The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Keep LearningThe most important thing is to keep learning and be an infinite learner. No one is born an infinite learner or made one over night but you need to practice that. You need to constantly grow yourself as a founder, CEO, or as team member, you constantly need to grow. Growth is the only solution. That would be my advice. Keep learning no matter what. You need to enjoy learning and it will give you are really good results.
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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most important thing is to keep learning and i would say be an infinite learner and nobody's infinite learner born like that and you cannot become over to overnight but you need to practice that because you need to constantly grow yourself as the founder as a ceo any team member you constantly need to grow so growth is the only solution and that would be my my advice just keep learning no matter what you need to enjoy learning and it will give you really really good results [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that has grown several business startups and small businesses into seven and eight figure companies as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today we have another great guest on the podcast and i'm probably going to mispronounce your name nadia varu is that right sounds good close enough all right so uh nadia is it naughty or i don't want to miss pronouns with the whole so is that correct with tea not tia all right i'll do my best i'll probably still slaughter it um but nautia is uh started her journey at 17 when she had a teacher that helped her fill out an application to do an exchange program to study in the us um and kind of get gained a respect or i don't know an admiration or a love or whatever you want to call it for that system and for helping other people out around the world to have experience of going other places and studying getting an education went back to georgia the country not the state and uh got a got an education as well as then came back to gr for an undergrad came back to the us for a graduate degree um went back to i think your home country for a period of time had some goals you wanted to accomplish you'll probably get into and then decided time i want to come back to the u.s greatest country in the world just kidding and move to silicon valley and started working with startups i think your first one was a norwegian startup um was in charge of operations moved over to some educational products and other things and then um then then after doing silicon valley for a while decided you want to do your own startup and that kind of brings it to where you're at today and the the way i at least describe it as it's kind of a linkedin for kids run by parents and i'm stealing your word so it's not really how i describe it but how i remember it so kevin you said it all what else is left there for me i gave a really good summary because you have an awesome story but now let's uh with that welcome to the podcast thank you i need to figure out what stories i have left to tell well you can you can i'm sure tell the stories much better than i can so let's go back to your journey you're 17 and uh your teacher has helped me out and let's go from there sure first of all thanks for having me um so i'm nathia and i'm founder and ceo of virginia and i'm a mom of three that's a very short summary how i would describe myself and you really summarized it well um i always had a passion for education this is how this whole journey starts and it's also related to south virginia and i was 17 when i was an exchange student and there was just an incredible experience it opened a lot of doors it was a huge opportunity um and since i really enjoyed that and i really enjoyed being in the school in the united states i love the system when i went back to georgia for my to continue my study bachelor's degree i realized that i really want to help others to experience the same to have the same opportunities that i had experienced here but first of all where no you came to the us where in the us did you do your exchange program at you it was in rhode island this small estate i was in a greek family beautiful people i'm still in touch with them um and um so i went back to georgia and i decided okay i definitely wanna one more question i'm gonna ask before i let you get off that topic so you did the exchange program how was it so i'll share my own experience and that's my question i went to taiwan for a religious mission for my church for a couple years completely different culture different language different food different just about everything and there was a bit of i loved it and it was a fun time but it was also a bit of a culture shock so coming into the u.s to do an exchange program to study an app was it a culture shock was it exciting was it fun was it all the above or how was that for you it was definitely a shock of course so you do speak english like english was the least problem honestly that i had but being away from your family i cried maybe like two months non-stop uh just to adjusting being on your own but again it really depends on where you end up and the family was incredibly sweet and nice and it was a greek family so religious wise and all culturally i felt home so you were just adjusting for being alone by yourself being independent and from that small country suddenly you are in this huge country like everything is new and but that's where my self-discovery starts and i'm really grateful for that experience and with that self-discovery what i discovered was that i wanted to do more i wanted more of this interesting and different education so when i went back to georgia i decided to pursue my degree in a public policy focusing on education this is why i came back from my graduate studies in united states and again when i went back to georgia all my professional career was in education and i really enjoyed working with youth groups i really realized that okay education policy education tech everything that we were creating there was good but i always wanted to do something else something extra and this extra was always working with skates like helping them to build some companies to build associations or just creating some competitions for them so they could be easily discovered and what i'm mostly proud of despite all the work that has been done in georgia in education sector where i was involved what i remember is a competition that we built in partnership with nasa that really helped kids to kind of showcase their talent um it's been still going on it's been six years now and it just really i love the fact that i started something that keeps opening the door for the kids