Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

445: Classcraft with Shawn Young

October 20th, 2022

Shawn Young is the CEO and Co-Founder of Classcraft, an innovative platform that motivates students using the culture and mechanics of games.

Victoria talks to Shawn about edtech, behavior intervention, and the challenges he's faced with going from a homegrown tool to something big and out there in the world.

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VICTORIA: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Victoria Guido. And with us today is Shawn Young, the CEO, and Co-Founder at Classcraft, an innovative platform that motivates students using the culture and mechanics of games. Shawn, thank you for joining us.

SHAWN: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Victoria. I'm happy to be here.

VICTORIA: Wonderful, yes. So just tell me a little bit about yourself and maybe what brought you to start out as a teacher initially.

SHAWN: [laughs] I have an interesting journey. I was originally a physicist, a physics major. Although I loved physics because it really gives you a deep understanding of the world, I realized that physics research in a basement with machines just on your own [laughs] wasn't for me, so that's when I started substitute teaching. I really wasn't going to go into education at all. It was just there was availability, lack of teachers.

And it's kind of ironic. I really did not enjoy school. High school, in particular, was just a really challenging time for me, mostly because I just didn't see the point of it. I didn't have any problems in school. I had great grades, but I just was bored out of my mind. And so, as a teacher, I became really, really obsessed with making school meaningful for the students that were there, and because so many kids, so many learners just don't see the point.

And so I did a lot of really cool project-based learning type of stuff. So that's where instead of lecturing the kids, you get them doing things and learning by doing. And so I was teaching physics, obviously. And so we were building hot air balloons and cannons and all kinds of stuff to study Newtonian physics. And kids were super happy to come to the class because we were doing some cool stuff.

But I realized as that was happening that another part of meaning generation for kids and learners is the community and the social aspects. And so, I started thinking about how I can build community in the classroom, make the social experience of school relevant for them? And that's how Classcraft was born, really. I kind of put together my interest in motivating and building community with kids. I was a developer at the time as well, so I was able to develop a platform. And, of course, I'm a gamer, so I kind of put all those things together and built this platform in my classroom.

VICTORIA: That's great. I was going to ask what skills or experiences from your teaching background translated to being a founder.

SHAWN: That's interesting because clearly in the product...Classcraft was never meant to be a company. I already had a company. [laughs] I was freelancing as a developer for pretty large clients in New York. I was working with my brother, who's a creative director there. And we worked for Chanel for three years building apps and websites, and that was probably our biggest client. I wasn't looking to make a company. I just built it for me. It was my quest to make school meaningful and relevant.

And after three years of just tinkering around with it with my students, I realized it was having a massive impact on their outlook, on the way they collaborated together, on their motivation. And because Classcraft is a platform that basically gamifies education, so kids level up and they earn points. They're on teams. They have a character class. All the things you would see in an RPG are translating to how teachers are running a school.

And so I made a website just to talk about it after three years of this garage project I had going on. And the day that website went online, 130,000 people came to the website. It just started trending on Reddit gaming. And overnight, a lot of people were asking, "How do I download this?" I'm like, "You can't. There's no company." [laughter] So that's how the company started.

Teaching is an interesting profession. I think that teaching is a job that requires you to, A, motivate and manage a whole bunch of people, so there's a lot similarility there to management. It's a group of humans that you want to work together to get to their full potential, just like your team should be. But then there's also independent planning. As a teacher, you have a set amount of time to get through X amount of curriculum. So you're always, you know, project management basically, 101 is the same thing as running a curriculum through the year.

So there are a lot of those types of soft skills that translate really easily to entrepreneurship. And ultimately, as a teacher, you're responsible on your own for your own successes and failures, which is the type of attitude you need to have if you're going to be a successful entrepreneur is to be responsible, you know, [laughs] take control of your destiny a little bit.

