Q&A with Carol Barash, CEO of Story To College
EdTech Times was honored to get the opportunity to speak with Carol Barash, PhD, CEO of Story To College, a startup in the college application space. Story To College is member of 2014 Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, Powered by TechStars cohort. Here’s what Ms. Barash had to share with us:
Company at Glance:
Founders: Carol Barash, PhD, CEO; Moshiur Tarafdar, CTO; Jack Scotti, COO
Category: Educational Services
Product stage: Market
LinkedIn company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/story-to-college
Founder Twitter: @carolbarash
ETT: What is the market segment your company is in?
CB: We are in Ed Tech and Education Services.
ETT: Who are your core customers?
CB: Our core customers are high school students who are applying to college—both in the stage of completing their applications, and all the work leading up to that, where they explore their passions and professional aspirations, consider how different colleges fit with their learning styles, work and service commitments.
ETT: How did you come across the problem you’re addressing and how did you define it – what was your process in identifying it?
CB: When I served as faculty advisor to the admissions committee at Douglass College, Rutgers, I saw how a strong personal essay brought the student to life and often tipped our admissions decisions in that person’s favor. The problem is that most students write bland, generic essays about their achievements, almost a rehash of their resume. Admissions officers say that as the essay has become more important over the past decade, students’ essays have gotten worse. I saw an opportunity to teach millions of students how to use storytelling tools and techniques to improve their college essays and all of their communication.
ETT: And how did you develop a solution to this particular problem and what was your process of arriving at it?
CB: I studied the art and science of storytelling and taught pilot courses with high school programs at the City University of New York, developing a proprietary curriculum—the Moments Method®—that was replicable and outcomes-driven. Then I wrote a book, Write Out Loud (McGraw Hill, 2013) and developed a professional development and licensing program to teach other people how to teach the curriculum.
ETT: What it is that you’re doing differently than your competitors? And do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?
CB: We do not ever write or edit students’ application essays. Using a question-driven method, we teach students how to write better.
ETT: Please tell us more about your product stage and what we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your potential next milestones.
CB: We recently launched our online essay prep platform, Story2 (www.story2.com). In the first three weeks over 5000 students from 56 countries have used the dynamic toolkit to complete their admission and scholarship essays. In 2015 we will be making the platform available to students—both individually and in collaboration with schools, expanding the mobile experience, and further training our network of coaches.
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?
CB: Temperamentally I am definitely a disrupter! Story2 is disruptive in a number of ways. First by giving students the tools of self-advocacy and improved writing, we are putting them in charge of their own admissions process. Our network of coaches provides targeted, interventional admissions coaching at affordable price points. And, most important, we are teaching students to become more creative, independent, and entrepreneurial.
ETT: By the way, congratulations on becoming part of 2014 Kaplan EdTech Accelerator! What has been your experience so far there?
CB: The Kaplan EdTech accelerator is a cornucopia of learning—everything from data analysis to how to assess whether your logo is working, and pretty much everything in between. It’s made me much more aware of other startups across the education space, and introduced me to nearly 100 powerful mentors, advisors, and investors. I have a deep and abiding respect for Kaplan and the very clear and principled way they approach the business of education.
ETT: And how would you compare it with your experience at Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses accelerator? What makes them distinct, and what lessons have you come away from each so far?
CB: Though both are flexible, Goldman Sachs is for established businesses and TechStars focuses on startups. From Goldman Sachs I learned how to run the business with a focus on growth; we learned the mind set and tool set for growth, particularly finance. TechStars has 3 phases: looking at your business for value creation; creating and measuring traction; and finding and securing investors.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
CB: In the early 2000s I started, grew and sold factor|i, an internet marketing company. At CommonHealth, part of WPP, I reported to the chair and worked across the company to build new profit centers. I also ran business development at a Princeton-Rutgers think tank, the Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities, which was really an EdTech startup. I have been responsible for translating between technologists and end users and for business growth.
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?
CB: Jeremy Johnson, co-founder of 2U and Andela, is our mentor.
ETT: Where do you see the education technology market going in the next few years?
CB: There are a lot of great tools. I think there will be increased focus on how to connect people and technology—how do students, teachers, parents and others use the tools to improve education, communication, and learning communities.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
CB: Things take longer in Education than other industries, and the most important outcomes need a longer time to measure.
EdTech Times thanks Ms. Carol Barash for taking the time to speak with us, and we suggest you check out Story2College 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.