um so there was something that i really felt good about and then um i moved to silicon valley started to work for the startup incredible experience again because that was my first startup experience and that's when i realized that uh by nature i'm a problem solver and i i felt that okay this is where i belong and especially it was a huge shock coming from the policy background mostly in georgia attack background but like fully like startup completely different environment um and i just loved it um it was a really interesting experience a lot of things were um we made a lot of mistakes and and we also initiated a lot of interesting products through that um one question before we dive too into that so georgia you did some policy work you worked on i think it was reform k-12 in georgia for quite a while how did you kind of before you moved to silicon valley did the startup and everything how did you kind of arrive to the conclusion you reached your goals you met what you wanted to do and you or it was time to move on you know how did you kind of come to that realization and then kind of the follow-up question to that how did you decide okay i met my goals now i want to go to silicon valley so how did you kind of make those decisions well um silicon valley i think was just a next step in terms of again seeking what is next i already knew that i wanted to make a change and this change was around education i felt that in georgia actually i've done all that i could do and then i realized that if you really want to make a big change it has to be technology and if you want to do anything about technology you have to be at this center where this is all done and this is a silicon valley and it will not be fair to say that it was just my decision um my husband is an entrepreneur it was his vision it was our joint decision to move here and that was the best decision we ever made and he's been like great partner he's really helping me um to build my company as well um he is in agriculture i'm in education but we are really um helping each other to grow his founders um and yeah this is a story i mean we decided to move because we saw that for developing professionally and accomplishing what we really want to do this is the place to be but it wasn't easy because at that point we already had three kids and uh moving into a new life one question was so was your husband from the us was he also from georgia or how did that connection make it my husband is also from georgia okay so neither of you are from the u.s but you said hey our next step is silicon valley here we come that's kind of the tech hub we can make the most impact on startups in silicon valley with technology helping people around the world is that about it that's exactly how it happened we always have a plan like a family plan okay we're here now but what's next what are we gonna do in next five years next 10 years oh the silicon world valley was just the plan that was on the map and we executed it so i was very lucky to work at the startup that i mentioned the kids social media for kids i learned a lot and that's when i realized on my own journey i was ready as a founder but i wasn't quite sure what exactly to do i knew it was about education i knew i was at the right place all my policy and net tech work that i had was already enough to start my own business but i was still thinking what is it what exactly how exactly i can do that and then i just read an article about this um um movie producer from lebanon her name is nadine labaki and how she found this kid um just in the streets she was shooting a movie um movie's name is capernaum he was nominated for the oscars and that was just a story of how lucky this kid is because he was just found by the movie producer in the street and suddenly became a movie star and his life changed forever then they moved to norway and i think they still live in norway and that's when i realized that okay but what if instead of looking and searching for this particular kid in the street there was another way to find the kit what if it was a platform where you can simply filter and search for specific talent that you're looking for and it was not only a talent that nadine was looking for in that particular case she re the movie was about the refugees and she wanted a kid who has been through that experience or had that pain um who cannot only play that but who would bring that um into that movie that real experience and this is why she went from the camp to another camp into the streets to find this kid and this is actually where it started it just i felt that okay now i know i'm gonna build a platform where you can find any talented kid in the world and i really believe that your place of birth should not define your destiny but your talent should but talent needs to be grown you need resources to grow the talent and this is exactly what virginia is trying to fix all right so no i think that gives me or it gives i think the audience a pretty good overview of a journey now a couple of questions to follow up so how long were you in silicon valley before you came or how long did you work for the norwegian startup were you in silicon valley before you jumped into your own startup i think it was over three years um that i was in that company and um so when i had my idea ready i i still took some time to really figure out the details of it and then um mvp was launched this january 2020 we are still in early stage but really growing organically and um it's been incredible experience working with our users and being in touch with them mostly parents um even though the platform has two sides on the one side we have parents who are creating their kids digital portfolios owning it managing it and growing it over the time and on the other side of the platform you have um individuals like coaches teachers or institutions like schools who are looking for that specific talent um so let me let me explain what super genie is um so think of it as a linkedin of linkedin for kids as you just mentioned but run by parents um so instead of a kid being a user it's a parent who is a user so you register and i know your parent i remember that so you would create your kids portfolio and just keep building it it can start as early as four um when they're four years old because depending on the country where you are your needs are different for example like in hong kong i've been in touch with the parents and even to get into the very good um the quality preschool you it's very competitive so parents are trying to build portfolios starting from age four to kind of demonstrate their kids talent to end up in a really nice the preschools um so once you start building that portfolio it can go up to like any age i think up to like i assume around like 