Meet Solomon Sashi – Co-Founder and CEO of BlocksCAD, an edtech company dedicated to changing how students learn STEAM and Coding through innovative software!
GH: What is BlocksCAD?
BlocksCAd is an edtech company dedicated to changing how students learn STEAM and Coding through innovative software. Our signature product, BlocksCAD, is a new modeling software tool that gets students excited about using 3D printers while providing teachers the support they need to impact student learning.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did BlocksCAD get started?
For us, our eureka moment came in the classroom. My cofounder, and current BlocksCAD CTO Jennie Yoder, were both teachers who were frustrated by the limitations of the software that was available to teach with 3D printers. Rather than settle for what was available, we decided to build our own software. We built BlocksCAD and found that we could get both students, and fellow educators, excited about learning STEAM, coding and teaching with 3D printers.
GH: How did you build / are building your team?
As an edtech company we are building a team that is both entrepreneurial and has a passion for what is happening in the classroom. We look for people who have an understanding of what happening in education as every role in the company (at least for now), is directly informed by the teaching experience.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
We are building solutions to make STEAM and coding education fun and accessible for both students and teachers.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Even though our company is only a few months old we have had to deal with a few setbacks. Early on we faced a challenge related to a technical integration opportunity with a key potential customer. There was a technical issue that was causing problems with our software and given who the user was, it was a problem we were going to have to fix. It took a few late nights and some creative coding to devise the necessary workaround, but we were able to create a solution that solved the problem and allowed the integration to move forward without any long-term impact on the relationship.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
Our first customers taught us the “KISS” rule (keep it simple stupid). We loved all the complex teaching our prototype could support using the new features we added , but we were already experts and knew the possibilities of BlocksCAD. For new users, and the vast majority of teachers are unfamiliar with CAD and 3D printing, BlocksCAD’s appeal is how easy it is for students to use and teachers to support. We had to change our approach from a focus on the “bells and whistles” to how much a teacher could accomplish in a short period of time.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Having only spent time in Boston it is hard to have much perspective, but I would say Boston could do with more diversity. When I go to meet-ups and events, I tend to see a lot of folks from familiar backgrounds with very similar experiences.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
Boston is probably the best place to do an edtech start-up. We have been fortunate to be a part of the LearnLaunch Accelerator ( www.learnlaunch.com), as well as a member of The Capital Network (www.thecapitalnetwork.org). Combine these start-up resources with the best colleges and universities in the country and you get the perfect mix for an edtech company.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
The best piece of advice I received was to focus on the customer on not the product. As a builder we tend to get caught up in making our product “perfect” rather than thinking about what the customer really wants.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
BlocksCAD only started in April, so I’d say just getting off the ground would be number one, but other than that it would have to be the release of our new premium version of BlocksCAD for education.
GH: What does the future hold for BlocksCAD?
We are working on our premium service of BlocksCAD for education designed to enhance the experience for teachers using BlocksCAD in their classrooms. We are currently piloting in 15 schools across the country, including with the Boston Public School system, and will be offering the service to schools and teachers later this Fall.
Learn more about BlocksCAD!
*Please note Photos in this spotlight were provided by BlocksCAD website