May 2017 Update
It's been 20 months since I started my business, but I consider today the first day of Mesa 2.0.
Yesterday I graduated high school, and now I'm free to finally devote myself full time to the growth of the Company. I'll be going to the University of North Carolina in the future, but I'm deferring my acceptance and spending the next 14 months working on Mesa to build up the tech infrastructure needed to give us enough scale to overcome some of the structural problems in education technology.
Our current vision for Mesa is to become one of the best problem solvers in education through analytics solutions and product packages. Our education products currently help automate the administration of a school. Manual processes like scheduling cost school districts millions in summer overtime costs and waste weeks of school time once problems inevitably come up. We do the messy, time extensive, expensive work (like scheduling with our product Mesa Accelerate), that school districts and individual schools require at scale. Alleviating this painful work endears us to these end users and embeds us into their administration. Another product - Mesa onTime - tracks graduation requirements, creates visualizations for schools describing students progress over the course of their school year, and automates course placement (when student figures out which courses to take next year with the help of a counselor). Right now our pricing model is about $3 per student per year for each of our products.
We want to continue building products in this space that make it easier and less expensive to run a public high school and district. I've brought on two people to help me out - a full time head of sales and marketing, and a part time COO to help me navigate the bureaucracy of selling to schools. We also have another part time developer, and with additional revenue plan to bring him on in a greater capacity. He will be key to building up the deployment infrastructure and integrations, so we don't trip on our own shoelaces on the tech side.
Biggest challenge this far has been our work with South High School in Denver. They reached out to us about automated their scheduling - a messy task that is still done manually and costs them over $15,000 in overtime costs alone over the summer (over $10 / kid!). We flew up for two days in February and built up a quick and dirty demo in about 12 hours, but scheduling turns out to be a problem where it's really easy to get 50% of it done, hard to get the next 40% done, and really challenging to get the last 10% done. As a result, like how a contractor on a house needs to inspect the foundation, we learned a ton on the fly about understanding the full scope of a problem as well as the importance of that first impression. Ironically, being able to do a good chunk of the work in only half a day and setting that pace might have been the biggest challenge to overcome. But we have now delivered a working scheduling model and hope to use South as a champion for Mesa with the entire Denver school district.
Our big purchase order with HISD for every high school should come in this summer. It got pushed back because our champion department wanted us to become a HISD approved vendor, which means that we get to revenue several months later, but also now we don't have to give half the contract revenue to our reseller :-). Final challenge to overcome is becoming a board-approved vendor at HISD but thanks to the work of my COO who's gone through this process multiple times in HISD alone, I'm confident in our plans. This additional money will be used to add another developer and scale sales to more districts and states.
We're also very interested in doing an accelerator program this winter. We're looking for a program that can put us through the wringer on the business and vision side, as well as give us a bigger national platform.
In the meantime we will be working out of Station Houston - 1301 Fannin St. on the 23rd floor in downtown Houston- and trying to make this crazy idea happen. I've been a legal entity for 18 months but now that I'm completely out of school, it's time to build. I've got real responsibilities and an obligation to succeed but wouldn't want it any other way.
Come say hi if you're around - I'd love to keep you updated.