Thank you so much for giving our MTI application a read!
Brendan and I are so thankful for your willingness to help us.
Nick and Brendan
Clicking on these buttons will open the links in new windows.
What We Plan to Accomplish w/ MTI’s Support
MTI’s initial funding support of $25,000 provides us the time to secure contracts with the campuses we have partnered with thus far.
Why does this matter?
Brendan and I have been bootstrapping since September, and this funding would provide the opportunity to focus full-time on Eariously. We believe that formalizing these initial agreements helps us to move quickly to achieve our goals of creating/retaining jobs in Maine, growing our revenues, and attracting additional capital.
Accompanying these responses is a financial model for the next two years.
Describe your team’s skill sets
Eariously consists of Nick Rimsa and Brendan Barr.
We’ve been making software together for two years and a half.
Nick was first interested in working with Brendan because Nick has always been able to design and sell software, but never had a partner with the skills to develop.
Brendan has been a software developer for 11 years, and he’s responsible for all things programming. Brendan’s primary responsibility is to develop scalable software that students love.
Brendan was first interested in working with Nick because Brendan has always been able to develop software, but never had a partner with the skills to design and sell.
Nick has been a product manager for four years, and he’s responsible for all things outside of programming. Nick is chiefly responsible for guiding the product direction based on student needs and guiding the company into a sustainable and profitable venture.
Beginning in September 2018, we partnered with Colby College, NW Missouri State University, and UMass-Amherst, and are working closely with students at these institutions to pilot our software. We are confident in our ability to build Eariously with the two of us (and given grant and seed funding, we plan to add one more teammate - another software developer - in September).
The history of Eariously
We have worked full-time on Eariously since September.
We build by using SCRUM methodology (Nick’s a Certified SCRUM Master).
Eariously is established as an LLC. (However, we’re very interested in the prospect of converting to a c-corp to make fundraising easier. This transition is an easy and low-cost option through Stipe Atlas.)
We have embedded ourselves at Colby College, and are learning directly from students (our listeners) so we can build our software based on needs.
A timeline of checkpoints:
September: We made a landing page and started collecting sign ups for Eariously. We very quickly noticed that a number of signups were coming from professors, administrators, librarians, and IT staff. We started calling these folks signed up to use Eariously as a learning tool because getting students to “do the reading” is their biggest student-related frustration. College faculty and staff told us that 70% of students don’t do the reading for any given class.
September 17, 2018: We met w/ Colby administrators to explain our vision, and they humbly invited us to pilot our software beginning in January. During Fall 2018, we developed our software with a small group of students providing near-constant feedback.
October 2018: NW Missouri State University signs on as second campus to use Eariously. Additionally, the University provided ample student support for us to work closely with.
November 2018: We establish a relationship with UMass-Amherst’s Individual Differences Lab and begin outlining research study to take place in Spring 2019.
January 4: Nick begins teaching a product design course at Colby College, and his course is the first group of students (27 of them) to use Eariously’s mobile product.
January 2019: Based on student feedback, we build a browser extension that allows students to add assigned readings to listen to directly from their laptops. We discovered that students are often interested in multimodal learning (i.e. students listen to their assigned reading as they follow along reading). After building the browser extension, we ensured that these assignments sync between mobile and desktop.
February 2019: Based on student feedback and guidance, we systematize the ability for a single student to add the entirety of their class’ assigned reading and subsequently invite the students from their class.
March 2019: Based on student feedback, we’re beginning to systematize processes and create tools for one student to onboard an entire campus’ assigned readings. We also begin developing a training database to improve our software’s processing capabilities through machine learning. Developing this system means a superior listening experience as the software learns and adapts to processing information better.
We sell Eariously to college, university, and high school administrators. Due to a lack of time, comprehension, or access to materials, the vast majority of students don’t complete assigned readings for any respective class. College professors tell us that 70% of students don’t complete the reading for any given class, but our research (from > 500 students) tells us this number might be as high as 90%.
Eariously lets students listen to the things they have to read.
Our solution is different from alternatives because students not only use Eariously, but they’re evangelists of our software. Students have guided our development roadmap and provided near-constant feedback that has ensured we build Eariously around student needs. Colby has been an excellent partner, and we plan to continue working closely with the College and continue working in Waterville.
From hundreds of interviews, we’ve discovered that students simply dislike using accessibility software.
