First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Pete Ingram-Cauchi: We have mostly good days and some tough days. Energy is mostly good. But a lot of rules are being re-written. I see a lot of challenges, but also a lot of silvers linings. We spend more time together. We learn to function as a unit and make compromises–all being together under one roof all the time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined iD Tech
Pete Ingram-Cauchi: Both of my parents are educators. My dad was a high school teacher and principal at a high school for at-risk youth. My mom ran after school programs, and always had her own side businesses. So you could say education and entrepreneurship is in my DNA. I got my work ethic and appreciation for challenges by observing and helping my parents as a kid.
In college, I studied International Business and Spanish at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. I loved it. My favorite class was entrepreneurship. Looking back, I feel so blessed I could put some of what I learned to good use. We took iD Tech national, then international–with locations all over Asia and the UK. So many lessons from UW were applied to launching our international locations. One of the key lessons–it’s 10 times harder than it looks. Don’t underestimate the time and investment it will take to be successful internationally.
My mom and my sister started the company in 1999, right before the dot com bust. I was 26 when I joined iD Tech. I was working for a startup in Madrid, Spain, and I flew back to join them and help scale the company. The rest is history. We’re now in the process of re-imagining iD Tech in a COVID-19 world. Our online products are scaling quickly. It’s the wild west.
About Pete – BIO
Pete Ingram-Cauchi is the CEO of iD Tech, a Silicon Valley-based education company founded in 1999 by Kathryn Ingram and Alexa Ingram-Cauchi. iD Tech delivers online and in-person tech experiences for kids and teens. Curriculum spans Coding, Game Design, Digital Video, AI, Machine Learning, YouTube Streaming, and more. In-person programs are held at elite campuses worldwide from UCLANYU to the University of Hong Kong and Imperial College, London. Pete attended the University of Washington and majored in International Business and Spanish. Both his parents were educators and entrepreneurs, which shaped his thinking and his passion for education and business. To date, over 500,000 students have graduated from iD Tech programs.
How does iD Tech innovate?
Pete Ingram-Cauchi: We listen to our customers. We seek out trends and look at gobs of data. We observe our own kids, and how they learn, socialize and weave technology into their everyday lives. Then, we try to solve problems through constant learning, failing, iterating, and celebrating wins and fails. We absolutely have to be committed to learning. And committed to taking risks.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Pete Ingram-Cauchi: Our in-person programs have been disrupted greatly, but we know it is just a matter of time before we get back to normal. In the meantime, the pandemic has advanced parents’ comfort levels with Zoom and distance learning in general. We’re filling a huge educational void right now…we happen to be experts in recruiting, hiring, and training elite, tech-savvy rockstars to teach our students across zip codes, time zones and borders. We actually make learning fun on the other end of Zoom. It’s really hard to do, but that’s where we shine. In the future, we’ll be a hybrid company with both online and in-person programs on university campuses.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Pete Ingram-Cauchi: We did a staff downsizing which was incredibly painful. I have never cried so much. And, because everyone was working from home, we had to do everything via phone and Zoom which didn’t feel good. But it was the only way we could move forward–we had to cut expenses back in March. We managed to quickly reorganize and pivot in order to rethink and reimagine our business and our customers’ needs in an online format.
We’ve learned that you CAN deliver compelling and fun educational experiences online. But there is a way to do it, and a way not to do it. Schools, in general, don’t know how to do it well. We focus on delivering experiences in small, intimate groups. We don’t put kids “on mute” and we definitely fully use the video. All our programs are delivered by our Tech Rockstar instructors.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and iD Tech in the future ?
Pete Ingram-Cauchi: I exercise every day and encourage my team to do so. I do yoga a few times a week. When I was younger, I thought Yoga was for “other people.” Now, I totally get it. We’re also taking a lot more time in the company to focus on mental well-being–we can’t have a health company without healthy people. People need to sleep, exercise, step away from the computer and definitely need time off.
We’re also spending a lot more time planning and creating clarity, to align the team. This causes positive, collaborative energy. When people know where they’re running to, they can run faster.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Pete Ingram-Cauchi: We compete in the summer camp space, the tutoring space, the after school space…competitors come and go. I focus on the things that make us special like our culture, our ability to innovate, the development of our people, and the traditions and customs that are not easily copied. We’re always learning and pushing. We don’t like to follow. We like to disrupt and lead.
Your final thoughts
Pete Ingram-Cauchi: With COVID-19, there will be new winners and new losers. The companies that can adapt quickly and capture the hearts and minds of the marketplace, and do so quickly, will have a big advantage. iD Tech is perfectly positioned for both online and in-person educational enrichment. We’re really, really excited about educating the next generation of innovators, technologists and disruptors.