Y-arch Ventures pivots from edtech to digital marketing

This picture of a Smartboard was shot by F Delventhal as part of Daily Shoot Series to capture the conflict between traditional and contemporary. February 25, 2010. (Smartboard via Upstart City)

Fed-up with stale lectures and a static atmosphere, Christopher Reed originally became an entrepreneur to re-imagine the classroom. To achieve this, Reed founded Y-arch Ventures, a startup aimed at injecting vigor into teachers’ lesson plans with interactive digital tools.

At the onset, Chris had everything he needed to launch —a big idea, a talented team, and the passion to fuel the startup grind.

But as Y-arch Ventures began building the application and administering user testing, a crippling obstacle appeared. When Reed and the team conducted product demonstrations for the classroom software, he noticed the teachers weren’t interested.

“We wanted to give teachers the tools that they need to express themselves in a digital space,” Reed said. “That meant the ability to create online interactive lesson plans. But what we soon realized was that a lot of people are not ready for that.”

When asked why, Reed explained that the teachers’ disinterest in the tools were partially rooted in the fact that they weren’t digital natives. Many of the teachers were Baby Boomers and members of Generation X. “Most of them haven’t even gotten to the point where they can comfortably be on something other than Facebook,” said Reed.

“A lot of the teachers struggles with using technology,” said Michelle Lampart, a 24 year old teacher in an interview with Upstart City. She said this is especially true for the seasoned teachers who have already been practicing for years without technology.

“For them it can very unpopular,” she said. “They don’t see the point in having it, and when they do try to use it, it doesn’t work. They say they ‘I am allergic to it’ and ‘it doesn’t like me’”.

Taylor Isom, a Georgia Institute of Technology-trained software engineer said that he believes that “many older people’s aversion to technology has to do with a dislike of change in general”.

“Things are drastically different than they were 20 or even 10 years ago” he said. “The digital tools available today are quicker and more efficient, but that doesn’t mean people will embrace them.”

And after several lackluster and underwhelming sessions with teachers, the Y-arch Ventures team was intimately aware these problems. So in a determined effort to reinvent the company, Reed started exploring opportunities to pivot.

“We began to see that we had to start helping people understand the value of using the digital space. We began asking ourselves — What aren’t we saying? What other services can we provide?” It was during this introspection process that a hinge point appeared.

Reed noticed that often when he was talking to teachers about the app, they would inquire about assistance with setting up personal websites and social media profiles instead. The Y-arch Ventures team followed the rabbit hole.

“We pivoted to say, ‘hey, lets not start with giving people these digital tools in the classroom,” said Reed, “‘let’s start by with giving them the digital tools in their everyday lives.’” During the process, Reed began to explore what kind of services clients were looking for to improve their online profiles, presence, and brand.

Over the last four months, Reed and Y-arch shifted away from edtech to digital marketing. “It’s been a long and tedious pivot,” he said. “But since the shift, we went from people who just liked our ideas to now securing six long-term clients.”

From giving people tools in the classroom to giving people tools to build websites, Y-arch has a new focus. Reed says the new direction is having a powerful impact on people’s lives by helping them become digitally literate. “These are not just websites that look pretty,” he said, “these are sites that can receive data, and understand what data is. We are teaching people how they can leverage data to improve their online presence.”