Interview GoogyUp (2020)

Interview of Ned Zimmerman Bence, CEO of GoogyUp conducted by Sohaib Elbebny on June, 29, 2020.

Company Overview

GogyUp participated in the MCN 2019 cohort as a Literacy Support System that converts existing text into trackable, mobile training with embedded, just-in-time reading assistance for employees with low print literacy or English proficiency.

Key Takeaways

  • Planning all the way to the end may not grant you success but being flexible to change can adapt to the outcomes may do.
  • How to decide when to shift and reconsider your business plan
  • How the implementation of a plan can be more sophisticated than expected.
  • Using data to improve the results.

How did you shift from your product and changed it?

Through listening to our customers and looking at the broader landscape, we started with the idea of selling our literacy platform. Our mission remains the same, and that is to increase the opportunities for adults to become literate and, therefore, participate in society fully. Our original intent to reach the mission was to sell our technology, which can allow adults to understand in the moment documents that they need to know to understand how to do their job or to comply with the summons or whatever they learn to read over time. We initially were targeting manufacturers, who, eight months ago, were in a real need to bring workers on and be able to onboard them quickly and understand that they understood how to work safely.

How was your first attempt to implement your product?

We had made some progress with trials and things like that with a couple of regional manufacturers, but it just didn’t seem to be going as fast as we had anticipated.

The workers have a real problem with misunderstanding, so it was perfect for us. It was a perfect scenario for us, but our implementation, our ability to deliver on what they needed, we weren’t able to build the features that would get our product to where it was going to be. We’d spent probably six weeks on that relationship and then a week of planning the rollout of this pilot, and then we ran a pilot for two days, and they said, “Nope. Sorry. This is going to take too much time. We got to cut it.” I was like, “Absolutely. If you’re nervous about our product after two days, yeah

How did you get the new idea for the product?

One of our co-founders, whose son is brilliant but severely dyslexic, had mentioned to me that, “When I go out to eat, I sometimes just kind of point at something on a menu. I have no idea what it is, but I can’t take the time to read it.” I was like, “That’s horrible. We’ve got to do something about that.” This was also at a time when Google OCR was coming online really well. We decided to think about what it would be like to work with dyslexia and develop something that a dyslexic adult could use, again, to get that stripped, simple, sequenced instruction and how sounds are spelled. Allowing Them to point their phone at any document and have that available to them at the moment again.

How did you implement the new product?

First, using the same technology that we’ve already developed and then incorporating OCR into the mix. We’re now at the point where we’re testing this new app that does what it says again. Take a picture of most documents because double-column, multi-column documents are still a little challenging. It can display it in this format that’s easy on the eye. They can touch any word to get the definition of a word, get a word translated back into their preferred language, and save that document for later to refer back to it later. This works cross-platform, iPhone, Android, and eventually on the web.

We built this one mega app to do this teaching and learning. Let’s see how we can slice and dice that technology to meet certain different use cases and see if we can open up the web stream or the revenue stream, so we’re not relying on it because it’s going to be a long…” We still want to go back to manufacturers and employers because we feel that we have a great value to add to them, but it’s just a real hard slog when they’re super busy for us to come in and disrupt their operations on their training. It was just going slower and slower.

Do you have enough data to go further on developing?

We’ve always been B2C, for our app has always been free for anybody to download and use. We haven’t advertised it much. We haven’t pushed it that much just because we don’t feel it’s at the development stage where it warrants that. However, we have almost two years of data on it now and 600 engaged users that have provided excellent data for us.

Where were workers for the manufacture coming from?

They are high-end glass manufacturers. They make the glass for the Louvre. They’ve tapped into the Korean community, which is from Southeast Asia. They’re flying in workers from Puerto Rico, those poor people who land in Minnesota in the middle of December, it’s frigidly cold, and they have a lot of Somali workers there as well