VICTORIA: Right. I hadn't thought about it from that angle. It makes a lot of sense. You're really an independent owner of that classroom, right? [laughs]

SHAWN: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And trying to get humans to collaborate and do stuff sounds a lot like running a company. [laughs]

VICTORIA: Right. I saw the tagline on Classcraft: relationships are everything. And I was like, that's a perfect DevOps kind of statement. [laughs]

SHAWN: Yeah, that's funny. [laughs] We're thinking more like human relationships, but that's so funny [laughs] from the DevOps side for sure.

VICTORIA: In and outside of the classroom, you doesn't matter how great your technology is or your strategy. If the people aren't talking to each other and you don't have the right relationships, you're not going to be successful.

SHAWN: Correct. And ultimately, that's the value proposition of Classcraft. Schools that don't build good relationships between students that don't do it between teachers and students, that don't do it between teachers and administration are dysfunctional. And what we're seeing in education today is one of the fundamental breakdowns that's happening and, you know, that's proxy for what's happening at large, and society is relationships are quite strange right now in schools, and that's making it really hard for them to be effective.

VICTORIA: Right. It sounds like this app was built out of your direct experience and your direct experience working with these students. What do you find is unique in working with students, and how do you appeal to them as a user base?

SHAWN: What's really special about edtech is that your buyer or the user that makes the decision to use the product is not the end user, and that's true in all B2B, SaaS. The decision maker who purchases the software isn't necessarily the employee who's going to use it. But in education, there are multiple levels. Like, if we sell to a district, they're the ones buying, but ultimately, they need to get the teachers to use it. And then, at the end of the day, the actual real users are the students.

And so, there are a lot of design considerations when you think of UX. And even when you think of user permissions, there's a lot of complexity there in education because our goal is to build as much motivation and engagement mechanics as we can for kids. And so that means leveling up, and random loot drops, and all these things you see in video games but applying that to school.

But then you need to build all this plumbing [laughs] basically to make it usable by a user who's the teacher who doesn't really know much about games, and that's changing as the teacher...average age of teachers is going down, a lot of retirements, et cetera, so that's changing. But at the base of it, the kids are really well versed in games, game mechanics, game culture, but the teacher who's running it is not.

So we have to speak two languages, one of pedagogy, and classroom tools, and data, and saving time. These are the things that educators care about. And incidentally, they care about motivation and motivating the kids, and all of those things. But for kids, we're talking about avatars, and pets, and gear, and leveling up, and all this whole other set of language.

And so when you think of design considerations, we always have to be thinking about how do I make this as motivating and engaging as possible for the kids, but how do I make it as easy to use and not complicated for teachers? Because if the teachers don't use it, then these kids aren't going to see the value anyways. So it's pretty complex because we don't have one single end user.

VICTORIA: And so you have the challenge of making it fun for kids and then also providing useful and understandable data for teachers and probably parents and other people, right?

SHAWN: Yeah, yeah, exactly. There are lots of stakeholders.


VICTORIA: So I want to ask more about how you make it fun, and then I also want to know more about the teacher's perspective, so whichever one you want to start with first.

SHAWN: Perfect. I mean, those two questions are literally the placement of what Classcraft is. Classcraft is the Venn diagram between what in education is behavior intervention, so managing kids' behavior and motivation. And so, from a motivation angle, how do we make it engaging for kids? In essence, kids are earning points in Classcraft for things that they're doing in school that we want them to do. And by we, schools can configure whatever it is, but it'll be things like handing in homework, being respectful, being inclusive, participating, being on time, these behaviors that they want to see in kids to make them better learners.

When those behaviors occur, teachers can give them points. And the points allow them to level up. As they level up, they each have a character. They have an avatar, and they can be warriors, healers, or mages. And based on that character class, they have a different role in the team. So they're playing in teams just like in an MMORPG or on a football team. And everybody has a different role within the team. And you win as a team.

