A ‘personalized and adaptive language learning program’, Voxy uses real-world content to reach learners of English as a Second (or Other) Language through online, social, micro, and mobile learning. Lessons are customized for students based on their language skill level and interests or hobbies. Voxy’s main idea is that students will learn more effectively if they’re interested in the content; scaffolding’s provided through quick accessible links to key vocabulary, and end-of-lesson assessments are given in a multiple choice format. This authentic and accessible material and platform can reach students who are unable to attend, or simply not interested in, traditional language learning.
The Wikipedia page for Paul Gollash contains little information about him, especially concerning his personal life. His inspiration for Voxy comes from his own experience living and language-learning in Chile where he began an import/export company. After completing an MBA at the University of Chicago, he worked as a management consultant and with Virgin. His professional experience comes from business and management rather than education; this short article details his beginning of the company with little technical or pedagogical expertise. What might be most important in Voxy’s development and success, however, is Mr. Gollash’s positionality of his experience as a learner – rather than a teacher – to create and cultivate a truly learner (or customer) -centric product. In a 2012 interview with Venture Studio he talks about leaving his job at Virgin with $600,000 in startup funds to pursue Voxy, demonstrating his ability to take calculated risks and navigate ambiguous situations. He later mentions that ‘hiring is absolutely critical; get the best, smartest people you can’.
Directly right of Mr. Gollash’s profile on the About Us page of Voxy.com is the Chief Education Officer; Katie Nielson is an applied linguist with a PhD. She stresses the importance of relevant and interesting content in a Voxy promotional video that ends with an authentic student testimonial. There are fifty people on Our Team; the Board of Directors, (five people, including Mr. Gollash) all have experience in EdTech companies – Rosetta Stone, ReThink Education, K-12. There’s an Academic Advisory Panel (further cementing the importance of Academics and Education), and a list of Investors.
One interesting piece that popped up in my research was a negative review of Paul Gollash as a CEO on GlassDoor. It appears that Mr. Gollash replied personally to this negative review two weeks after it was posted. This brings me to what might be the most important characteristic of a successful entrepreneur: resilience. It’s one thing to understand that a venture might fail; it’s another to be personally attacked by people you’ve hired. While it’s easy to see that startups can be exciting, passionate adventures, staying the course through the growing pains must be a trying and draining experience. The skills needed to launch a company aren’t necessarily the same as what’s needed to expand or sustain it; seeing a company past its infancy requires stamina and grit.
(Here’s a more recent article on Paul Gollash and Voxy. As a tie-in to last week’s Pitch Pool, here’s Paul Gollash’s Voxy pitch at theTechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield.)