In general, accessibility software is not accessible, and we’ve developed Eariously around student needs by embedding ourselves on campus at Colby. Nick’s January course was the first class to use Eariously, and student feedback has driven what we build.
Additionally, our software processes PDFs (which competitors do not), which are the predominant form of assigned reading for liberal arts’ sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Our proprietary software (through OCR) reads anything (e.g. photos, copies of copies, other documents that aren’t “searchable”) and can turn it to sound. Currently, we’re systematizing our software’s “learning” so that it can continually improve through machine learning. This means a superior listening experience for listeners.
Freedom to Operate
Colby has been a very generous partner, providing office space, access to working with students, and ability to work closely with administrators. We do not foresee any current operating constraints in Waterville.
We both have worked for software companies in the past that have licensed software to colleges and universities. We certainly do understand the challenges (e.g. long sales cycles) of working closely with and selling to college administrators. However, given the overwhelmingly positive response by students, we are confident in our ability to mobilize and systematize student support as a strategy for garnering administrators and professors support. We’ve done it on two campuses, and we’re certain that these processes can be made measurable and repeatable.
This fall, we prototyped processes to find students who want Eariously on campus, turn them into campus evangelists, and begin generating student demand. This spring and summer, we are systematizing this process fully, and we believe that we can begin the fall with > 25 additional pilot programs. In order to adequately incentivize a student leader on a particular campus, we plan to pay a small portion of the overall contract for their efforts.
During the past two weeks, we have focused our software development efforts on developing systems that allow a small number of students to spread Eariously throughout a campus. Currently, one student can add the assigned reading of a class and invite their classmates to listen. In the near future, we’re optimizing for one single student to spread Eariously throughout campus.
This process allows students to use Eariously on a campus without administrative support or knowledge. Given how we have effectively spread our software with a small number of students, we believe that this methodology (e.g. give Eariously away to students, garner overwhelming support, work with administrators to license on campus) will continue to work.
To note, based on our modeling, we believe that this process does scale effectively without prohibitive costs.
Upon partnering with school administrators, we can access a campus’ LMS (in which Eariously can seamlessly integrate with Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle) to allow for a true turnkey solution (in which an entire campus has immediate access to Eariously).
In 2018, domestic colleges and universities spent $12.8B on IT purchases.
If there are 23M undergraduate and graduate students, this means that each student “gets” $557/year.
At $1/student/month for Eariously, $12/year would be capturing ~2% of the overall market of college and university IT spend.
While we’re interested in pricing by tier (not by student), at this particular price reference, a small campus like Colby would be paying $24,000 to license the entire student body.
In our model, to maintain as high a degree of conservatism as possible, we discount these numbers quite a bit.
Based on our financial model and conservative assumptions, we believe that MTI’s funding - in conjunction with a small seed raise (and a subsequent 1:1 match from MTI) - help us to create high-quality jobs in Maine, grow our revenue, reach sustainability after 21 months, and attract additional capital.
During the next five months, an initial $25,000 grant helps Brendan and I with the time to:
Focus our efforts wholeheartedly on Eariously. Since September, we have been bootstrapping, while working other jobs. This time will cement a fully sellable product (at college campuses and elsewhere).
Raise $75,000 in seed funding. (We both have experience raising money in the past, and feel confident in our ability to do so. We have a list of folks who are highly interested)
Secure our first set of contracts. By September, we are assuming signing two college/university campuses, two secondary school campuses, and one non-education business.
During the spring and summer, we believe that we can build processes that allow our software to scale as a turnkey solution.
During the summer, we plan to find > 25 colleges where students have an interest in spreading Eariously at their respective campus.
Based on our prototyping in 2018 and thus far in 2019, we will have created processes for one student to systematically spread Eariously throughout a campus.
Because school administrators predominantly make buying decisions on student demands, we believe this strategy will help us to find 10 paying campuses by January 2020.
By January 2020, we believe our ability to scale can be replicated outside of the education market, as well. We assume that we’ll begin adding non-education businesses this time period.
Within two years, based on our financial projections, MTI funding helps us to create:
Four jobs (including three software developers)
> 25 Paid internships for college students in Maine and elsewhere
A new technology company in central Maine (Waterville)
Sustainably growing subscription revenue (~$45,000/month at the end of the two year period from ~75 customers)