And so school is quite competitive. Kids are always compared to the class average and their grades. And there's a lot of competition happening in schools. What we've built is a way for kids to be motivated by collaboration. And so they're playing on teams. If they do good things, they get these points, and they level up. And there are millions of combinations of gear that they could buy for their avatar, but they're also unlocking real-life powers.

And so these powers are things like, you know, in a video game, power could be like you could shoot a fireball. In Classcraft, shoot a fireball is the equivalent of you can skip a question on an exam, or you can go to the bathroom, or you can hand in homework a day late, or you can listen to music while you're doing your classwork, so giving them real-life privileges as they level up. And these aren't one-offs; they're skills that they have that they can trigger whenever they want, just like in a game.

And some of those skills are things like being able to heal up your teammate because kids can also lose lives if they do negative things. So if you're late or you're rude, or whatever it is, just like in Mario, what's failing in Mario is falling in a hole, and what's failing as a student, it's not doing what you're supposed to do, or being a bully to other kids. And so, as that happens, they can lose lives. But then they can come in to help each other out. There are boss battles where they can fight monsters by answering quiz questions, et cetera.

So all these motions that are ultimately the things that are happening anyways in school, what we're saying is instead of punishing kids or forcing them to do this stuff, make it feel like a game. Speak their language, use the same mechanics that we know are super effective at motivating players. Nobody is forcing people to play video games. Everybody's doing that of their own volition. It's the most popular cultural medium that exists today, well surpassing film, movies, music. And so, why are games so good at doing that? It's because they fulfill fundamental needs: being in control, feeling like we're progressing, social relatedness. That's what we're bringing to school. So that's the student side of it.

The other side of it, behavior intervention, is...well, one of the biggest challenges for teachers is managing kids. It's not like showing you how to do a math problem; it's getting you to care about it, listen to it, stop disturbing other people. And so, a lot of time and energy is spent on classroom management for teachers. And so what we do is we use best practices there. For example, there's a lot of research out there in education that says that praising kids for good behavior is a lot more effective than punishing them.

And so games are really good at praising you. You level up, and you gain points. It tells you your score. What we're doing here is giving them that framework but applying that to classroom management. And so instead of saying, "Hey, Victoria, stop goofing off," or "You're not dressed well, go to the principal," or whatever it is that's happening in schools, what we're telling teachers to do instead is say, "Hey if Victoria does something good, recognize her. Give her a high five." And in Classcraft, a high five is gaining points.

And so we're shifting and applying this pedagogy, shifting towards a positive reinforcement mindset. And at the same time, because these high fives are digital, then you get all the data so you can know which behaviors did Victoria do at which time with which teacher? Hey, she didn't get a lot of points this week. What's going on with her? Maybe we should talk to her and see what's going on before her behavior escalates. And so there's a lot of value from a behavior intervention standpoint. But ultimately, it's super effective because the kids really care about it in a way that they don't normally care about classroom management.

VICTORIA: Well, that makes a lot of sense. And I'm hearing something I've studied before when looking at technology organizations which is that growth mindset I think you're describing, the positive reinforcement, praising the effort for something versus their intrinsic skills. And that's something I love about teaching. I think that really, really translates to running a technology organization.

SHAWN: Yeah, totally. Ultimately, what we're doing is giving schools and teachers a platform for really effective culture building. And what you're talking about is culture within a company, in essence, and it's really the same thing. It goes back to what I was saying earlier about managing a group of kids [laughs], and managing employees is super similar. It's all about what type of positive culture you are building.

VICTORIA: I think there's something really universal about that. It's actually even true with dog training. I have a dog, and it's the same kind of motivational theory that works for them too. [laughs]

SHAWN: Yep, yep.

VICTORIA: I love it. And you mentioned that you built this tool yourself, and then suddenly, it became very popular, and now it's really, I'm sure, scaling. So what challenges have you faced with going from this homegrown tool to something big and out there in the world?

