Q&A With Laura Henderson, Founder of Epiphany Learning
EdTech Times was honored with the opportunity to speak with Ms. Laura Henderson, founder of Epiphany Learning. The company develops personalized learning platform, enabling the users to actually get excited about the reading – with the learner at the focus. Please read on what Laura had to share with us.
Company at Glance:
Founders: Laura Henderson
Category: Education Technology
Product stage: Early stage
Company Twitter: @EpiphanyLearn
Other social media: YouTube
ETT: What is the market segment your company is in?
LH: We are in the K-12 segment.
ETT: Who are your core customers and how did you come across the problem you’re addressing and how did you define it – what was your process in identifying it?
LH: K-12 teachers are our core customers. I am married to a special education teacher. He and his colleague were very excited about the education strategies around Personalized Learning. They attended highly motivating training and read exciting books and information about the success associated with creating purposeful learning to create lifelong learners. However, their excitement quickly diminished when they realized there were very few resources (other than paper forms) to create individualized Learning Profiles and Learner Paths. Once we established a need for this type of product, we worked tirelessly to understand the broader needs of these highly successful Personalized Learning models and created 500 pages of requirements. My nearly 20 years of experience running a technology company made me well equipped to handle this challenge.
ETT: And how did you develop a solution to this particular problem and what was your process of arriving at it?
LH: Once we validated the need for a comprehensive Personalized Learning software application, we created the market requirements. Next, we created user designs and wireframes. The user designs were then used to re-validate the requirements before the computer coding began. Creating the database architecture was one of the most complex tasks in our product development process because Epiphany Learning strives to create a highly secure, yet flexible system which puts the learner at the center of the database architecture. We also designed a system while thinking years out and took into account features that are not yet developed.
ETT: What it is that you’re doing differently than your competitors? And do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?
LH: Our niche is Personalized Learning. If it involves Personalized Learning strategies, we either do it now or it’s on our product roadmap. We are a LMS (learning management system), but unlike our competitors our system is built around the understanding that every learner is unique. The Learner Profile that is created, owned and managed by the learner is at the heart of the system. Most competitors are designed around a traditional classroom.
We are currently developing functionality to assess and recognize non-cognitive, or soft skills. These skills are often overlooked and undervalued in traditional education models, yet they’re proven to be essential in 21st Century jobs. We are also very excited to be working on dynamic scheduling functionality. This functionality will allow teachers to post meetings, seminars and one-on-one sessions for students who can then sign up to attend. These types of offerings are fantastic and truly consistent with Personalized Learning, but prove to be very challenging and cumbersome for teachers and administrators. These are just a few of the many things we have planned for the future.
ETT: Please describe your product development strategy and product stage. What we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your potential next milestones?
LH: After almost 12 months of R&D followed by beta testing, we are now acquiring our first customers. We recognize that Personalized Learning is at its infancy in mainstream education and we fully intend to continue to invest heavily in R&D. We have a very advanced and rigorous R&D process; a process that is more of what you would expect from an established software publisher. We have independent user interface designers and testers. We use a documented process for the full product life-cycle and are currently on Epiphany Learning V2.1. We will remain close to the voice of our customers and adapt the product as needed to meet their changing demands. We are fully prepared to scale up as needed based on product demand.
ETT: Are you a disruptor, and why so? Do you believe you will remain as a disruptor in near foreseeable future or become a more mature company? Why is that so?
LH: Epiphany Learning is a disruptor because Personalized Learning completely rethinks the traditional classroom and transforms the way we approach 21st Century education in every classroom around the world. Given our ability to support this proven and successful strategy, Epiphany Learning is well positioned and ready to scale up to meet the changing needs in this space.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
LH: I am currently the General Manager of TEKLYNX Americas, Inc., a global software technology provider. As General Manager, I have P&L responsibility and I am directly involved in marketing, sales, operations and product development.
ETT: Did you or do you currently have a mentor who is/has been helping you through the startup stages of the company – who is that mentor?
LH: As the General Manager of a software company, I have worked very closely with many CEOs of small businesses. My main advisor and business partner, Rupesh Agrawal, launched a technology start up and has grown it to be a very successful business. I also work closely with our advisory council (we refer to them as the Epiphany Learning Gear Heads), many of whom are successful entrepreneurs themselves. They provide our team with outside perspective and guidance.
ETT: Where is education technology market going in the next few years?
LH: We expect a lot of new edtech products (both content-curriculum and platform-based) to enter the market over the next few years. Consumers need to make sure they know what they are buying and that the suppliers are reliable.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
LH: My primary advice would be to make sure you are fully prepared to invest a lot upfront to make sure your product is of real value to the education market. Also, recognize that the buying cycle and process is very different than other markets. It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work. Make sure you are deeply passionate about your purpose.
EdTech Times is grateful to Laura for her time, and we recommend you check out Epiphany Learning at:
Yevgeny Ioffe, or as people call him, Yev, has been working in both the startup world and established companies. His career spans from joining Xplana Learning as it launched to Cengage Learning to MBS Direct when it acquired Xplana in 2009. Yevgeny brings to EdTech Times his passion for start-ups and technology, along with his interest in the ever evolving world of edtech. Yevgeny obtained his BSc and MA from Brandeis University and MBA from Boston College.