DemoLesson from the Beginning
The following is Part 1 of a series of posts chronicling the story of DemoLesson.
I recently had a conversation with one of our advisors who asked about our company story to date. How did the idea behind DemoLesson come about exactly? What motivated us to create a product that would help teachers secure jobs? How has the company changed since the inception of the idea? What challenges have we faced and how have we grown as individuals during this journey? He thought that we had a story that we should share with our friends, supporters, users, investors, and others. So, following that advice, we decided to tell the DemoLesson story from the start. Of course, the story is long, so we’ll tell it in parts.
The concept for DemoLesson started in May 2011. At the time, I was finishing up my second year of public accounting with CBIZ MHM in Los Angeles. I was also completing the Riordan Fellows Program at UCLA Anderson. With two years of auditing in the bag and an elite MBA prep program on my resume, it seemed like business school was the logical next step. No knocks on MBA’s, but it wasn’t the path I wanted to take.
I have had the priveledge to learn from some amazing entreprenuers through the UC Santa Barbara’s Technology Managment Program. One in partcular, John Greathouse, had a lot to do with my decision to hold off on Business School. Taking his advice, combined with those of other entrepreneurs, I started kicking around hundreds of ideas, looking for one that was worth pursing. Due to my involvement in programs like South Central Scholars, I was reseraching ideas that would help improve education.
With the thought of my future children in mind, I was becoming very attached to the idea of launching a website that would allow parents, students, and teachers to anonymously review their schools. My motivation was the hope that when my kids were ready for school, I would have a database of reviews to help me choose the right school for them. With the possibilities of the idea growing in mind, I decided to take the idea to the smartest teacher I knew, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge.
Mandela was at an interesting turning point in her life as well. She had completed her tenure as a Teach for America corps member and had finished her Masters degree coursework in Education Administration & Policy at LMU. She had also accepted admittance to the PhD program at the UCLA Graduate School of Education. Obviously, she had a great deal of domain experience in the education industry, which she used to quickly shoot down my dreams! She showed me site after site that was trying to accomplish the idea I presented to her with, and I was ready to go back to the drawing board.
But, Mandela was dealing with a pain point at work she thought might be worth solving. As 6th grade lead teacher at Bert Corona Charter School, she was in the process of filling a mid-year vacancy. They had received over 150 applicants. Ten of those applicants had been interviewed, and five had been asked to teach in person demo lessons. But, after all of their efforts, they hadn’t met anyone that met their needs, and were currently deciding whether to start the hiring process over again. Mandela thought, if there was only a way to see the teachers in action BEFORE bringing them in for an interview, their chances of hiring an effective teacher would increase tremendously.
We did market research on the idea, and found nothing that was addressing this problem in the education industry. It just so happened that I had already purchased a ticket to Startup Weekend in San Francisco, though I had other ideas in mind for that…
Read part 2 here.