SHAWN: Lots of challenges. [laughs] I would say working in education itself is a challenge. It's a pretty challenging vertical to work in. It's ripe for disruption at the same time, pretty conservative. There are a lot of forces working in education systemically not have it move forward. Working with schools and districts is challenging. They have a lot of requirements. And, of course, they're custodians of kids, so that's legitimate, but it does make it more challenging.

One of the things that we had to evolve was we were very much a teacher-only tool when we started. I had built it as a teacher. Our user in mind was a teacher. Even our business model initially was selling to teachers basically. There was a free version, and they could upgrade to a paid version. And as we got more and more scale, you know, we have ten million-plus kids in the platform now. As we got more and more scale, what ended up happening was we were working more and more with schools and districts.

And so we went from a B2C go-to-market and product vision to a B2B/enterprise where we have to roster 10,000 or 100,000 kids in one shot, so all the user provisioning, connecting to information systems that these districts have, et cetera, all of this ginormous plumbing that needs to happen in order for it to continue to be easy to use for every single teacher. And alongside with that, the other challenge is we were super appealing to teachers that were interested in games. [laughs]

And so when you think of some teacher who's in their 60s and has never really played any games and just thinks that they're a silly waste of time, there's a different sales pitch that needs to happen there to get them on board and a different onboarding. One of the things we had to completely overhaul was the onboarding to make it really progressive. Classcraft, now when you start it, there's no avatar. It starts super lean on the feature side so that these teachers that are, you know, we're basically educating them as they're using the platform, educating them on all this game stuff.

There are a lot of learnings in terms of what's our actual target audience. And if our target audience starts to be enterprise customers, how do we evolve our platform to appeal to a much more diverse type of persona from a teacher standpoint?

VICTORIA: I was thinking, actually, a good friend of mine who is a teacher and has been running Dungeons & Dragons campaigns for us for several years.


SHAWN: There you go.

VICTORIA: And, like, you'll love it. [laughs]

SHAWN: Exactly.


VICTORIA: But I could see that being a challenge now that you're shifting your target business model, really, and how do you adapt to that?

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VICTORIA: What else are you looking ahead with Classcraft? What's on the horizon?

SHAWN: There's a lot. Like I said, we have 10 million kids in the platform plus. But we have teachers in every single country you could imagine, and there's a universality to what we're proposing. We're not saying here's the best tool for fifth-grade math in the U.S. We're saying, solve this universal human problem that's prevalent in education. And so we have teachers in, you name it, Taiwan, and Australia, and Singapore, and all over Europe using Classcraft. And so there's definitely opportunity for us to look at the international landscape and identify opportunities.

Another frontier beyond going out of North America is going beyond the brick-and-mortar experience of the classroom. A lot of what's happening in and around your software is actually not happening 18 inches from the screen. It's happening in this context where there are 30 other kids, and there are all these interactions going on. For example, if you made a reading app, you can imagine the kids sitting in a quiet space on their sofa at home reading this thing, but the reality that's happening is they're in a really loud classroom [laughs] with lots of other kids around them, et cetera. And so the design context for designing for edtech is really interesting.

We have some views that are meant to be only on a projector in front of the class. And when that happens, the font size needs to be 80 point because a kid in the back needs to be able to see it. So the screen real estate you're playing with is pretty unique scenarios. Like, what does this look like at 120 feet, let's say, because people are using it in the gym? So interesting design challenges, but they have been really ensconced in the idea that a lot of how people are using Classcraft is with real-life physical situations.

But Classcraft, in essence, we have an API. So you can also imagine behaviors that are not brick and mortar behaviors, like, if I'm being participative, that's something that a teacher would see and observe and give you points for. But there are 3,000 edtech platforms, and all of them have digital behaviors that teachers want to see. They want to see kids handing in homework in these platforms. They want to go see them complete assignments. They want to go see them participating in digital communities. These are all basically the new frontier for digital behaviors that are a part now post-pandemic of the ecosystem of education.

