Devin: I wonder what you identify as being your superpower.
Suren: Belief: because I believe in the mission. I know it’s there, and I know it’s only a matter of time to bring this new revolutionizing approach to education. When you believe in something the way I believe, then you start seeing life from your own [perspective]. Whatever you believe in, it becomes reality. So that is how it was working when I was starting in 2009, my other platform Dasaran. No one was seeing and believing where it was going to be. And today, it is the largest and one of the five best innovative enterprises in the world. So, if that could be called a superpower, it’s believing in the mission.
At first blush, Suren Aloyan, an Armenian social entrepreneur, is an unlikely person to bring an educational revolution to the United States. But go a bit deeper with me, and you’ll see he may be just the guy to pull it off.
In 2009, he launched Dasaran, an EdTech company based in Armenia. In 2016, the United Nations Development Programme recognized Suren’s platform as one of the top five innovations in education globally. Along the way, he personally visited with all 35,000 teachers in Armenia, helping him develop a broad perspective.
Recently, he launched PopUp Edutech Inc., which he more simply calls PopUp School, an online alternative to tutoring. At its core is a learning styles assessment that the student takes upfront to be provided lessons that correspond to the subject matter in the student’s learning style. Suren and the team have designed it to make learning easier.
Teachers use PopUp School to create content they can share with their students—and others—who need help. Suren and his team created an “online assistant” to guide teachers in creating lessons on the chosen subject matter that appeal to four key learning styles:
Suren shared a hypothetical example to illustrate the potential impact:
Let's take a student, for example, whose dominant learning style will be by 62 percent visual, 10 percent audio, let's say, 18 percent reading-writing and 12 percent kinesthetic. If the teacher runs the lesson based fully on audio teaching, then the student is doomed to learn this specific lesson by a maximum of 10 percent. Now imagine, if we can find a way to diagnose the student's learning style and then diagnose the teacher's teaching style and match them with each other and give the student the possibility, at least to increase the effectiveness of learning by 30 percent!
At the moment, PopUp School is paying $75 for new lessons upfront with a royalty according to the students’ use. Teachers receive 50 percent of the revenue PopUp School generates from their courses. Students pay $34.99 per month to access all the classes, cheaper than one hour with a well-qualified tutor.
The online assistant on PopUp School helps teachers create lessons that utilize all four learning styles. “When you start, for example, uploading your video or uploading a text or a picture, our algorithm is trying to identify what have you used,” Suren says. “Are there any diagrams? Are there experience in experiments in there and everything diagnosing your materials, trying to identify for which type of learner this material with this lesson will be the best match?”
Suren feels a genuine camaraderie with teachers. “In the United States, out of the population 332 million population, we have only 1 percent teachers. And this 1 percent is responsible for the entire civilization.”
“We are not doing enough for the teachers, especially during this COVID period,” Suren says, explaining why PopUp School is designed to help teachers economically.
Suren dreams of immense impact. “we are targeting to be a unicorn in five years and bringing to 100,000 students an impact of having a better learning opportunity. And we believe that this will revolutionize the approach in the education system.”
In this work, beginning with the startup of Dasaran, Suren has leveraged his superpower, belief in his mission.
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How to Develop Belief in Your Mission As a Superpower
Suren has had remarkable success, driven by a belief in his mission. When he launched the SAAS company Dasaran, he needed teachers to use computers to use it. At the time, only 5 percent of teachers were using computers. He could never get widespread adoption with so few teachers using the technology.
After five and a half years spent visiting personally with all the teachers in Armenia, Suren pushed the number to 83 percent, where he built a successful business, dramatically impacting education in Armenia. He was driven by his belief in his mission.
Suren was open about how this process works for him.
Whenever I'm having a failure, let's say, and I lose the belief, for example, in myself, I just go outside and I start walking and then I see cars or airplanes flying and then mobile phones and everything around me.
And I always say, ‘Who created this?’ Another person like me. So how can one create a huge ton of metal going in the air and flying and I cannot build something myself? So this all gives me an opportunity to think that it's all about how soon you are ready to give up. But if you don't give up, then definitely you'll succeed.
His keys are simple. Remember that every successful entrepreneur is fundamentally just like you. Then, don’t quit on your dreams!
Following Suren’s counsel can help you develop belief in your mission as a superpower that will help you do more good.