Ep. #1112 - The Ups, Downs, and Turnarounds of Startup Life
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, get an inside look at the rollercoaster ride known as startup life. Lauren Conaway is joined by Edna Martinson, co-Founder of Boddle Learning. Hear their take on the EdTech space and the effect of the pandemic on its development. And explore the realities an early-stage startup faces while trying to stay true to its mission and purpose.
Want to learn more about Tulsa’s startup scene specifically? Recently, our top Tulsa startup picks were featured on Inc.com, handpicked by expert entrepreneur Matt DeCoursey. Join us to discover the latest trends and up-and-coming startups in Tulsa!
Covered In This Episode
The gamification of learning is a concept that has been introduced previously. However, the space has seen little development until Edna, Clarence, and the whole gang at Boddle Learning decided to dive into it.
Check out what their company is doing to make learning fun and exciting. Take note of how they found their funding, built a tech product as a non-tech founder, and conquered the challenges of being a startup.
All of these and more are talked about by Lauren and Edna. Tune in to this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Edna’s journey to entrepreneurship (02:15)
- Did the pandemic boost EdTech? (04:16)
- The conception story of Boddle Learning (08:01)
- What is Boddle Learning? (10:00)
- The gamification of learning is not a new concept (10:57)
- The Lean Lab Program and beta testing with educators (12:59)
- Getting honest and brutal feedback (17:02)
- Building a tech company as a non-tech founder (19:02)
- What was the fundraising process like from the beginning? (22:32)
- Finding the right investors (27:01)
- Staying strong to your sense of purpose (29:12)
- Challenges in the early stages of the company (30:02)
- Amazing moments with Boddle Learning (34:31)
- What’s in store for Boddle Learning? (36:57)
The kids are excited about math because we’re delivering it through a fun and interactive gaming format.– Edna Martinson
I love to listen to other people introduce us because that is how I find out what we are messaging. What are people picking up? And what is most valuable to our audience and our constituents?– Lauren Conaway
Once we started to get one win, two wins, it was really the network that would want us to. [That] opened us up to more opportunities because, at the end of the day, it is just about the relationships you’re building.– Edna Martinson
Get more ups than downs when developing your software. Trust the experts at Full Scale to make that happen for you. Full Scale has highly experienced developers, testers, and leaders ready to work long-term for you. And the platform to help you manage your team. Recruit the best people now!
We also have our Startup Hustle partners on standby. They have services that may fit your needs today. Make time to check them out.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Lauren Conaway 00:01
And we’re back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host, Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC. And I would be remiss, friends, if I didn’t tell you that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult, but Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And they have the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. All right, friends, we have actually talked about today’s guest on the show on Startup Hustle many, many, many times. Edna Martinson is the co-founder of Boddle Learning and EdTech software. And we’re going to learn more about that. But I just want you to know that Matt DeCoursey and I have literally had a conversation about the fact that Clarence Tan and Edna Martinson, founders of Boddle Learning, used to live in Kansas City, and we love them. We just love them. They’re doing incredible work. They’re amazing founders; they’re doing the deal. They’re making it happen. And now, they don’t live in Kansas City anymore. And it breaks our hearts a little bit. So I am extremely proud and glad to introduce you to Edna Martinson. Hey, Edna, thank you so much. Oh, how are you?
Edna Martinson 01:20
Hi. Thank you for having me.
Lauren Conaway 01:23
For sure, I am so excited about this. But I’m just gonna go ahead and hop right into it. I’m gonna ask you the perennial question. Tell us about your journey.
Edna Martinson 01:35
Okay, tell us about your journey. So I feel like I should mention this because I’m always really proud of where I come from. So I was born in Uganda, and I grew up in Ghana, West Africa. That’s where my dad is from. And I came to the US in 2009 for college. I came when I was 16 years old. A big thing for me when I was growing up, was sort of that door that education had opened up for me. So I finished high school early, and I knew I could get into college early if I’d studied really hard for the SATs. And so that always played a really big role for me in my life. So the reason I was able to end this is every international student can relate to this, you know, people are like, oh my gosh, like you got your undergrad and then your MBA. And really, it was like, just how am I going to stay in America? Okay, let me go get an MBA. And so education really has a big part of my life. And I was really passionate; I met Clarence Tan, who’s also my husband, in 2015 or 16.
