(Image courtesy of e2)
Paul knows, from his own rocky path into the startup world, that there is no easy guide to becoming a founder. Still, he thinks entrepreneurs of color could stand to be more in the know.
Before he decided to launch an education startup, Paul was working for management consulting company Accenture.
One day, they asked him to work with PL/SQL. “That’s when I was like, nope, I’m done,” he said.
To gain more experience in education he then taught for two months at H.D. Woodson STEM High School through the DC Teaching Fellows program. There, he focused on “project-based learning,” which landed him in some hot water. “I threw out the curriculum,” he said. “I didn’t even get to complete the summer.”
After these trials and tribulations, he finally launched his edtech startup, Urban Mind with cofounder Gilberto Hernandez in September 2011. The company produced eduStream, a data-driven education app, for nonprofit We The Readers.
But eventually, that project flailed. “He went to become a teacher; I went back to get a job in IT consulting,” said Paul.
The underlying problem with his startup adventure, he found, is that “you need funding and time to be able to do that freely,” Paul said. “Friends and family round? You just don’t have that.”
After learning to code and starting the DC Co-Learning Lab meetup, Paul decided to give entrepreneurship another go.
With e2, he began advising, mentoring and connecting more and more entrepreneurs, helping them avoid the mistakes he’d made. “We’re trying to help bring more inclusion in the startup community,” he said.
“Don’t build anything that customers don’t want,” he told them. “Test it out.” But he found that many entrepreneurs without the connections had no idea how to make a prototype. “I saw the same problem all the time,” Paul said.
"We're trying to help bring more inclusion in the startup community."
So he decided to automate the process of helping entrepreneurs work through their pitches.
In September, e2 launched PitchLove, an app that crowdsources input and advice on pitches. (One early adopter of PitchLove was Hello Tractor, a sharing platform that was based out of coworking space The Hive 2.0.)
Paul is now working with a small core team and three interns (freshmen and sophomores, but Paul, the only full-time employee at e2, is a silver lining enthusiast: “older students get caught up in … the theory and algorithm and languages that people don’t use anymore”). They’re planning on releasing a new version of the app in early March.
Paul moved into the coworking space at Disruption Corporation‘s Crystal City offices on Monday. “It takes time to build the relationships, to figure out how to get through and navigate,” he said. The question is: “How do I get that first relationship?”
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