Just because a pitch is tough doesn’t mean it won’t payoff, said Clarence Tan.
“Smiles will take you miles,” Tan, CEO and cofounder of Boddle Learning, said of his and co-founder Edna Martinson’s latest pitch at the AT&T Pitches and Purpose contest in San Francisco — the pair’s most difficult presentation to date, they said — during the close of the AT&T Aspire Accelerator.
Click here to read more about Boddle’s participation in the Aspire accelerator, which also included a $100,000 investment from AT&T.
Chalk full of big wigs like Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and packed with guests from around the world, the cohort’s final showcase ultimately brought Boddle — a platform that gamifies math practice and assessments using adaptive learning — an additional $25,000 injection as the winner of the AT&T Aspire audience award, Tan noted.
The win was a direct result of perseverance and wouldn’t have come without the guidance of Martinson, Tan explained.
“To most of the people who have met Edna, they see her as a super sweet and agreeable person,” he said of his business partner and wife.
“…In between [my] poorly done pitch at rehearsal and the final pitch, she was flat-out honest, with little blows spared, and got me to notice and fix everything from tone, specific inflections, sounding ‘too rehearsed’ and stretched me way out of my comfort-zone,” he recalled of ways his pitch of the EdTech company took new form.
“The end-result was a pitch that felt like someone’s close friend telling a story — at least that was what I was told by the audience afterwards,” Tan said.
A mission-first team, the win is a testament to the couple’s commitment to building Boddle and making life easier for students and teachers, Tan added.
“We seldom have disagreements when it comes to difficult decisions because there is usually a clear choice that points to the ‘right thing to do,’” he said. “I wouldn’t quite call it a culture just yet, but this attitude gives us very little room for excuses when it comes to uncomfortable tasks.”
One task that won’t bring debate for Boddle: expansion, Tan said. The prize money will allow the startup to grow its team.
“We’re bringing on team members for sales and curriculum and learning sciences,” he said. “We have some amazing and dedicated individuals helping us with those roles along the way and this additional prize money will get us one step closer to [hiring them] on a more permanent basis.”
“We have had amazing support from the Kansas City entrepreneurial community, which we are so grateful for. [I’d like to give] a special shout out to ECJC’s Pitch Perfect for coming in with the early prep-work, amazing mentors, and coaches,” Tan said, highlighting local resources that prepared Boddle for a run in the Aspire accelerator and that have positioned the company for growth in 2020.
“At this stage, Boddle is ready to serve more elementary teachers and students in Kansas City, so introductions and meetings with principals, teachers, curriculum and math directors, and other decision makers would help us make a bigger impact in our Kansas City classrooms,” he added, noting ways the community could help Boddle further gain momentum.
“They say the first dollar is the hardest and it would have been much harder for us to get that without AT&T Aspire’s guidance and help,” Tan said. “The accelerator was definitely the second best highlight of 2019 — second to our wedding, of course.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.