16 17 that's when uh kids will be switching on to a more professional network let's say linkedin but all the way since you're age four as you grow as you build your education you get some experience different courses different um schools you attend it's all recorded there so instead of keeping your certificate somewhere in your file cabinet or on your wall everything that you demonstrate everything that you have accomplished is super virginia account and parents are in charge of that they're they're um they're managing that so that's um that's virginia so now you do that and you mentioned a couple so diving into the product just a little bit or you know the service or product slash service or whatever it might be is you know is it for kids at four years old to go get a job which i assume not not necessarily but you mentioned you know for schooling for getting into whether it's elementary or preschool competitive you know so what are kind of the motivations why why would you what would be the motivations or reasons why you would generate an account as an apparent for your kid or what would be the benefits definitely there are multiple things the parent would do well first of all it's just a place where you keep recording all the progress and then what do you do with it once you have the digital portfolio for your kid um so the end result is find the resource that you're looking for and this resource could be an education or it could be an internship depending on the age of the kid right what the parent is looking for um let's say you are a very talented basketball player and maybe you're a ukraine and okay your parent knows that you're talented and maybe they want you to study in united states what do you do you create portfolio on super virginia and then you search for the coach or for the school that you think is good but um maybe you need some extra advice so i really want to engage guidance counselors who will be working with the parents to help them to map out the whole career short term or the long term the whole education pass for their kids so once the parent knows they pass that their own they can reach out to these specific coaches or specific teachers specific schools and share their kids portfolio and suddenly school and it could be the opposite way too like i really want schools to use it as a tool to find the talent they've never had an opportunity to find my kid i have three kids of my own and um she applied for the middle school this year um and the whole process that we went through i mean i was thinking that okay the schools are only selecting from the pool of the kids who are applying to them who are right here who know about the school but what if you never had a talent let's say um nigeria or or even specific talent let's say you want to find a kid who's nine-year-old female who's playing chess knows japanese and i don't know like has some particular ethnicity you're looking for right like you never had that particular country represented in your school so why not use super virginia for that particular purpose to find the talent and connect with the parent and opening the doors and giving opportunity to that kids and um there are different um examples of that of course just like nadine labaki's case that i mentioned and in sports it will be very popular i'm sure because there's so much uh global talent in sport right now i'm working with one of the parents whose kid is um very talented in gymnastics and they're specifically looking for a school in united states in maryland like for a particular uh reason and um it's just a tool for them to search and find or let's say you are you as a parent um tell me what what is your kid's talent just some simple talent that they have it doesn't have to be like very specific do they play chess do they play soccer like anything um i'll give you so my my one kid or my oldest son or my only son but my oldest kid he does a lot on uh he's he has he does chess as he does and he also is very good with geography so he actually he knows geography a lot better than i do you can ask him almost any country he can tell you where it's at what part of the world it's in everything else a lot and then similarly um he can also tell you really a lot on a lot of the world history or at least for war so he can tell you who started world war one who started world war two which our allies were on which sides which axis were on which side so that'd be a few things if i were to tell his talents yeah so i don't know let's say chess or history whatever you decide okay is there any competition maybe he participated let me just put it on his digital portfolio maybe when you want to apply for the middle school all this information is ready so you can easily integrate all this information in a particular uh let's say platform that they are using um this is for example what i experienced with my kid or maybe you want to get in touch with the some superstar teacher in the world of the history like a very special teacher and now everything is digital we know that it doesn't physically have to be there right and what if you could find the teachers or supergenia and your kid gets engaged or maybe you want to plan his journey and just like you had um some trip in asia maybe you will find some special school for him where he will get a different experience so different things that you can do or if your kid wants to study language and they he takes this language course why don't you just you can easily find the course through super genius all this content any courses or any tests that you're searching definitely it's the content that is created by the third parties but it's just searchable so virginia so i don't want parents to have any problem like this is one place for you to be you're searching anything for your kid okay this is the place where you can find it and once you have completed it the the score is there because if the school is looking for your kid they could look at the detailed portfolio of their education and all the tests they have taken all the scores are there and you choose if you want to use this um portfolio if you want to be public or private because maybe you just want to keep it for yourself and just share with your family and friends and brag about all his um history achievements and all the competitions that he he goes through so i think that paints a good picture kind of maybe a few of the ways you'd use it few of the use cases why parents either may want to share use it build a portfolio what not so you had this idea you figure out kind of a few different use cases then you know once you did that how was it as far as building the company meaning did it just take off and everybody wants to use it was it a slow build took a while to build up you have tons