Lauren Conaway 02:42
You also have a very, very adorable young one, by the way. I see the pictures on social media.
Edna Martinson 02:52
If I continue, one year old, until we succeed after grad school, I will meet Clarence. During grad school, he was a game designer; he was super passionate about games. And we’re both really passionate about the intersection between games and education. But what impact can games have in the education space when you’re delivering learning to kids through a medium that they absolutely love and enjoy? How can that help to improve their outcomes? And that was really the start of our journey to building Boddle. And we started modeling in Kansas City. Even though we don’t live there anymore, we still have our home there. And we’re in Kansas City a lot, especially when the weather gets warmer.
Lauren Conaway 03:36
So you can hear me scoffing when I say that. I was like, no, we miss you. I mean, we used to see you, you and Clarence, you know, in entrepreneurial events and things like that all over the place. And so your absence is felt; I don’t know if that is communicated to you, but it is. So I love what Boddle does, and I love what Boddle represents. But first things first, I’m gonna zoom us out just a little bit. And I’m going to talk about the education landscape. And so I think, you know because I think you and I first met when I was still working for an organization that has a focus on experiential, entrepreneurial education. And so I was very interested in what Boddle had to offer. But one of the things that I noticed during my time within the education space, such as it was like, I’ve never been an educator, but I was just kind of tangentially related to it. But one of the things that we talked about a lot was the fact that our education system struggles in some ways, and employees know that, yeah, I give all the love in the world to educators out there. You do incredible work with very few resources and very little support. And I think all of that needs to change. But the fact is, we are still educating our children in ways that we educated our children 100 years ago. You know, we still have educational pedagogy and paradigms that they’re very old, and they don’t necessarily still reflect the way that not only the way that our students actually learn but the Society for which we are preparing them, right? Or that we’re preparing them for. And so there’s this news, I don’t even know if it’s new, but it’s coming to the public consciousness. Is this idea of experiential education? How do you involve your students in real-world learning so that they can take the skills learned in a safe place but then apply them when they matriculate, graduate, go on to college, go on to trades, whatever it is, so is that kind of accurate? Setting the stage? Do you agree?
Edna Martinson 05:51
Um, no, yeah, absolutely. Especially when you talk about, you know, sort of, the trends in education and how slow it’s been to innovate in that space. And we saw the field very much come to like a reckoning during COVID. Because all of a sudden, it’s like, all the kids have to learn remotely now. And, you know, teachers have to be given the tools to be able to educate kids in remote settings. And all of a sudden, the, you know, education industry was kind of turned over its head and needed to catch up really quickly. And so you did start to see a lot more like Ed Tech being implemented into the classrooms. But still, it was being done. We were in a pandemic crisis mode, you know what I mean? And so a lot of the things that were being implemented, even like the time it was taking, for teachers to get those things implemented, everything was sort of, you know, rushed, in a sense. And I think we still have a long way to go; it’s great that you still see tech continue to be implemented as kids have gone back in person. But there is still definitely a long way to go to kind of catch up and make sure that we’re educating kids in a way that does prepare them better for the world, but there are definitely two.
Lauren Conaway 07:08
Exactly. Well, so. So enter, Boddle. Now talk to us about Boddle Learning; I’d be really interested to hear how you were inspired to start this beautiful piece of tech. Let’s hear a little bit about that.
Edna Martinson 07:21
Um, yeah, so I’ve mentioned that Clarence and I are both really passionate about that intersection of games and education. Yeah, when we first started, we actually just had a basic sort of prototype. We had gone into an after-school program, actually, in Kansas City, Kansas. And we were working with the kids over there. And that was like a big moment for me when, you know, kind of trying to figure out what I’m building actually, like, useful or impactful? And back then, I mean, this prototype was nothing to write home about, right. But this, this student and they are right, like they never really are, when we’re talking about going to market.
Lauren Conaway 07:59
I think there’s that saying out there that, like, if you’re releasing your product when it’s perfect, you’re releasing it too late, right?
Edna Martinson 08:09
Lauren Conaway 08:13
Continue, like so. So it was a hot mess. But you have the pillars, and you have the direction, and he kind of knew what you were trying to build.
