turn anytime they need help. Using InScribe, institutions can increase student engagement and improve outcomes, all while decreasing the cost of support.
What role does AI play?
The AI system that takes on the tasks that humans don’t want – or don’t have time – to do such as answering repeat questions, identifying the most valuable responses, escalating high priority issues, and removing content that is no longer relevant.
Tell us about your team. How did you meet and what makes you good at what you do?
Our team has been collaborating on projects in the education technology industry for more than 20 years. During this time, we have consistently worked at the forefront of digital education and have seen firsthand the opportunities and challenges technology brings to the learning process. This experience has given us a unique perspective and understanding of the space – and has allowed us to build a solution that meets the needs of every stakeholder – administrators, educators, and students.
What was your biggest takeaway from going through BoomStartup in 2019?
Fundraising is a process, and it’s as much about relationships as it is about your company or your pitch. If you want to raise money, take the time to identify the specific funders that are a good fit for you and for whom you are also a good fit (yes, it works both ways), then network, network, network! It is never too early to start reaching out and sharing your story. Respect their time, but make sure they know who you are and give them a reason to keep an eye on you. More than once, a conversation we had last year became a funding opportunity today.
Great advice. What has your entrepreneurial journey been like since BoomStartup?
Crazy as ever! We continue to grow our base of amazing customers, and have recently expanded our sales strategy to include commercial organizations such and Pearson and Wiley. We’re were also thrilled to add both LearnLaunch and the ECMC Foundation to our list of investors and benefit daily from their extensive knowledge of both the software and education markets. Every day is an adventure and we wouldn’t want it any other way!
What do you wish you could tell your former selves back when you were just getting started?
Every entrepreneur’s journey is unique – so don’t worry if your story doesn’t match the stories you hear from others. There isn’t one right way to do anything when it comes to growing a business. Seek advice, ask for help, and learn from it what you can. But at the end of the day, trust yourself to make the decisions that are right for your team, your product, and your customers.
What milestone or accomplishment are you most proud of to date?
Our greatest pride comes from seeing how InScribe had been able to reach into the experiences of students in just a few short years. Our users have asked over 7,500 questions, resulting in 10,000 responses, and generating more than 330,000 views. Those numbers really speak to the scale and efficiency we’re striving for. We love to see our users engaging with and reusing resources that might otherwise not have been available. They’re finding answers to questions before they even have to ask!
What resources or sources of inspiration are most useful to you on a regular basis?
Our philosophy at InScribe is that “education is not a solo sport” and that includes our own, ongoing education about our market and customers. As a result, we are voracious consumers of digital content (blogs, podcasts, articles, research studies, etc.) and we lean heavily on mentors and friends working in and around our space. There are so many people in our industry doing amazing and innovative things. We learn so much from them and are lucky to work in a space where anyone is willing to lend a hand, give advice, or make a connection to help others grow and succeed.
What exciting things are on the horizon?
2020 is going to be a year of tremendous growth for our team. We will be expanding our sales and marketing organization and accelerating the development of the AI components of the platform. We will also be launching the InScribe Foundation – a 501c3 that will offer scholarships and grants to help reach institutions who are supporting significant populations of underserved students. Through the InScribe Foundation, we will be able to reach schools for which the benefits of InScribe would otherwise be financially out of reach.
What keeps you going?
The customers and students we serve. We started InScribe because we truly wanted to make a difference in higher education. When we see InScribe helping students navigate the complexity of their education, when we speak with our users and hear how InScribe gave them the confidence to push through, when our customers tell us they couldn’t support their learners without our help – those are the moments that make it all worthwhile.
You can find more about InScribe at http://www.inscribeapp.com/.