Startup Spotlight: JustLearn

Oct 7, 2018

 

Startup Spotlight: JustLearn

Oct 7, 2018

Meet Djimo Serodio-Founder of JustLearn, the EdTech startup that brings the planet to the classroom.

GH: What is JustLearn?

JustLearn is an EdTech start-up that has developed PlanetBox, a living model of our planet that fits inside any classroom. PlanetBox exposes students to important concepts of the natural environment and is supported by curricula that helps educators meet learning objectives through hands-on learning experiences.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did JustLearn get started?

I don’t have a science or engineering background but it hit me how much I had learned by working with agriculture industry with a focus on sustainable technologies and techniques such as aquaponics. Agriculture exposed me to many industries that overlap in the field of food-production, and that is when I decided to leverage the pedagogical qualities of aquaponics, and ecosystems more broadly, and turn them into instruments of learning!

GH: How did you build your team?

I’ve hired as needed, mostly part-time, to help me in building assets, systems, and materials for JustLearn. For example, I invited Bekah Vigil, an expert in food systems and cleantech to help communicate and operate our pilot across 30 schools in Tampa Bay. I also consulted Dr. Yvonne Franco, who is an instructional design professional focusing on STEM and inquiry-based instruction, to design the building blocks of our curriculum architecture and workshops. I plan on running most operations such as administrative, development and fulfillment in Tampa, but I do plan on opening an office in Boston and growing our senior-level team who can lead pedagogy and learning experience here.

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

JustLearn is extremely future oriented. We look at education as being quite misaligned from the world we want to see unfold, but we also recognise the incredible opportunity in empowering tomorrow’s citizens today, to have purpose in making our planet better. We are quite environmentally focussed  – it’s the only planet we have, and biodiversity is infinitely packed with knowledge and secrets for society to absorb. Another way to put it is that JustLearn is quite existentially driven!

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

When JustLearn got accepted into the Lowth Incubator in Tampa prior to LearnLaunch, I got a bit too excited and posted almost a dozen internship positions on the University’s recruitment platform. We got over 80 applications and tried to recruit and manage an army of 20 interns. It was mostly time-inefficient and slowed down actually progress. We learned to be less ambitious with our steps towards growth. It was fun to be well received by the community but we quickly learned to build on iterations more diligently.

GH: What did you learn from your first customers/end-users?

I’m going to change your question from customer to end-user! I learned that while teachers loved our product, most of the time they don’t have the purchasing decision to buy curricula. To me, this was a powerful realisation that made me focus very hard on our market.

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

LearnLaunch has raised the bar for me with regards to accelerator programs. They run the place by example and go above and beyond what I have seen elsewhere, to accommodate our needs and teach us what we don’t know. They really want us to succeed. Boston as a whole has been really great as well. I’ve always wanted to live in San Francisco, which I still do, but Boston has something really special as well, especially with EdTech. I have a feeling I’ll be sticking around for quite a while.

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

I don’t think much! From what I hear, talent liquidity can sometimes be tricky up here.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new”
– Socrates

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

Being awarded the ‘Young Alumni of the Year’ award by the University of Tampa was pretty cool! 🙂

GH: What does the future hold for JustLearn?

We’d like to build a school on Mars one day.

Learn more about JustLearn!

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