First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Johnny Betancourt: Overall, we are doing well. We had a few scares with relatives testing positive for COVID-19, but thankfully everyone has made a recovery or is in the process of recovery. I’m also thankful that my family and friends have found new ways to stay connected and support each other during this time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Clutch Prep
Johnny Betancourt: I co-founded the beginnings of what eventually became Clutch Prep 10 years ago when I built Organic Chemistry tutoring modules for my Alma Mater, FIU. I wasn’t the most knowledgeable Organic Chemist in the world (far from it). However, I discovered I had an uncanny ability to simplify content and get students from Point A (knowing nothing) to Point B (aceing their exam) extremely quickly and efficiently. Ultimately, this came down to leveraging effective storytelling as a vector to teach challenging problem-solving content.
These “stories” went viral at my local university, and the learnings that my other founders and I gained from those first few years tutoring the South Florida Pre-Health community became the centerpiece of what Clutch Prep is today. Today Clutch Prep has textbook-specific video tutorials for 18 different undergraduate problem-solving classes, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have helped improve the learning outcomes of over 1 million students.
How does Clutch Prep innovate?
Johnny Betancourt: Ultimately, we are the only company that works to disrupt the very explanations that students use to learn. Where many other companies focus their efforts on disrupting legacy technology within the edtech space, we discovered very early on that for students to learn more effectively; they first need better explanations. We work through a systematic process to generate those innovative explanations.
This comes in the form of applying over 300 research-based principles to the method in which we map out and create content, always putting the student first in everything we do. Many content creators simply turn on a camera and begin recording; we spend months deeply exploring and developing better explanations before the camera ever gets turned on. This results in masterfully distilled video content that students not only learn from but that they are willing to pay for.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Johnny Betancourt: Around March, we began to receive an unprecedented number of requests from professors, departments, and universities asking for permission to use our content in their online classrooms. Following this, our team quickly realized there was an urgent need to support professors by deeply integrating our content into their online classrooms. We responded by creating Clutch Prep for Classrooms, which we launched this Summer.
Working directly with professors to create custom textbook-specific video modules and video-based homework assignments for their classrooms has allowed us to deliver unprecedented student learning outcomes. This Fall Clutch Prep is now a graded component of the class for 100+ classrooms and 6,000+ students around the country, and we’re excited to support many more professors.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Johnny Betancourt: Resource allocation is always tricky, but during COVID, especially so. A few months ago, we had to make the decision to go “all-in” in our Classroom product or not. The result of that decision was to start hiring and set incredibly ambitious goals for spring 2021. We learned that in a VUCA world (2020), you need to be willing to challenge assumptions and move quickly.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Clutch Prep in the future?
Johnny Betancourt: It has been more important than ever for me to have a strong morning and evening routine (morning walks, journaling, calendaring, etc.) so that I can be the leader and innovator that my company needs me to be during this time. I view 2021 as a Blue Ocean for Clutch Prep. We have content that can benefit tens of thousands of educators, and many more millions of students. 2021 is ours to grab and execute against.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Johnny Betancourt: Our main competitors are free videos on YouTube. YouTube and Google are the first places that Gen Z students go for help, and our content needs to stay helpful enough that professors and students are willing to choose our content over the myriad of free options all over the internet. Our ongoing investment in having a world-class content development team is essential to our ability to stay relevant and continue to succeed in the educational content space.
Your final thoughts?
Johnny Betancourt: I clearly would not have chosen for COVID to negatively impact the world, my family, and my team in the way it has, but it’s important to wake up every day thinking about what you can do to make things better. For us, that attitude yielded what is already becoming an entirely new division in our company with the opportunity to support many more students and educators.