Twain is a mobile application that delivers “learn to read” interactive storybook apps designed to help parents teach reading skills to their children. I spoke with Roshan, Twain’s co-founder.
How has your company disrupted the industry you fit into? How has it changed everything about the way people consume goods or information?
The US spends more money on public education than does nearly any other developed nation. At the same time, if you look at K-12 public schools as a whole, we are not fully benefiting from that investment.
Our company, Twain, is disrupting mainstream early childhood education for the better. Twain helps busy parents teach their children to read before they start school, step-by-step. We enable busy parents to use mobile technology in a new and engaging way. Parents can create powerful individualized learning environments for their children, wherever they may be. The simplest acts can be powerful when done en masse. As a mother of two young children, this is an issue that is close my heart.
Why did you choose mobile?
Yun and I both chose mobile because there is something simple and intuitive about the way a child interacts with a touch-screen device. Mobile opens a whole new world for learning, and we are only scratching the surface at this point.
Why are you seeking out mentorship for your startup?
We are seeking startup mentorship because we want to align ourselves with a supportive, yet extremely savvy and tough mentor group to constantly challenge us with questions about our company. Yun and I also want to learn from collective experience.
What role do you see advisor feedback playing the development and long-term strategy of your company?
We will use advisor feedback as we make decisions in specific areas of business development. For example, optimizing the user experience, developing new channel partnerships, increasing user retention and maximizing Lifetime Value of the Customer could be some of the areas
What will the mobile space look like in 5 years? How integrated do you envision digital technology becoming with our day-to-day lives?
Yun and I are both excited about the evolution of the mobile space over the next five years as it affects education. Children will have more information accessible to them than we can imagine. Intellectually curious and determined children will be able to delve into areas of interest in a more independent fashion than what we see today. It will be up to us all to make sure that the information available to children is presented in a way that facilitates learning.
How does your startup push the state of women in business?
To directly answer the question: for me, our startup pushes the state of women in business by showing that you can be family-focused and still be a successful entrepreneur. Those two do not have to be mutually exclusive. For us as a team, education is our passion. Supporting the parental role as an integral one is our cause.
We also hope to inspire other women to take “the road less traveled” as they choose their majors in school. Women should not be deterred by classroom demographics when it comes to majoring in technical fields. In my own experience, as an African American woman, it was usually the case that I did not visibly blend in with the rest of the class.
Personally, I have always been interested in creating things. I chose to major in computer science engineering at Princeton because I wanted use technology to solve real problems and to use code to create things. That choice has had a tremendously positive impact on my career. I can take ideas and turn that vision into reality.
We also want to urge women to blaze their own paths. Often there is societal pressure to disregard entrepreneurship in favor of climbing the corporate ladder. I think you have to define success for yourself, and then after you do, run toward it with everything you have. Find a mentor, try things out, optimistically learn from your temporary setbacks and then emerge stronger.
You have to live your own reality, not someone else’s. If you want to make an impact on the world, make sure you do so. Life is too short to do anything else.
In retrospect, is there something you wish you knew or did as an undergrad to help you prepare for your career now?
I lived in Singapore and Mainland China for a number of years and it was an amazing experience. I feel like I am a better businessperson because of it.
I would have loved to have more international experiences while I was an undergrad. If I could go back to my time as an undergrad, then I would have studied abroad for a semester and I would have volunteered internationally for several summers.
In retrospect, I would have delayed college entirely for a year, found a mentor and launched a small startup. Many schools, including my alma mater Princeton, now offer an optional “Bridge Year” program for students to get a year of real-world experience after being accepted. I would advise students today to take advantage of similar opportunities.
What advice do you have for an undergrad or recent graduate considering entrepreneurship? Is it best to wait to gain business acumen before diving in, or do you recommend getting a move on right away?
If you have never traveled internationally before, I would first recommend traveling to gain a fresh perspective. After that, I would recommend finding a strong mentor and getting a move on entrepreneurship right away. If you do choose to work for a company, then be sure to seek out a startup or a more established company in your area of interest where you can develop a specific set of skills that can help you in the future.