This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the fifteen student startups who are participating in our Terp Startup summer accelerator at the College Park WeWork. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.
Co-Founder and CEO/President: Steven D. Jettoo ’20, Computer Science major with a Data Science Focus
Co-Founder and COO/CMO: Kirsten “Sage” Newman ’15, Physics major, Math minor
DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?
Jettoo & Newman: NuroSTREAM is an education tech company that aims to enhance high school and college students’ learning curve by streamlining educational content, easing access to efficient learning tools, and captivating minds. Issues in the education system such as limited one-on-one interaction, impersonal material, and lack of perspective cause students to fall behind. We address these issues by using brain-targeted techniques and innovative learning models.
DC: How did you first come up with your idea?
Jettoo & Newman: We started NuroSTREAM after acknowledging for many years that the education system needs change. Growing up in the public school system, we recognized a common trend. Every classroom has one teacher that is expected to successfully teach twenty plus students with a single curriculum. And when a few students fail, it’s thought to not only be inevitable but also routine. Student hardship is so commonplace that we fail to address it adequately. In 2014, our friend went through a series of hardships that took their toll and debilitated her/him. She/he struggled, agonized, and got left behind in many ways that could have been avoided. We’ve seen many students stigmatized and left behind with the current education model. Seeing their pain and struggle is what set the wheels in motion for us. We’re acknowledging it and working hard to prevent a deficient system from encumbering others. If you can recognize a problem you have a chance of fixing it.
DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Jettoo & Newman: We have tutored/taught 50+ Students (K-12) with Brain-Targeted Methodologies between 2015-current, tutored/taught 20+ Students (College Level) with Brain-Targeted Methodologies between 2015-current, and established relationships with several private schools (Friend School of Baltimore, Gilman) in the Baltimore School System. We have also prototyped and Tested several MVPs of Three Major Feature Sets: Spaced Repetition, Spatial Anchoring, and Data-Scraping Online Data, built a website landing page for ongoing engagement with beta-testers, partners, and potential customers, and attended 4 major showcases within the past few months (Pitch Dingman Competition, Innovate Maryland, Terp-MarketPlace, Maryland Day) for Beta-Testing and Market Research as well as pitched/tested/discussed with over 150+ potential customers in target demographic (college market and professionals). We have obtained Data (ongoing study) on 80+ patients on retention of information using spaced repetition and spatial anchoring. We plan to do a statistical analysis as we build a database of patient usage and retention.
DC: What drives you to keep going?
Jettoo & Newman: Our overall goal is to innovate education and provide unique and comprehensive learning tools for all learners. These are things that are close to our hearts as we believe we have a personal responsibility to challenge the status quo. Growing up, Kirsten’s father would always tell her “Do your best with what you have” and we think this is what students all over the world are doing. It’s just that some students may have a supportive family, while others may have more adverse situations that cause them to miss school frequently or not have the opportunity to focus on course material. NuroSTREAM will help increase the chance of all learners succeeding regardless of circumstance. With it, better education will finally be accessible to everyone, and that realization is more than enough to keep us going.
DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?
Jettoo & Newman: They say that, “when a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower” (Alexander den Heijer). Startup businesses have a 90% failure rate even when they are backed by solid teams and great intentions. However, the Dingman Center has provided the right environment to spark success by forming this cohort. Working with other student entrepreneurs has not only opened up a world of opportunities, it’s also shown itself to be a constant opportunity for progress. The cohort is full of others who are driven, passionate, and prompted with a growth mindset. By simply being around them, we’re excited to tackle the next task and flesh out new ideas.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Jettoo & Newman:
- Product Development/Testing: Continue ongoing development, start beta-testing, and conduct additional market research on main features sets to launch at UMD by September 2019.
We will be developing a web-app with three key features. Features of our software have been tested individually with our target demographic, but must be integrated and tested as one collective platform.
- Execute IP Strategy: Connect with an IP Lawyer to purchase trademarks for branding elements and copyright the NuroSTREAM curricula. We plan to also finish a draft for a software patent application by the end of the year.
- Develop a Business Model Strategy: With help from our mentor, Philip Eliot, we plan to focus on developing our business model and testing its viability after our launch. We will continue to meet with Phil weekly to refine our strategy and gain feedback.
- Establish Customer Acquisition Plan and Key Distribution Channels: Additionally, we plan to determine customer acquisition through several distribution channels.