Edna Martinson 08:21
Yeah, exactly. And so we went into this classroom, and they’d been testing it out. And after school, the school director told us she was like, Oh, my goodness, this student is never enthusiastic about math class or last time. And now they’re really excited. Like, they’re excited to do it on Boddle. And that was sort of a moment for me where it’s like, whoa, like, the kids are excited about math because we’re delivering it through a fun and interactive, you know, gaming format. And so that’s when it was like, okay, yes, let’s, let’s continue in this direction. Let’s continue to get as much feedback as we can from educators and from the kids themselves and keep building it, you know, better and better.
Lauren Conaway 09:01
Yeah, well, so I have never actually used the Boddle tool. I’ve seen screenshots I’ve seen kind of like a user, I’ve seen you pitch multiple times, actually, you and Clarence, and so I kind of have a basic understanding of it. But for our listeners, what exactly is Boddle?
Edna Martinson 09:20
That’s a great question. So Boddle is a gaming platform for education. And we’re focused on building really fun and interactive 3D games. Think about the type of games that kids play outside of the classroom, just for, you know, entertainment, and then finding pockets in there to infuse learning content, and then tie. You know, we’re very specific about how we design our game design so that we’re tying learning incentives to game incentives as well. And right now, we’re focused on kindergarten through sixth-grade math and English, but we really built a platform up to where any type of Khan 10 can be delivered through it. So there’s a game. And then, there’s a teacher and parent portal where teachers and parents can assign content, views, and student progress, as well. And then personalized learning because we know that in a classroom of 30 kids, not all kids are on the same learning level.
Lauren Conaway 10:17
Yeah, well, and so that is absolutely fabulous. But the fact is, like gamification of learning, it’s not necessarily a super new concept, like I’m thinking of, you know, where in the world is Carmen Sandiego. Like, to this day, I still know where certain countries are and what their capitals are because of Carmen Sandiego or, you know, the Oregon trail that was there; I’m aging myself a little bit. But Oregon Trail when I was in school, like that was a big deal, to be able to play this game that taught you about the history of pioneer life. And like I still to this day, I know what dysentery is, and it’s probably because of the Oregon Trail, you know? So it’s not a new concept. But are you finding, it sounds like, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re finding better adoption avenues, like finding teachers who are really, really ready and able to buy into this idea that if we make learning fun, kids will learn better, right? Why right? Do you think that’s true?
Edna Martinson 11:19
Absolutely. But that, along with delivering it in a game format, that’s a little different. So, for example, if you think like, What in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Or Oregon Trail; they’re very specific, like gameplay designed around specific learning topics, right? And now we’re kind of flipping it to where it’s like, how do we put just fun and interactive games, you know, we’ve got, like, multiplayer games that kids can play together. But like, for example, if I was, if I was learning Spanish, and you were learning science, we could still play together the same game, but you would get your science content, and I would get my Spanish content. So it’s sort of building up this library of games if you will, that kids have their Boddle characters that they can jump from game to game to and learn, and their learning progress follows them. So you can learn whatever you want. So imagine being able to learn whatever you want while playing Oregon Trail, essentially.
Lauren Conaway 12:19
Yeah. Well, I mean, I would love that I always love those games growing up. Now you’re in a little bit of trouble, Edna. And I don’t know if you knew. But first things first, because he left Kansas City, and it broke my heart a little bit. So Big hugs, we miss you. But secondly, because I actually had a front-row seat to parts of your journey. And so I’m here to, like, pick your brain about them. So one of the things that I know that you avail yourself of is the lien lab program. Right? That’s actually; I believe that happened fairly, fairly early on in your evolution. So talk to us about that opportunity and how it helps you to develop and deploy this product.
Edna Martinson 13:03
Yeah, I’m, so shout out to the Lean lab team because they’re awesome. And I love that lean lab focuses on this sort of; I hope I’m saying this right, but like code design framework, right. And it’s like bringing educators to the table when you talk about designing tech products. So it sounded like an incredible opportunity. If we could bring Boddle to the table and sit alongside educators who would pilot and give us some great feedback on, like, this is what’s great, this is what could be changed because then we know that we’re actually building a product that’s going to be making an impact and that they’re actually going to use and love. And so that experience was awesome for us because we got to pilot it with classrooms in Kansas City and get real feedback from teachers on things like, what they love, and what they want to change. So yeah, that was a big part of our, like, early growth story.
