Meet Sheri Smith, CEO & Founder of Indigo Education Company. Indigo improves engagement, retention, and career readiness for K-12 and Higher Education with an actionable Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) dashboard of personal skills, traits, and motivators for use by teachers, staff, students and parents. Indigo delivers human capital insights to K12 and Higher Ed customers via a technology platform equipped with data analytics, curriculum, online courses, and career pathway opportunities.
Sheri will take part in the LearnLaunch Breakthrough Accelerator, a 5-week intensive program at the LearnLaunch Campus in Boston. Read on to learn about Indigo’s journey, where they’re headed, and why they chose LearnLaunch.
*Written by Sheri Smith, Founder & CEO of Indigo.
What traction do you have so far?
Indigo has more than 100 customers in 16 states and has developed a scalable technology product based on feedback and impact. Indigo has doubled in size each year for four years running. Over 100,000 students and educators have taken Indigo. Over 6,000 educators have participated in our level 1 Indigo training. Key customers include Arizona State University, Novato School District, University of Denver, Boulder Valley School District, US Naval Academy, Denver’s North High School, Grand Canyon University, Whitehorse High School (Navajo Reservation, Utah), Lew-Port School District New York, University of California Irvine, St. Xavier High School Ohio.
What is the story and inspiration behind starting Indigo?
Indigo was born out of a lifelong search to answer the question, “How can I and others feel fully alive?”. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of “aliveness”. Schools and companies call this “engagement”. Engagement with meaning and purpose is aliveness to me. In my work as a corporate coach, I saw various levels of engagement, but very few examples of aliveness.
In 2012, one of my corporate clients told me that his teenage daughter could benefit from this type of coaching. “Why don’t you work with young people?” he exclaimed! On the plane ride home, I kept thinking about our interaction. Young people did seem to have the most to gain from self-awareness and empathy as a basis for choosing their life path. The question was how to do this at scale?
Focusing the education system on the individual rather than the “number” was a worthy pursuit but the education field was intimidating. I had felt least alive, most unable to be my true self, at school. Being successful in school meant stuffing myself inside of a box, stifling my creativity, curiosity and independence. Out of this perspective arose Indigo.
Like so many entrepreneurs, I just started. Inside the “system” of education, I have met some of the most inspiring, dedicated people on the planet. As Indigo grew, I experienced the most poignant, meaningful five years of intense human experiences: holding hands with a group of mentors from both sides of the “tracks” in rural Mississippi; listening to a Navajo elder talk about being beaten for the sake of “education”; watching a wealthy college student in tears learning about her true self; or coaching a well-respected science teacher as he realized that his job wasn’t to “change kids”. These people are the relevance, the heart of what I do. Interestingly, every great educator I met also sees their work from this intensely human perspective. Great schools, great learning, and great innovation can only come from real people and deep purpose.
What is the unmet market need or challenge that Indigo is addressing?
When educators struggle to support students individually, students disengage, drop out and disconnect from their dreams, a churn that costs schools tens of thousands of dollars per student. Indigo allows leadership to redirect funds, time and energy on high value personalized learning.
As Indigo grows, a big unmet need is the need for new pathways into the workforce for adult, rural, and low-income students. Our most successful partner program is a virtual reality training academy with Lobaki that literally saved the first five kids from poverty and is now trains hundreds of students to become VR content creators. Their best employee is a 19-year-old without a high school diploma whom the principal told me was “hopeless”.
How does your company solve the proposed problem and why you’re the team to solve this problem.
Indigo provides a clear and comprehensive solution for student engagement and success:
- Teachers, counselors and higher-ed faculty members know the person behind each student.
- In classroom recommendations for student engagement, post-secondary pathways, teaming, social-emotional interventions, and soft skill building.
- Automated matching to best fit local jobs using real corporate benchmarks.
- Comprehensive data that is critical for making both macro and micro decisions in education institutions, government policy, and strategy.
- Online and facilitated courses for Self-Awareness and Career Preparedness, Entrepreneurism, Soft Skill Building, Teacher Collaboration Training, and Social-Emotional Support Training.
We are the team with a unique product, skills, vision, and passion to solve this problem.
Why are you participating in the LearnLaunch Accelerator? Why did you choose this program?
The LearnLaunch Network will help scale our company so that we can reach more people. The LearnLaunch allies involved care about making a difference and understand how the education system works.