I co-founded Wisdolia in January 2022. We've pivoted 4 times since we started the company and are currently working on Wisdolia, where we're building an AI learning copilot that turns any study material into an interactive, personalized, and fun learning experience. We started off by creating a Chrome extension that uses AI to generate flashcards with questions and answers for any article, PDF, or YouTube video. You can check out Wisdolia at https://wisdolia.com
I’m grateful to be on this journey with my brilliant co-founder, David Glass.
Since we started the company, we have tested out 6 different ideas. I’ll tell the story of Wisdolia by giving a brief overview on each of the ideas, why we pivoted, and the lessons we gathered from each of them.
Idea #1: Learn-to-Earn — The Genesis of Wisdolia
Mindflow was the name of the first idea that gave birth to the company and it was based on a concept named learn-to-earn. Learn-to-earn was inspired from the explosion of play-to-earn games, such as Axie Infinity.
In a play to earn game like Axie Infinity, you can buy Axie NFTs and use them to play the game and from playing the game, you earn a cryptocurrency named SLP. I invested in Axie by sponsoring 20 people across the Philippines and Venezuela. This means that I bought the Axie NFTs and let the scholars use them to play the game and in exchange we would split earnings. In the beginning, this was very lucrative and these scholars in the Philippines and Venezuela were making more money playing this game compared to almost any job they could get.
I was mind blow by the economic opportunity this was creating but felt uncomfortable that they were playing a video game, which wasn't helping them in any real way. What if we could apply this same concept to something a bit more productive, such as learning? Thus, the idea for learn-to-earn was born.
We launched our MVP for the learn-to-earn platform in March of 2022. The basic idea is that you read text from a learning lesson, respond to a reflection question based on what you learned and if we approve your response (based on it not being spam), you would earn 100 points, which equates to $0.50 worth of the MATIC cryptocurrency.
In this MVP, we were paying users out of pocket and losing money but we were only doing this while testing the initial idea and our plan was to eventually adopt an economic model similar to that of Axie Infinity. The platform is still live and you can check it out here. You can also check out a demo of the product here.
We got over 200 users in the first month and had some strong early interest from a couple low-income users. However, these are some of the reasons as to why we decided to pivot.
- Uncertainty in the Economic Model: Our economic model was very similar to Axie Infinity’s but Axie Infinity was crashing at the moment and it’s long term sustainability was uncertain (Axle’s crypto SLP has dropped more than 99% since its peak).
- Intrinsic > Extrinsic Motivation: Paying people to learn is an extrinsic motivation to learn. We ended up reading research on how extrinsic motivators, such as money, can often get in the way of someone’s intrinsic motivation to want to do something. In other words, if you are being paid to do something, you are likely to believe that you are doing that thing for money rather than because you actually enjoy it. As a result, we were afraid that creating extrinsic motivations around learning could be harmful. You can check out a brief overview of our findings here.
- Action > Consumption: We came to realize that the real growth happens when you apply what you learn and take action, not when you mindlessly consume. We therefore wanted to build something that had a greater emphasis on taking action.
- Low-Income People: The people that resonated with this product the most were low-income people in developing countries. I care deeply about serving these people but the problem with serving this demographic is that we are not those people and don’t know almost any people that are low-income so there would be a lot of cultural differences and pain points that would be easy to miss. We thought it would be better to start by solving our own problems or the problems of people we know.
Idea #2: The Mindflow Games
The Mindflow Games was a multi-day competition where participants paid $25 to compete for the chance to win prizes.
Once the Mindflow Games began, you would receive daily quests in the categories of Learning, Reflection, Seek Discomfort, Relationships, and Wellness. You get points for completing quests and when the competition ends, the participants at the top of the leaderboard would earn different amounts of money. The main idea was to make it fun and easy for growth-driven people to take action and become a better version of themselves, with a community of other like-minded individuals.
After running 2 seasons of the Mindflow Games (which we ran using Notion) with 48 participants that paid $25 to participate and completed an aggregate of over 400 quests, we learned that the convenience and social elements were both the most impactful motivators in taking action and the most enjoyable parts of the experience.
Therefore, we decided to dial up the social and convenience factors of the experience by creating a social app that gave users daily quests.
You can check out a demo of how the Mindflow Games worked here.
We also managed to raise $220k for our pre-seed round around this time.
