Today we interview Noah Litvin, creator of StudyShuffle, which is a really cool service he built while at college to help students revise.
Anna: What’s your background?
Noah: I grew up in Mamaroneck, New York and attended Rye Neck High School. I’m currently enrolled at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland (known for The Great Books Program.) This transition was particularly interesting regarding StudyShuffle. The Rye Neck School District is eagerly integrating new educational technology while St. John’s College has maintained roughly the same academic program and style for the last seventy five years. I’ve directly benefited from recent advances in educational software but still have some skepticism regarding when and where in the classroom technology is appropriate.
Anna: Tell us the story of how StudyShuffle came about.
Noah: I originally wanted to create an online strategy game which awarded in-game currency to players for studying foreign language material. While I still think this is a great idea, I quickly realized that creating this would be well beyond my capacity. I reworked the idea into StudyShuffle’s current form and started coding. A few months later, it was ready for launch.
Anna: What got you interested in the industry?
Noah: I’ve been programming ever since my dad got me a copy of TrueBASIC Bronze in the third grade. Since then, I’ve gotten my hands dirty with all sorts of programming languages and creative software. I suppose I’ve never thought of developing this web application as being part of an “industry.” I enjoy making things and I’m just trying to build something really useful.
Anna: Would you recommend an academic route to others like you wanting to grow their own startup?
Noah: Yes and no. Teachers are busy and underpaid. Schools are hard to sell to and have tight budgets. The average teacher isn’t as tech savvy as you might think and the average school isn’t as eager to integrate more (if any) technology as you might imagine. That being said, every year more retiring teachers are being replaced by members of the “Facebook Generation.” Students are getting more tech savvy at a younger age. More computers (not to mention interactive whiteboards and iPads) are entering classrooms every year. The “EdTech” market is young so I think there’s a lot of opportunity but also many pitfalls.
Anna: Do you think your age has held you back at all?
Noah: Not at all. In fact, I think a lot of people actually perceive younger tech entrepreneurs as more credible than older ones. I’d guess ‘The Social Network’ might have something to do with this…
Anna: How did you deal with some of the business aspects of setting up like working out your pricing structure? (Did you get any business support?)
Noah: I think any ‘business decision’ has been based exclusively on customer (or potential customer) feedback. For example, I had the pricing set higher than it currently is. Teachers told me they’d never pay that much so I lowered them. I suppose this approach sounds amateur, but there are very few similar products out there to learn from.
Anna: Where do you see yourself in the next 3 years?
Noah: I’d love to move back to New York and continue working on my own projects. I’m sure I’d be happy working for an established tech start-up as well. I’ll see where things take me.
Anna: What’s your favourite quote?
Noah: “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” -G. K. Chesterton