Lauren Conaway 13:58
Yeah. So in those sessions when you were working with these educators, and I love the fact that you were beta testing with these educators and their students, what kind of feedback were you receiving that you then acted on?
Edna Martinson 14:14
Yeah, um, so this is one they said, too many emails. Emails to teachers like this, I can use Boddle for Boddle do this with Bob, and they were just like, the emails are too much, y’all. So now we know. We have a lot better, like open rate, on our emails, and we’re not sending that many unless it’s something really necessary for teachers. So we don’t have like, you know, huge unsubscribes, so that was really helpful. Number one, too, it was great to just know the use cases because we built something, and we’re like, oh, this is going to be so great for homework, right? And then we realized, wow, they’re using it in math, rotation stations and as like an early finisher for the kids who have finished, you know, their work early. It’s like jumping on a Boddle. And so finding out all those use cases helped us tremendously, even in marketing. Because now when we’re talking to other teachers, we’re like, here’s, here are some other use cases for a Boddle. And teachers were just having fun at it.
Lauren Conaway 15:14
Yeah, well, and that would be really, really, really helpful. And this is a little bit of, you know, free advice for our listeners. But one of my favorite things to do with InnovateHER is that you’re actually an innovator member; by the by, I believe you still are. But one of the things that I love to do is I love to listen to other people introduce us because that is how I find out, like, what are we messaging? What are people picking up, and what is most valuable to our audience and our constituents? And so you actually got to do that on a very granular scale, like speaking directly to the students and the educators that you want to serve. Right. So I love that. That’s an amazing piece of market research right there. So kudos on figuring that out. So you go through the Lean Lab, you make some adjustments, and you’re building this product, and the thing about entrepreneurial development is like it’s a constant reiterative process, right? Or at least it seems so on the outside looking in. Talk to us about that. How did you decide where to go next with the product?
Edna Martinson 16:22
Yeah, a lot of it was based on the feedback that we were getting. So, for example, we even launched in early 2020. And it was just a web version. So there was nothing like iOS and Android. And we kept getting messages from, you know, teachers who were using iPads in the classroom, like, hey, we would love to use it, but we can’t. So that prompted us, I’m like, Okay, we need to have an iOS version for this. At the time, we only had a teacher portal. And parents were still signing up for the teacher portal. But you know, it was just so complicated for them; they had to create a classroom for just one child. And so we realized, oh, we need a parent portal that makes it a lot easier for parents to kind of track their child’s progress as well. Yeah. And then, from kids to kids, kids give me the most brutally honest feedback on what they like and what they don’t like, or that was also in terms of the gameplay.
Lauren Conaway 17:17
Okay, so just out of curiosity, this is really just me asking because I want to know, but like, when kids give you that, like, really brutally honest feedback, is a lot of it actionable because I’m imagining, like, this game sucks. And it’s like, well, that’s cool. I don’t know what you can do with that. You know, where you’re getting, like, really specific feedback from the kids?
Edna Martinson 17:39
Um, so actually, yes, there’s definitely some of those that were, you know, a little less actionable. Like, I don’t know what we can do about this, but especially when it comes to, like, what do they want? Oh, my goodness. It’s like this. We want a game that we can play with our friends, like multiplayer. Oh, you should add outfits that are like an ice cream outfit and, like, a wizard outfit. And so they’re, you know, they’re very vocal when it comes to like, what to see, I think what’s harder is and getting their feedback on is like, what do you, not like? And how would you want it to change then it’s kind of like, ah, they, especially younger kids, it’s that’s harder for them. But if they know exactly what they want, they’ll let you know.
Lauren Conaway 18:22
Yeah, for sure. I have noticed that, as well as someone who has gotten brutally honest feedback from staff. Just like, Okay, this is exactly what I want. But sometimes, it hurts my feelings. At any rate, so, So you are building, you’re building a tech product. So you mentioned that Clarence has a background in building games. And I feel like he’s a tech guy. Are you a technical founder?
Edna Martinson 18:51
I am not a technical founder, which came with a lot of imposter syndrome around, you know, being co-founder of a tech company. But yeah, Clarence has that background in game design. And my background has been in marketing and operations.
Lauren Conaway 19:04
Okay. These are all very useful skills for startups to have. What it was like having to build a team is having to build software development, I guess, an avenue to develop this tool. What was that? Like? Was it tough?