Idea #3: Growth Made Social — The Mindflow App
After going into full build mode, we ended up launching the Mindflow app in August 2022. The Mindflow Social app was our biggest bet yet that spanned 6 months. You can check out the app here.
The initial idea behind the Mindflow App was to create a social app where users receive daily bite-sized quests that make it fun and easy to take action and grow alongside their friends.
After a couple of weeks, we realized that people enjoyed getting daily quests but they weren’t always relevant to what was interesting / valuable to them so they either deprioritized them or stopped checking quests altogether and eventually churned. When we spoke with users, many mentioned they wanted the flexibility to grow in the ways that were meaningful to them.
As a result, we launched Growth Journeys within the Mindflow App
Idea #4: Growth Journeys
Growth Journeys is a feature within the Mindflow app that enables you to create and share a collection of posts for anything you want to grow in, such as Running, Weightlifting, Reading, Learning Spanish, etc. The idea is to have a space for you to document your passions/hobbies, track your progress, learning efforts, and mental growth all in one spot and share the journey of becoming better every day with friends.
We launched Growth Journeys in Oct 2022 and after 3 months, it still hadn't generated good traction so we decided to pivot.
Mini retrospective on the Mindflow App
We launched Mindflow on August 20th, 2022 and after deciding to pivot 6 months later, there had been ~900 downloads and 500 posts created. Retention was only good (1+ month) for a very small percentage of users and almost all users churned after 2 months. And perhaps worst of all for a social app, users were not inviting their friends.
When we talked to users, there are things that they found valuable from the experience but overall, it appears that what we had built was a vitamin rather than a pain killer (meaning that our product is a nice to have rather than a must have).
There’s a lot of mistakes we have made that led to this result but perhaps one of the biggest one is that we failed to nail down on a specific pain point and build a solution that does an exceptional job of tackling that pain point. This mistake is a painful one because it’s a failure to apply and internalize one of the most fundamental startup principles.
As a result, we decided to take a step back and brainstorm different potential directions we could take and ideas we could test out.
You can check out a full post-mortem with a reflection on the top 4 mistakes we made with the Mindflow app here.
Idea #5: Sparkin Joy — Connecting the World Through Gratitude
The idea with Sparkin Joy was that you could write a gratitude letter to someone you care about and when you do so, a “gratitude chain” is created. If you receive a gratitude letter, you have 48 hours to send a gratitude letter to someone new before the chain breaks. The goal is to keep the chain alive for as long as possible.
The core assumption here is that if you receive a gratitude letter, you’ll feel so grateful that you will want to pay it forward and send a gratitude letter to someone else (reciprocity).
We tested out SparkinJoy but after two weeks, we did not get enough positive signal so we decided to move past this idea as well.
You can check out Sparkin Joy at https://sparkinjoy.com.
Idea #6: Wisdolia
Wisdolia is what we're currently working on and it's finally the first idea that is working really well (10,000s of users)! At Wisdolia, we're building an AI learning copilot that turns any study material into an interactive, personalized, and fun learning experience. We started off by creating a Chrome extension that uses AI to generate flashcards with questions and answers for any article, PDF, or YouTube video. It has proven to be extremely valuable for students because of how much time it saves them from having to create flashcards.
Overall, we’re excited about Wisdolia and the potential of what it could become. David and I are infinitely curious people that love to learn so we’ve been having a lot of fun thinking about how we can transform any student into a super learner that can retain and understand anything 10x better and faster.
You can check out Wisdolia at https://wisdolia.com.
We're currently on pivot #4 and even though it's been a challenging journey with many roadbumps, I'm having more fun and am learning more than I ever have before!
One of my biggest lessons along this journey has been that it often takes many iterations to find product-market fit. This means that it’s important to minimize your burn rate so that you can survive long enough to have enough shots on goal until you manage to score. The more you experiment and iterate, the more you learn, and the more likely you are to score when you take a shot on goal. You can read more about this particular lesson I learned through this LinkedIn post.
If you’d like to follow along my startup journey and learn from my experiences, I invite you to follow me on Twitter.
Feel free to reach out if you'd like to learn more about any part of our journey: firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Wondering where the name Wisdolia came from? It's a derivative of the word wisdom and we think about it as a kingdom of wisdom where anyone that enters the kingdom is granted the super power of infinite wisdom. But actually in reality we just wanted a .com domain and needed to invent a new word lol 😂