And so we're really interested in connecting to other platforms. I don't need kids to be in Classcraft; I just need them every day. I need them to be earning points. And I'm happy if they're doing that in other platforms and that those interactions are rewarding them experience points and points in Classcraft. And ideally, automatically, that way, the teachers don't have to do anything.

VICTORIA: And so you're integrating with all these different platforms, and you're working with all these different school districts. So you've had to make some difficult technology choices in your stack. Do you have any examples of those?

SHAWN: Yeah, absolutely. When I started the company, I'd come out of programming in...I started building cool websites in ActionScript, [laughs] so that dates me a little bit. But I'd just come out of a decade of ActionScript and PHP. And I'm like, PHP does not scale, and it doesn't afford the same type of real-time interactions that you'd expect from a game. When I decided what the tech stack would be, right at the outset, it was, okay, we're going to do this all JavaScript. It's going to be Node. And at that that's a pretty, like, anybody would make that decision. But this was nine years ago, and it wasn't as mature as it is now.

And so that was a pretty ballsy move and one that we never looked back on. But we had a lot of things that we had to build ourselves because the libraries didn't exist yet. And we were really pushing the edge of what was possible in a browser, especially in a browser in school with a crappy internet connection. And often, they are on older browsers. Although it was the right decision to lean into the leading edge on the tech stack, it did afford us with a lot of specific challenges that we might not have had if we'd said, oh, let's just keep this super old school.

Some other things that we've been challenged with over the years is just scaling the number of concurrent users is always a thing. When we started, we had a single database, one server, and I was doing all the DevOps. And a lot of what we've done since that is just move everything to services. So we've got, you know, MongoDB database-as-a-service. [laughs] We're all on Google Cloud now.

From an IT standpoint, we think a lot about what stack we're going to be using. And to me, what really matters is build the product as fast as you can and as well as you can. So outsourcing all of the DevOps pieces to cloud providers is, in my opinion, [laughs] a really good use of funds versus maintaining it yourself and spending tons of money on sys engineers and architects.

The reality is that for most products today, what exists as a service in the cloud already bundled is, you know, and we've got auto-scaling. When there are too many concurrent users, it automatically spins up new Docker servers, et cetera. So we've really evolved from this monolithic single-server approach to this imminently highly scalable solution that is all virtualized, but in doing that, moved all of it to services.

And I think that's the right move because we're not, you know, if I was really, really core, if was, I don't know, [chuckles] an online video game, then the speed of connections and all these things become super important. But in our case, reliability, scalability is more important than the fine-tuning to a precise degree of specific tech infrastructure.

And I'm seeing more and more founders now, Victoria, as well go-to codeless solutions as well. I think we're kind of abstracting a lot of what was core to product development from a tech side. You know, first, it was the DevOps, then it was the cloud, and even now, code, I think, is moving in the direction where we're systematizing, bundling, and having other services generate code more and more. I think we're moving towards that just in software in general.

VICTORIA: Yeah, I think that is becoming prevalent. I do think low-code automation has also been coming around every 5 or 10 years or so. [laughs] I have the belief that technology never disappears; it just keeps building, and new tech gets created, and the user base shifts around a little bit. And, of course, for you as a technical founder, putting it all in Docker and setting up the auto scaling on Google is probably within your reach, whereas a lot of founders, that might be something more challenging, and you might need to have some support for.

But that's essentially what we work on for Mission Control as well is helping teams set up their platform so that it will scale automatically that if there's an issue, you know about it in advance. [laughs] You can take care of it before it falls over, and that way, your users just see a reliable, happy system.

SHAWN: I'm so grateful that I am a technical founder. [laughs] I know a lot of founders, and the ones that don't know how to code really are at the mercy of so many unknown variables. I'm not coding anymore, but I'm very aware of what's going on in the platform. And I think that helps me make better business decisions every day. So I have a lot of gratitude when I compare myself in that regard.

VICTORIA: And I think it's really about communication then too. Like, having a good understanding of your system is helpful but being able to understand it well enough to then communicate it to other people, and what the value is, and how you want to invest money in different parts of the system. I think those are two things that having maybe a little bit more of experience in technology and then also having a teacher experience, I think, sets you up to be successful.