Edna Martinson 19:24
For me, yes, I that 100%. It was. I think there was just a lot that I had to learn in terms of, like, coming from a nontechnical founder, right? I had never made a sprint like, somebody had even explained to me what a sprint was or even just trying to figure out in terms of, like, I knew what we needed, right? We need somebody who understands unity to help us build on the game side, but understanding even the processes around the development team and making sure you have proper documentation like that’s all the stuff I was learning As we were going, so definitely made a lot of mistakes along the way. But at the end of the day, I think luckily for us, I mean, as long as you have enough, like a runway to learn, like you keep improving and get there.
Lauren Conaway 20:16
For sure, well, so I think we all know that finding expert software developers can be really, really difficult, but it doesn’t have to be, especially when you visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. I love that affordable piece. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and then see what available developers, testers, and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Friends, we are here today with Edna Martinson, one of the co-founders of Boddle Learning. And we’ve talked about, you know, some of the challenges and some of the struggles; we talked about that user feedback. But one of the things that I really, really, really want to talk to you about is your successes because another thing that I know about your history is that you’ve gotten some pretty well-known, some pretty well-known funders and supporters and advocates, tabac your clay, and I want to talk to you about that a little bit like I think I remember the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave you a pretty significant grant maybe.
Edna Martinson 21:26
If I remember correctly, it was not a grant, but they didn’t want to go to this conference; ASU GSV Google did give us a grant. Yes.
Lauren Conaway 21:35
Yeah, I have to say you, you have done something that a lot of tech product founders find very, very difficult. You have raised money with pretty high-profile organizations. Can you talk to us about that process and what it felt like?
Edna Martinson 21:52
Yeah, I can probably even start from, you know, the beginning when we were in Kansas City, still kind of building the product and piling piloting it before launch. A big thing for me because Clarence and I are the ones who write all the grants. So it was just like, every night, almost every night, and lots of the weekend spending time, like looking up grant opportunities, seeing what we can apply for any pitch competitions. And so it was a lot that I don’t know how many we even apply to, but we would keep an application library of like, okay, and, you know, apply for this, save the answers there, if we get rejected, put them in the rejection pile, and we got rejected a lot. But I think once we started to get a few yeses, then it started to open up the network. Because what’s great is for Google, we got into the Google for Startups program, which opened up our network to, you know, the Google network and other founders that were going through the program. And then I found out about other opportunities like we did Pharrell Williams, black ambition, and 150 $1,000 prize with them. And we’re part of their first cohort. And so I just feel like once, once we started to get like, one win two wins, it was really the network that would want us to, and which opened us up to more opportunities, because, at the end of the day, it really is just about, like, the relationships that you’re building.
Lauren Conaway 23:17
Yeah. I absolutely, totally see that. And one of the things that we talk about in entrepreneurial circles here in Kansas City, and I can’t imagine that it’s super different in a lot of different cities across the country. But we talk about that deal flow piece where once you get the Okay for one person, it then becomes easier for you for that network that you’re building. It’s almost like it gives you some legitimacy. And if you’re dealing with risk-averse investors to see somebody else, take the plunge and just do the thing and give you the money. It opens up all kinds of doors. And so it sounds like that’s kind of what you experienced like you just needed to get one or two. And then from that point forward, it became much easier to fundraise because you had already kind of proven out that people think that was investable, right? Yep. Yeah. So I love that I am one of my, I guess, kind of struggles with that is like, you know, you got to find that person to take the plunge. So what did that look like? You said, you said that you applied for a lot of grants and you got a lot of rejections. But as you were kind of moving through these processes, how did you refine your grants, finding, applying, you know, follow up relationship building processes? What did they look like when you started? Versus now that you are, I mean, you’re seen as a very, very credible, very up-and-coming startup, for sure. You know, you’re in a very different place now than when you started. So how did your fundraising process change from beginning to end?
