Customer discoveries across Western NY

Meet our early adopters! ūüôā


2 weeks until beta launch :)


We are excited to announce that in two weeks, we will be officially releasing the sixth iteration of our MVP for students to use on the GradFly website. ¬†This particular iteration is important because it hasn’t been launched on a broad scale. ¬†To us, broad right now means x > 10 students. ūüôā

We consider this a soft beta launch because we will be releasing the site to only 100 students and rigorously measuring feedback and metrics.

The site will be focused specifically on user registration, activation, and project uploads. ¬†We decided to scale back and implement features in increments. We will be measuring feedback in three cohorts. ¬†It’ll be easier to see what students are telling us and what we should be focusing on.

The great thing is that the invitations are being sent to targeted users. ¬†For us, that means robotics students, engineers, anyone with a passion in STEM really that we’ve met in the last 12 months. Since our talk at TechCrunch Disrupt last week, we’ve received numerous emails from high schools around the world that want to pilot with us. ¬†We hope to bring them on board soon!

If you know anyone that would like to create a portfolio on GradFly, please have them sign up at

On the road: meet Cameron

ImageCameron is a sophomore at Ithaca High School and is part of Code Red Robotics.  What we really loved about Cameron is that he works so hard on various projects like you see in the picture above but he is not featuring his little widget in any way, shape or form.  Cameron expressed three problems to us:

  • Colleges will never see what he has created (from the nuts-and-bolts to its final stages)
  • Hard to organize and track projects, let alone the various stages of a project.
  • No mobile way to track projects. (he has an iPad and a smart phone)

Cameron was happy to hear that there was a quick and easy tool that was being created for students like him.  After some usability testing and some informal interview questions, Cameron signed up for our beta and will be an active participant in future testing sessions in one of our various cohorts trying out GradFly.

We are here to tell readers that there are so many students like Cameron out there who are brilliant and technically savvy. ¬†Not just in robotics, but in biology, chemistry, engineering, math, etc. ¬†GradFly will unite the nation’s brightest and most innovative brains in the country.

….And we can’t wait to do it. ūüôā

Cross that bridge when you get to it


It seems like the theme for the last couple of weeks at HTRL has been keeping a good focus during the customer discovery process – and I can’t tell you how important that’s been for us.

After just a month of pitches and presentations, we’ve discovered we can’t do it all. Our markets comprise of high school students, college students, colleges, and high-tech companies. ¬†It might not sound like a lot but when you have to create three separate canvases for each group….it gets complicated very fast.

Fortunately, our mentors have given us tremendous feedback about coming up with a plan to break our markets into phases. ¬†The decision is ours to choose which is the market to go after first. ¬† Since we’ve spent the last year getting to know high school/college students the most, we’ve made the decision to stick with them since we’ve interviewed hundreds of students in Western NY. ¬†Since we are a multisided platform, the other side we’re going after are colleges that are willing to pay for top technical talent. ¬†Phase 2 will include high-tech companies and the talent acquisition market. ¬†There are various assumptions regarding this market but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew….

Don't bite off more than you can chew....

When we started HTRL, we were focusing on three markets: 1) students, 2) colleges and 3) high-tech companies.

Now that we’ve reached our fifth week in the program, we realize we’ve been going for the overkill trying to target three big markets. (Not to mention that each of these markets has mini-markets that are yet to be reckoned with.)

Thanks to HTRL leaders and classmates, we’ve made the decision to narrow our focus to just students and colleges. If everything goes well, phase 2 can include companies.

This feels great because now we can focus our efforts reaching students and talking to as many colleges as possible. I feel like a big boulder has been lifted off our backs.

So many things happening… many GOOD things happening!

As one of our mentors puts it….onward and upward!

Railcomm Customer Interview & Discovery

Railcomm Customer Interview & Discovery

A big thank you to Mike Penza for introducing me to Nicki Denny who’s Director of HR at Railcomm. What an incredible meeting and my hand would not stop jotting notes. For those asking what pain I’m solving for companies, I’m getting closer and closer to answering those questions.

Next up, a thank-you card and some chocolates. ¬†I don’t have to…but I want to.

Proverbs and Platforms

Image“First plant your fields, then build your barn” ¬†(Farming proverb)

If there’s anything we’ve learned lately, it’s that we need to focus on students and students only (hence the sheep ūüôā ) . ¬†If the students aren’t there, it won’t attract the colleges or the companies willing to pay for access to them. ¬†I know it’s necessary to find ways we’re going to monetize the platform but that’s not what this is about right now. ¬†If that means that I have to postpone investment…then that’s what it’s gotta be.

Another thing we’ve learned….(and this is still in development)……is that we should be reaching out to both high school and college students. One could argue that both are very different groups of people. ¬†I agree with you…yes….they are very different and have different needs. High school students are interested in getting into college and finding scholarships…..and college students are looking for internships, research opportunities, and future prospect for jobs.

However, if there’s one common denominator….it’s that both are building incredible innovations. ¬†We’ve seen robots from high school students that blow college student robots out of the water and vice versa. ¬†We learned this just recently actually…..we were strictly working with high school robotics students but then we realized that their mentors…(college students)….were curious about GradFly and some even told us this…”Ya know…I could use this, too.” ¬†A-Ha!

We are going to continue doing what we’ve been doing …….. finding the right recipe for high school and college STEM students to thrive on GradFly. ¬†Because if they’re not using the site, our paying customers aren’t going to give a squat about what we’re trying to do.

However, one thing we are doing is talking to colleges administrators and HR directors from various companies to learn how we can nail the pain of recruiting and sourcing technical talent while we’re building the right community for students. ¬†Thanks to our mentors, we need to continue doing our homework and find that wow-ness around the problem we’re trying to solve. ¬†This will definitely take time and we are aware that need to find those customer nightmares right away.

Other platforms that have gone through this include Yelp, YouTube, Dribbble, Behance.