of users you have a few users kind of how did that progression go once you decided to build it and what the the product would be yeah so once i figured out this is what i wanted to do then you become obsessed with it like you cannot wait it has to be real and as i mentioned the mvp was launched in january 2020 and it's very simple um very simple product even though we have over a thousand users but it does not allow you to do a lot of things not all the features that we have envisioned at this moment you can only create the portfolio you can share it but um and then you cannot wait you just want to keep building it and to get there where your vision is um to allow parents to have like any tool this sophisticated tool and um we're still in the building process and um we will be launching completely new design which will have all the features that i just described in about in two months and i just cannot wait to do that so we're just very busy focused on that finishing the design and launching the new product and and that's when it's going to take off and we'll be talking to all the parents not only from the 30 countries that our users come from right now but all over the world i'm sure and so many interesting cases will be happening and i just want to mention it's such an interesting moment when you connect with a parent and i'm trying to use this moment while we're still kind of young as a company to really connect individually with the parents and nothing can compare to this feeling of when they trust you and i always try to have face-to-face conversations with them i explain like where i'm coming from why i'm building this company what i believe in that i'm mom myself or three kids because i really want them to understand exactly what we're doing and their trust is just incredible when they tell you all these details what is their need and when you think of it how you can fix it um i feel that i finally found what what would be my life purpose and i'm just so happy every day totally doesn't feel like work it's i'm very helpful grateful and very happy to do that awesome well i think that's uh that's exciting both on where you where the journey is cut or led you to today and what the the prospects are in the future and that will be fun to see once the you switch over from beta to full launch with all the features and how it uh gets evolved and adapted and how people use it so good luck and that's exciting now with all that i always ask two questions as we kind of get towards the end of the journey and so maybe we'll jump to those now first question i always ask is so within your journey all that you've taken what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it um i think the worst so far that happened was our the way we manage the the covet the reality after the covet um because of course nobody could uh could consider and knew that it was coming and so suddenly it happened and overnight the reality changed and all the parents are home and parents are online and even though we were growing um steadily and really working with the parents we were not really ready to engage with them at that scale and um i i wish we just had more resources at that moment to use it uh more efficiently and but definitely i cannot complain because it has um we have benefited and the users have increased over this time but again we could have been more maybe thoughtful about it and quickly adapt to this new change and more engage with the parents so that would be um the mistakes so far but what we learned is that they just have to be so flexible and immediately things change really quickly and you just have to adapt but that's the nature of startup you just never know what change is coming but you just have to be ready no matter what all right no i think that that certainly makes sense and i think that that was a lot of you know a lot of companies had to figure out how to pivot or be flexible or otherwise adapt to covid because it certainly wasn't something you would normally anticipate as a business but on the other hand if you don't adapt to you don't pivot you don't adjust to it then it can be a much bigger impact on your business so i think that's a mistake that many have learned many people have learned from so now we'll jump to the second question which is so you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them um it's most important thing is to keep learning and i would say be an infinite learner and nobody's infinite learner born like that and you cannot become over to overnight but you need to practice that because you need to constantly grow yourself as the founder as a ceo any team member you constantly need to grow so growth is the only solution and that would be my my advice just keep learning no matter what you need to enjoy learning and it will give you really really good results all right well and i and i'm a big proponent of continuing to learn meaning if you can what whatever industry and whatever you're working on the difference between whether you can keep you know be productive you can keep up on the industry and keep ahead of the competition is whether or not you can continue to learn adapt in other ways be or continue to improve and that can be the difference between getting left behind versus staying ahead of everybody so i think that's a great piece of advice was people want to find out more about your platform use it sign up for it they want a job there they want to invest there they want to do any role of the above what's the best way to connect up with you email um linkedin i'm very active on my linkedin i would love to have conversation with anyone any parent any company who wants to be part of virginia and i really want to thank you for this opportunity because you are opening uh doors for us because more people will learn about the company and um i'm just very happy to be here and have this opportunity to talk about the company and what we do awesome well i certainly uh appreciate you coming on it was fun to hear your journey and get a bit more of an insight as to the the future of uh portfolios and platforms for kids so thank you um now for all the all of the everybody that's a listener if you have your own journey to tell make sure to go to inventivejourneyguest.com and we'd love to have you on as a guest and hear your journey also if you're a listener make sure to click subscribe so you get notifications on all the new episodes as they go live and lastly if you ever need help with any patents or trademarks feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law we're always here to help thank you again for coming on it's been a pleasure it's been fun and i wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you debbie thank you so much [Music] English (auto-generated)