Edna Martinson 24:58
Yeah, so in the beginning, It was a lot of just finding applications and focusing a lot on things like answering just every application the same way. And I realized I couldn’t do that. And I need to think deeper on, like, what are they, you know, looking for, like we got into the first big accelerator, we got into as 18 t’s aspire, with Sondra and Amy, who are incredible individuals. And they were leading the program. And I think what we did well in that application was really looking at, like, oh, for the past companies that 18 T aspire had funded and accepted in the accelerator, really looking through like their whatever was on the site and like, what are they looking for, and then seeing how to tailor app application to that, while still staying true to who Boddle is. And I think that really helped a lot. I also started reaching out to other founders who had gone through programs or gotten grant funding or were in a portfolio of specific investors I wanted to chat with and just ask them like, Hey, how was the process for you? And getting that feedback was really helpful as well because then I understood, like, I understood what they were looking for better, and I could tailor the way I was applying and writing things out to really meet what they’re looking for.
Lauren Conaway 26:21
Okay, well, so you said two really interesting things in there. So I’m going to call out one, and I’m just going to say, hey, founders listening at home, make sure that you are applying for grants that fit within your wheelhouse. And that, you know, you feel that you’re able to deliver on what the grantor is looking for. I really liked that as a piece of advice, like making sure that you’re tailoring your grant applications for each individual organization and what they have to offer. So I love that. The other piece that I kind of want to call out a little bit is the fact that you stayed strong. What you said was you were like, without compromising Boddle. And so I just kind of want to call out what exactly did you mean by that? I’m going to ask you; I’m not gonna say it.
Edna Martinson 27:09
That means not finding an I’m just gonna pick something random, like, Department of Defense grant, you know, and being like, how can I make Boddle fit this department of the grant and completely go a different direction of, like, what we’re trying to build. So as you said, there has to be a grant that fits into the wheelhouse of what we’re doing, and then just, you know, aligning our application to what they’re looking for.
Lauren Conaway 27:33
Yeah, well, so dollars are sexy. And like, we know that, but in the impact space, the space that I operate within, like I don’t have any tech products, but I can tell you that in the impact space, we call that mission creep, where you’re trying to find funding, you’re trying to find supporters. And so you’re changing what makes you you, you’re changing your foundational values, ethics, your stated beliefs, and practices, because you’re chasing after the almighty dollar, which, believe you, friends, I get it, I understand it. But I think that one of the things that’s most impressive about Boddle and one of the things that our founders really have to put focus on is like, you know, we have to stay true. Like we determined our values, we determined what we stand for, and we determined what we want to accomplish. And we cannot allow outside forces to change that. And it sounds like that’s what you did with Boddle. How do you do it? That’s like, well done; I’m gonna clap my hands for you. But how do you feel about that staying so strong and your sense of purpose?
Edna Martinson 28:32
Yeah, it was a big thing for us. And I think what’s beneficial for every company is to go through that, like really finding your core values, both like internally for the team that you want to build because that’s so important. Like the team you build, that’s gonna help build your product if it matters so much. And then, like, around your company, and like you said, like your mission. And values I love specifically for teams like Netflix are really good; I don’t know what they call it. But like their core, it, maybe just Google Netflix core values, but they have it spelled out really, really well. So that was something that was really interesting to read and meet us to put a focus on, like, we want to make sure we know what our core values are as a team. And then, like, we want to make sure we know fully as a company where we’re going and what we stand for.
Lauren Conaway 29:22
Yeah, well, I love that. And I, as someone who’s kind of been watching your journey for a while, like I’ve definitely seen you hold your ideals and your beliefs and your purpose very, very closely. And I really do admire that. So I’m going to ask you, I’m going to ask you the worst question, and then I’m going to ask you the best question. But talk to us about a time when you felt challenged as an entrepreneur like Ty. I mean, we all know that entrepreneurship is hard. Sometimes it’s total bullshit. But talk to us. Talk to us about that. What were some of the challenges that you and Clarence experienced on the journey?
Edna Martinson 29:58
Um, there are so many, literally, this week.
Lauren Conaway 30:04H
Honestly, we could talk about this for like five hours, no problem, but just pick a couple.
