2023 Most Disruptive Business School Startups: Tadpole, Northeastern University (D’Amore-McKim)


Northeastern University, D’Amore McKim School of Business

Industry: EdTech

Founding Student Name(s): Andrew Shenouda

Brief Description of Solution: Software to build and operate tutoring programs.

Funding Dollars: $30,000 in Grants

What led you to launch this venture? I was held back in the first grade and couldn’t read until third grade. It’s nobody’s fault. I didn’t have the same relationship with learning that other kids had. Plus, my teachers were so overwhelmed with other students that I couldn’t be anything else other than the “troubled child”.

But my life took a different direction when, at the start of the new school year, I got a tutor. For the first time in my life, I felt seen and understood by an educator. Their patience, kindness, and willingness to explain material in a way that I understood instilled within me a love for learning. It was one that would give me the motivation and belief in myself needed to transform from a struggling student to one of the top kids in class.

Ever since that moment, I’ve been on a mission to find ways that human connection and personalized instruction can be used to accelerate learning.

According to the Department of Education, upwards of 60% of students in the United States test below proficient levels in math and reading. And despite the fact the tutoring has been shown to yield substantial positive impacts on learning outcomes (overall pooled effect size estimate of 0.37 SD), experts estimate that only 2% of students receive effective tutoring.

It shouldn’t be that way.  That’s why for the better part of three years, I’ve been building Tadpole.

Tadpole is the Shopify of learning: we’re creating software that makes it easy to build and operate tutoring programs. Handling everything from scheduling and communication to billing and grade tracking, our mission is to make it possible for anyone to become an educator and build a world-class tutoring program in just a couple clicks.

Simply put– if we can reduce the barrier of entry to starting and scaling a tutoring program, we can make tutoring more accessible. So far, we’ve raised $33,000 in grants and are working with seven tutoring programs to take our product to market in the next six months.

Tadpole is the culmination of three years of continuous work, and something I care a great deal about. I look forward to taking it to new heights over the coming years.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? I am most proud of the team we have assembled. Learning the art of management and hiring has been a process that has required a lot of growth and patience. There have certainly been missteps along the way. But—today– I can say that we’ve built a culture of excellence where highly motivated and highly intelligent people can work together to create a product of the highest order.

How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? I was able to do a semester in San Francisco. Here, I was able to engage in the entrepreneurial ecosystem there while taking classes that were directly relevant to what would ultimately be of great value to Tadpole: Entrepreneurial Finance, New Venture Development, Entrepreneurship Seminar, and more.

Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? It’s a tie between Entrepreneurial Finance and New Venture Development. Entrepreneurial Finance taught me the basics of venture capital, fundraising, and deal-making. Most importantly, it gave me a concrete, mathematical perspective on decision making (in relation to fundraising and financing), which was important to build.

New Venture Development was a course that enabled me to work on Tadpole part time under the guidance of an advisor. My advisor helped me to assemble my first one-pager, financial models, and pitch. Most importantly, my advisor taught me the value of having ‘clarity of thought’—being able to think systematically and rationally and communicate that thinking in a clear way. It’s a deliberate and calibrated skill—one that seems obvious to have but is rarer than someone might think.

What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Both Thorsten Claus, my Entrepreneurial Finance professor and Naeem Zafar, my new venture development professor. Both have provided immense value to me, and I appreciate them greatly.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Not any founder in particular—I’m more mission and process motivated than anything else. But I have listened to almost every episode of podcasts like How I Built This, Acquired, and All-In.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Universalizing access to personalized instruction.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success?

Tadpole was able to participate in Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the following ways:

E-Club and the Husky Startup Challenge – This is the gateway organization to Northeastern entrepreneurship. E-Club offers great educational material and programming for new student entrepreneurs. They also run one of the only student pitch competitions on campus, the Husky Startup Challenge, where new student ventures can pitch for ~10K in prizes. Tadpole placed third in the Husky Startup Challenge my freshman fall.

Generate – Generate offers pro bono product development and engineering services for student entrepreneurs on campus. Tadpole was a Generate client my Freshman spring.

Scout – Scout offers pro bono product development and design services for student entrepreneurs on campus. Tadpole was a Scout client my Sophomore Fall.

IDEA – IDEA is Northeastern’s on campus accelerator. It offers instructional programming and houses the ‘Ready’, ‘Set’, ‘Go’ program, where after progressing through all stages of business development, student ventures can pitch for $10,000 in non-dilutive funding (and win up to three times). Tadpole won this past summer.

HAN – Huntington Angels Network. Helps to connect late-stage student ventures with seed capital and early stage funding. Tadpole will likely engage with HAN this fall.


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