Each month as part of StartHub's Startups to Watch Program, we connect with the winning company to learn more about them. We had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Pardue and Kyle Lawson, Co-Founders of LOU. Here’s what we learned:
Tell us about your company. What is LOU?
LOU simplifies customer success by enabling companies to upgrade lengthy help center documents and training videos into effortless interactive tutorials that teach users while they work. LOU boosts adoption, improves user experience, and provides valuable analytics about users’ behavior.
What are your backgrounds?
Rachel: I’m a senior at Babson College, and I’ll be graduating this May. I got my first taste of entrepreneurship at 17 when I became the youngest person to be accepted to Louisiana Tech University’s business accelerator with my first startup for military translation devices. While at Babson, I was a student consultant for SoftBank Robotics, and I had the opportunity to work with Design that Matters on a medical device for the prevention of neonatal hypothermia in refugee settlements and developing countries through Babson’s Affordable Design & Entrepreneurship course. Kyle and I began working together when we were vice president and president of Babson’s entrepreneurship club eTower, which is home to 21 student-entrepreneurs and offers a community and co-working space to club members.
Kyle: I just graduated from Babson College in December 2018 with a BS in Business Management. Growing up I always dreamed of starting a business, so when I got to Babson I dove head first into the startup ecosystem on campus. In my first year, I had an idea for a mobile app but no one to build it, so I decided to learn how to code. I quickly fell in love with programming and have been building web applications ever since. In my Sophomore year, I built a video marketing startup with a friend at school and participated in the Babson Summer Venture Program and Valley Venture Mentors Accelerator. Since then I have been a freelance developer, helping companies launch software to hundreds of thousands of users while honing my development skills.
How did you come up with the idea for LOU? Who is your target customer?
Rachel: I got the idea for LOU from teaching my grandparents how to use their computer. One day they asked me how to wish my Aunt Lou a happy birthday on Facebook, and as I stood over their shoulder and pointed to each button they needed to press like I had done a million times before, I thought that there should really be a customer support tool that does this. I think extreme use cases, like grandparents and computers, are illuminating because they can reveal issues that are true for average users but are not as easily observed.
I teamed up with my co-founder Kyle, and we began asking professionals what web platforms they have learned to use and what their learning process was like. The responses were overwhelmingly online business tools like CRMs, accounting software, etc. and the learning process was a pain point as it required completing hours of curriculum through videos and certifications.
We used our time in Babson’s San Francisco Program and Silicon Valley Tech Ventures class as an opportunity to build out a proof of concept where we made interactive tutorials to ‘get started with HubSpot’ that we launched on Product Hunt. We received great feedback which gave us the validation we needed to pursue interactive tutorials as the solution, and HubSpot even reached out to learn about our interactive tutorials. That’s when we began positioning LOU as enterprise software and focused on creating a scalable business through our builder which allows companies to create their own LOU tutorials.
Although the idea began with Aunt Lou, our target customer is web platform companies that provide online business tools.
How do you think LOU is going to disrupt the market? What are the main differentiators between you and your competitors?
At LOU, we’re working to simplify the web, and that starts with our own software. We’ve taken a technology that originally had to be hard coded and continually rewritten, and made it so that any customer success rep can build interactive tutorials without any technical knowledge. We believe interactive tutorials are the future of customer success, and what sets us apart in this emerging market is that LOU is the turnkey solution.
One common question we got through market research was 'Why are software programs that make websites easy to use, so hard to use?'. With LOU, there’s no downtime for training so companies can start building their content right away. We focused on baking intuitive design and simple implementation into every aspect of LOU so that companies like creating LOU tutorials as much as their users enjoy learning from them.
Who are your main investors?
LOU is fully bootstrapped to date, but we are actively seeking a seed investment to help us capture market share and scale operations after running our pilot program.
Why did you decide to start your business in Boston? How long has your company been around?
We initially began and ran LOU for the first six months in Babson’s San Francisco program. Before starting LOU we were already very active in the Boston entrepreneurial ecosystem because of our involvement with eTower. When it was time to return to Boston for our senior year, we were really excited to have the chance to grow LOU in Boston’s thriving startup culture and growing tech scene that we're fortunate enough to be a part of. LOU has now been based out of Boston for almost 7 months.
What resources in the startup community have contributed to the success of LOU?
Babson has played a major role in providing resources that have helped us take LOU to the next level. We began working on the initial proof of concept for LOU in Babson’s San Francisco program, and then we built out our MVP in Babson’s Summer Catalyst Program. This program gave us access to invaluable mentors and industry connections as well as office space and visibility within the startup community. After returning from San Francisco, the Babson Blank Center has been extremely helpful with connecting us to Angel Investors, offering office hours and business advice, and providing us with our own office space on campus. Babson also sent us to pitch as the only undergraduate team at B-School Disrupt where we won the fan favorite award.
In November, we participated in MITEF’s Beantown Throwdown pitch competition, where we were fortunate enough to take home first place. The event gave us great exposure to the Boston entrepreneurial ecosystem, and it has also provided us with some really great prizes like a write up in VentureFizz (see "LOU’s Interactive Tutorials Make Learning Complex Platforms A Breeze"), google cloud credits, and co-working space at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC).
How do you use StartHub professionally?
StartHub has been a great resource for us. We mainly use it to find events going on in the Boston area so that we’re always up to date and taking advantage of all of the wonderful opportunities that Boston holds. It is also a great tool for searching around and finding cool startups that align with our mission and that we could possibly collaborate with in the future.
What are the next steps for LOU?
We’re excited to announce that we’re launching a pilot with a select number of Boston-based companies who are looking to improve their customer success and user experience. We’re looking for a few more partner companies to complete our pilot, and we’d love to talk to interested companies about the challenges that they’re facing to see if it would be a good fit for us to work together.
What is the most important thing our readers should know about LOU?
We’re on a mission to simplify the web one platform at a time, and we love to collaborate with people and companies who share our passion for phenomenal customer success. Check us out!
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