Edna Martinson 30:10
I think here’s one that I’ll pick when we were raising our pre-seed round. I mean, we had a product that teachers seemed to love. You know, we’re getting users on the platform, but then we’re trying to raise around so we can keep growing. But in the back end, when we really started digging into the data that this was, like 20, early, no, this was 2020, this was late 2020, really started digging into the data, we realized that we weren’t retaining users, right. And that’s a big thing. You bring a whole bunch of people into the top funnel seems awesome. But if you’re not retaining them, then you just have this big leaky bucket. And so was the first day that we fully dug into the data. And we’re like, shit, like, we really don’t have that many users like constantly using Boddle. That was really hard, but then it was, like, right at the time where we had all these investor calls back to back. So when I’m going into these meetings, I’m supposed to be really enthusiastic about this company, but I can’t get it out of the back of my head that, like, we have this huge leaky bucket. So that was really hard. And actually, even in that time, like, trying to wrestle with, hey, we need investors to give us a check number one, but then also, who can come alongside us and really help us grow? And so even just wrestling with like, do we just like, this is the first conversation I don’t want to just tell you, we have this huge leaky bucket, but also, I want to be completely honest with you, you know, if you’re gonna move forward and invest, and so that was like a really, really challenging season. And then I think, at the same time, and lots of companies can resonate with this, when you’re like, when your product goes down, you know, you’ve got some downtime, and you’re trying to get it back up, you know because something crashed, we went through another season where it was like, tons of users were rushing in, which is awesome. But then we just couldn’t handle the scale. So we kept crashing. And again, around that time, it was like having these investor conversations. And it’s literally like, the conversation starts, like, Hi, Hello, nice to meet you at night. And then I look across my phone, and I see a Slack message come on like the game is down. And I’m like, No, I just want to. And then I was supposed to keep going in this conversation. So those are really, really hard times where they’re really out of that now we’ve got like almost a million monthly active users, which is awesome because, at that time, it was like 2000 monthly active users. So we’re doing a lot better, but that was a very, very stressful time.
Lauren Conaway 32:44
I bet. I mean, of course, it is. And I mean, honestly, I feel as though stress is like that. I feel like that’s the foundation of every founder’s life like you; as an entrepreneur, you are always going to have a baseline level of stress. But when it jumps up, and you have everything kind of hitting the fan, and everything’s going wrong at once like that, stress increases exponentially, but it increases or decreases your ability to do the thing. It becomes just that much harder to actually do the work because you’re in such a tough mindset. And like I’ve experienced it, pretty much every founder I have ever met in my life is just like, you know, it’s a mindset that builds around what you’re actually trying to accomplish. So I hear that I give you, like, I’m actually giving you, like, just right now. But I’ll give you a hug for that. Let’s talk about the flip side of the coin. What are some pretty cool, amazing moments that you’ve had with Boddle? I really want to hear this. This one’s gonna make me happy, which is why I saved it for last.
Edna Martinson 33:51
Awesome. Um, well, let’s see. I think in early 2021, we made several hires and really built out our development team. That was such a really great time. Recently, we were able to bring a lot of our team in the US down to Tulsa to just get together. And that’s awesome. Just like all being in one room and looking around like, Wow, this is incredible. Like we get to be here together as a team. That was great. I think we started doing these weeks last year in December in January, and this year, in January, we did these virtual career days where we went to classrooms virtually to talk to them about how we built the game and asked the students questions. And like so many students’ faces like we just when they saw us pop up on the screen. It was like the best feeling ever, like, oh, like, and they just knew everything we’re telling us, like, I have these many knowledge points in the game, and this is what level I’m at. And it’s just so crazy to see kids kind of relate to it the way I would relate to a game that I loved when I was younger. We got to go to one classroom in person, And at the end of our talk, this child comes up to Clarence, and he’s like, he has little papers like, can I have your autograph? It was the sweetest moment.
Lauren Conaway 35:10
I love that so much that it makes me like you’re like, like, sign it, and then this little kid we went to a second-grade class.
Edna Martinson 35:15
He looks at me and says, You just scribble like scribbles.
Lauren Conaway 35:28
That is so cute. Well, it will tell me I love that story so much. It makes me really happy. And next time I see you and Clarence, and we’re gonna be like, Can I have your autograph? Like I’m kind of like, but talk to us about the future of Boddle like you’re in. You’re in Tulsa. No, are you? You’re in Oklahoma. I’m like, I’m not sure which city you’re in. But you’re in Tulsa now. And so you are availing yourself. We actually just Matt and I have recorded an episode where we talked about Tulsa stop startups. I think that’s actually our interview. But we did. It’s really incredible what Tulsa is doing to shore up its entrepreneurial community and its ecosystem. They’re doing some really cool stuff. You’re in Tulsa. Now. Talk to us about the next steps. What direction are you heading with Boddle? Yeah.