But we also, of course, at thoughtbot, we offer a lot of that technical expertise to help founders navigate some of that. So there's a little pitch just for us. [laughs] But let's see, let me go through...I think I've gone through a good amount of questions. Here's one that I like to ask everybody. But if you could travel back in time to when you first started Classcraft, what would be the main piece of advice you would give yourself?

SHAWN: If I could go back, there are some big lessons that have been learned. I've been for almost a decade now as a founder and CEO. One of the things we didn't do early enough was user testing. If I split the life of Classcraft into three eras, there's the first third we didn't need to because we had all of my own experience. But once we started moving past what was the initial product that I had built in my own classroom, we continued to make assumptions.

And we, of course, always listen to our users, but now we're super systematic about it, and any new feature has research behind it and a really solid UX practice that we should have implemented much earlier. I think we're making much better roadmap decisions today than we were three years ago. A lot of companies hire UX people super late, and I would do that early or at least develop the chops to do it myself as early as possible. So I think that's one thing.

I think as well...and maybe this is tied to that. I think we should have and could have iterated faster as well. A lot of startups in the tech scene talk about iteration, but there's a difference between incrementally iterating and just adding on, adding on, adding on, and actually making the kind of iterative decisions that, for example, pulling part of the product and discontinuing it for example. And we've done some of those moves, but I think we could have done them faster. And we should have done them faster if we'd had that UX research data to help us make decisions faster.

So it's more than, like, common truism is like, oh, listen to your users and listen to their feedback. Like, yes, that's true, and we were doing that. But I'd say go further and create robust structures to get that data faster, not just wait for it to come in but actually go out and get it and digest it in a way that's actually usable. Because you have a whole bunch of testimonials and feedback, but if it's not organized, it's not somebody's job to make sense of it. It's just kind of sitting there. So there's a lot of value from that perspective that you can quickly generate for your users and, therefore, for your business.

VICTORIA: Right. Save you some time and some money, probably in validating your ideas, right?

SHAWN: Yeah. And the problem with education is that it's a yearly cycle, right?

VICTORIA: Mmm-hmm.

SHAWN: We're not looking at monthly scales; we're looking at the whole school year. So back to school happens once a year, and that's when you get a ton of data because that's when there's the most activity. Like, right now, August, September, October, these are the moments where we're getting the most data. And then when you make changes, you got to wait all the way back to the next back to school.

So, in particular, in education, I think the cycles are long versus, let's say, more B2C-type consumer verticals where the test length is like a week. [laughs] So if it's coming once a year, you better make sure you're organized, I guess, is what I'm saying. [laughs]

VICTORIA: Because we only have one shot. [laughs]

SHAWN: Yeah, exactly.

VICTORIA: That makes sense. Well, thank you so much for sharing all those insights. And I want to give you a chance to promote anything else you'd like to share with our listeners.

SHAWN: Thank you so much for the conversation, Victoria. I appreciate it. I think if anybody wants to find out about Classcraft,, tons of content and resources that we're generating about these topics of building meaningful relationships in school but in general with human beings.

Classcraft is a B Corp, and so for people who don't know what that is, it's a certification around impact. And so we have built-in commitment to generate good in the world. And it's a pretty hard certification to get, so we're pretty proud about it. But I think that this commitment that we have of generating meaningful relationships both with kids but also with our employees, with our community, with our different stakeholders, has been really core to a lot of the decisions we make and how we make them, and how we approach different problems.

And so I think that as a tech founder, sometimes we can lose sight of what are we actually generating in the world. And so I would encourage people to think about, you know, if you're thinking about starting a company or thinking about your own company and the impact its having to look up that certification. But also, just look up triple bottom line, these types of concepts that are becoming more and more prevalent that really give meaning to the endeavor.

