#MyStartupStory: Apto Using Tech to Help Assimilate Internationals

Launched last year, Apto helps internationals “adapt like a pro” with its cultural-linguistic learning program. Since launch, it has closed its first contract with an early adopter and the Nashville, Tennessee-based company anticipates other early adopters will be following suit shortly. CEO Traci Snowden says the company has a $600k+ pipeline for the first half of 2017 that includes multinational corporations, universities, state and local entities, and school districts. It’s also being courted by some significant channel distribution partners.

And then, screech, the travel ban.

“Culturally, socially, it’s a blow,” says Snowden. “There is no getting around that and of course, we are watching. But business is business — it probably will impact some of the decisions we make. Arabic was on the near-term road map, for example. Its addition to our language roster will likely be delayed given the uncertainty. On the other hand, pragmatically, some relationships will be strengthened. Business with Japan will likely increase. Businesses are further incentivized to locate to the U.S., which means their international employees will likely follow.”

So will it have an impact?

“Certainly, all political cycles do,” she says. “But we are proactive, optimistic and we strive to be a beacon of light and hope in volatile times. We are not taking political sides, simply choosing to focus on building the kind of global community we would want to live in and that we would be proud for our children to live in and we are doing it the best way we know how — by welcoming, by befriending, by teaching.”

Snowden and her team already have ideas about where the company is headed. “Within three years our goal is to have that level of B2C community engagement in place,” she says. “In five years, we’d like to be the leading provider of online cultural-linguistic training and community. There are many possible growth levers that we can pull on our way there. We are ready for the journey, just as we are ready to help internationals with their own journey.”

And by “we” she means her very talented team members. And she knows that in order to keep them — and find more people like them — values are important. That’s why they’re featured prominently on the website.

“Our values guide us and how we operate internally and externally,” she says. “They are not some exercise in corporate best practice. We want the world to know what we value, because that’s what you are going to get if you do business with us. Conversely, we expect to be treated with the same respect and honesty. I’ve got to give a shout out to my SCORE mentor Tom Coffey. He encouraged me and my team to start identifying these very early on. We even evaluate our team performance on the basis of them.”

Snowden says Nashville is a great place to launch a startup. “Nashville understands community. We do that really well. I’ve felt so embraced and uplifted as an entrepreneur and I hope to do great thing for our city and state and local economy, even as we strive towards more global aspiration.” But she does have one complaint. “Healthcare and music startups seem to get the majority of funding and attention,” she says. “I understand the need to do a niche and do it well. I do hope we can continue to diversify, though.”

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