Edna Martinson 36:17
Before I say that, I just want to say thank you to you all on the team for highlighting the startups in Tulsa. This really does mean a lot to like the community here to have that. That was awesome.
Lauren Conaway 36:31
Matt and I are a little bitter about it. Because we’ve seen multiple founders go from Kansas City to Tulsa, and we’re just like, Can you give back our rock stars? Can we have him back? And then they’re like, No, not until you start doing awesome stuff like this. And I’m just like, Well, shit. All right. Continue.
Edna Martinson 36:49
Um, so Tulsa and northwest Arkansas, there’s a lot of they’re starting to do a lot of stuff together. And it’s nice because it’s only like an hour and a half away. And I really want to like the Kansas City ecosystem and Tulsa ecosystem. Oh, you literally have Northwest Arkansas.
Lauren Conaway 37:04
I met with some folks from Endeavor, which is a northwest Arkansas entrepreneurial organization, and ESO, and I literally have a book or booklet on my desk right now that says Mapping Northwest Arkansas, a network analysis of the entrepreneurship Community. Because we’re gonna start seeing that shine. I’m like, let’s start doing these things. Continue.
Edna Martinson 37:26
What was the happiest was when the KC ecosystem and Tulsa ecosystems were doing a lot of stuff together, which you guys have already. Like, I feel like creating this bridge by highlighting the Tulsa startups. So thank you for that. So yes, future Boddle, a big thing for us is building out more social gaming features. And so we know kids love to interact with each other socially online. And so making it where there’s a lot more social interaction on Boddle. And then the second thing is opening it up to, you know, more than math and English because right now, people really look at Boddle and dislike math as an English platform. But once our plan is really to open that up to where it’s the platform, when a kid says like, oh, I want to learn something in a fun way, like they think Boddle first, and they can go in and find any topic. And so opening that up for publishers and teachers to put their own content is a big part of the next steps.
Lauren Conaway 38:25
Yeah, well, well, I love that. And I cannot wait to see it. And, of course, it has been wonderful talking to you. But we are now it is now time for the human question. And I’ve asked you some pretty like; I feel like they were complex questions at points. So I’m gonna take it real easy on you for the human question. Are you ready?
Edna Martinson 38:46
Lauren Conaway 38:47
What are you doing right now? What are you reading?
Edna Martinson 38:50
Am I reading right now? I’m reading The Five Dysfunctions of A Team.
Lauren Conaway 38:56
Okay, so talk to us a little bit about that. Are you enjoying it? Have you picked up any fun? Fun knowledge?
Edna Martinson 39:04
Um, that’s a good question. I literally just started a few days ago, so I’m not very far along. I have read the foreword.
Lauren Conaway 39:10
Okay. That’s totally cool. Sometimes that’s all you can ask of yourself. Like, you know, I’m just gonna read this when I can. So that’s The Five Dysfunctions of A Team. Is that what it’s called?
Edna Martinson 39:24
Yep. That’s what it’s called. Okay.
Lauren Conaway 39:25
All right. So I’m gonna go ahead and add that to my reading list. And, Edna, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to chat with us. It’s always a pleasure, my friend.
Edna Martinson 39:34
Having news is awesome.
Lauren Conaway 39:37
For sure. And friends, we are so glad that you come back and listen to us week after week. I want to remind you that if you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders, Full Scale can help. They have the people and the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io, all you need to do is answer just a few questions. And then, let the platform match you up with fully vetted, highly experienced software engineers, testers, and leaders. Full Scale specializes in building long-term teams that work only for you. Learn more when you visit FullScale.io. And friends, I know that we have talked a little bit about Tulsa in this recording, and I’m gonna go ahead and point you to our top startup episodes. Usually, it’s me and Matt, or Matt and Matt, but we do top startups. And we travel around the country trying to find awesome startups and communities. I’m going to point you to the top startups in Tulsa. It was a great episode; Matt and I recorded it. And I would ask you to take a look at it because we do mention Boddle Learning as well as some really incredible founders and companies that are doing some great work. So definitely keep an eye out for that. Again, thank you so much for keeping us on your playlist. You know, we love to hear from you. We love our audience. Keep on coming back, and we will catch you next time.