Starting a company and running it is a lot of work. You need to believe in what you're doing. [laughs] And I think having a mission that generates impact in that way is a good way to motivate yourself and your team to go the extra mile and deliver.

VICTORIA: I love that. And did we really cover the full impact this app has had on kids that are using it in schools?

SHAWN: There's a ton of research about Classcraft; actually, that's been done by pedagogy professors in colleges. Literally, thousands of papers have been written on Classcraft because there just aren't a lot of...everybody's interested in student motivation. There aren't a lot of scalable systems for doing that other than Classcraft. And so a lot of research that's been done about that topic incidentally happens to be using Classcraft. And a recent meta-study about Classcraft was conducted, and they saw a significant statistical impact on student motivation and learner outcomes.

And so it's hard in education to really understand impact easily because it's social sciences. So you need a lot of big data samples, and you need the control groups. It's complicated. So we're pretty proud about that because a lot of companies that work in education don't have that kind of hard data. It's like, okay, it seems to be having an impact. We've got pretty hard proof; literally hundreds of millions of positive behaviors that kids have done that are being reinforced every single year. And when you think about that, most kids don't get any positive feedback.

The kids that get the most attention are the ones that are acting out and being the worst. So 90% of teacher energy is being directed at 10% of the kids, and so most kids go through school without ever feeling a sense of belonging, or accomplishment, or praise. And we've had kids write us saying, "I was suicidal. Classcraft changed my life," like these types of user testimonies where the impact, the human impact of the approach, is really, really real. And for teachers as well, like, "I was so demotivated with teaching. I found the spark again thanks to Classcraft because school is fun again." [laughs] So there's a lot to be proud of there, for sure.

VICTORIA: That's wonderful and really powerful that you've had that impact and have been able to see it both from a scientific perspective and from those user testimonies. So I think that's wonderful. And I think it's an inspiring story. And that's probably why you're also so involved; it seems, in leadership groups in edtech and in other communities in Quebec. Is that right?

SHAWN: Yeah, totally. I mean the I'm the president of the Edtech Association here in Quebec, which I helped co-found. We've got 100-plus organizations working in edtech that are part of the association. I'm also Co-chair for The Global Collective for Social Emotional Learning, Digital Learning for UNESCO. And I have been involved in numerous different systemic endeavors in education throughout the years.

The truth is changing education is hard, and the way we're going to succeed's fundamentally something I believe that we should really be focusing on as a society is improving education, education outcomes. All the positive changes we need to see to tackle the incredible challenges that are upcoming for us as a species are going to happen through education. But for that to happen, we need to make education evolve, and for education to evolve, we need to all work together.

So the association is interesting because it's like a coopetition [laughs] in a sense. All these entrepreneurs we're all competing for the same budget dollars, but we're looking at education problems in different ways. And if we're more successful as an industry, individually, everybody's going to be more successful, and more kids are going to be impacted. So I just believe that and this is true specifically for education, but I do believe this for any vertical. If businesses are collaborating to elevate, if the water rises, everybody's boat goes up. I really believe that that's true in business in general and in education in particular.

VICTORIA: It reminds me when I was at Pluribus Digital in my last position. We were a part of the Digital Services Coalition, which is another coopetition group of federal contractors who are going after the same money. But we are all trying to see the government be better, part of that collaboration which sounds like what Classcraft is all about too. We're all in it together. [laughs]

SHAWN: Yeah. And if that's not the case, especially for incumbents, then what happens is status quo. And for startups, for tech companies, usually the status quo [laughs] is bad. That's where you're trying to generate opportunity from. But sometimes the systems that are there, government systems in particular...we've seen a lot in health as well over the last few years in clean tech. All of these impact tech sectors part of what they're fighting against are market forces of status quo. And so it's only by all working together that we can really move that.

VICTORIA: Yeah, absolutely. I'm sure we could keep talking about that for a long time. [laughs] But unless you have anything else you'd like to share, I'll go ahead and wrap up.

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