Jason Patel on COVID-19, Entrepreneurship, Transizion and the Future of Edtech
When it comes to college admissions, consulting and planning, Jason Patel is a man who knows A LOT about helping kids and their families during an exciting and sometimes stressful time.
Jason founded Transizion, a company that offers online mentorship, tutorials and boot camps - at an affordable price- for students and families. With a personal goal of closing the “Opportunity Divide” in America, Jason leverages technology, marketplaces, and networks to be a champion for ALL students and help them find opportunities for a better life.
His insights have been featured in various media outlets like the Washington Post, BBC, NBC News, Reader’s Digest, Forbes, Fast Company, and more.
We were lucky to sit down with Jason and learn about what led him to start Transizion, what COVID-19 has meant for his business, his thoughts on entrepreneurship, and his outlook on the company and the wider edtech sector.
(Sq32) You’re the founder of Transizion, a company that helps students navigate the college admission process. What led you to start Transizion?
(Jason)I first started helping students by volunteering in and around Washington, DC. There was a huge reception to the guidance I offered because I combined college admissions help with custom-tailored career planning in a process that was parent- and student-friendly. During one academic cycle, a few of my students earned full and partial scholarships to their schools of choice; their elated mothers implored me to start my own company, which would allow me to scale and help more kids in need of guidance. I did exactly that.
Since then, we’ve grown the company to a few dozen “mentors” - which is what we call our advisors - and have helped thousands of students with college and career planning.
What’s been so interesting about this journey is that it started out unintentionally. I just wanted to help young people. It turns out that my volunteering was the first step of a wild and fun ride.
(Sq32) Covid-19 is affecting businesses in every industry. What has it meant for your business?
(Jason) I’ve planned our company growth and burn rate around two important premises: First, we’d be a remote company, so that team members can work hard and effectively from the location of their choice; second, the company would spend on only necessary items so that when a crisis was to inevitably hit, we’d be in a good position to ride out the chaos.
Both of those planning points have allowed us to boost our sales numbers during the COVID crisis.
Sure, customer outreach is tougher, since consumer markets are plagued with uncertainty, but that’s business, and life. We’re experimenting with new marketing strategies so that we can learn which channels to leverage when the economic uptrend arrives. The company is still investing in new ways to find customers and form touchpoints with them.
I liken this to an F-1 race. Companies have approached a hard turn, in which many will pull back and a few will step on the gas pedal to favorably maneuver themselves past the curve and into the straightaway. Sure, there is a greater risk in investing and pushing forward during uncertain times, but the upside is enormous if our strategies are executed well.
(SQ32) What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
I’d say that I’ve learned important lessons for both my professional and personal life.
(Jason) The most important professional lesson I’ve learned is that you need to develop solutions that customers want. In other words, you can’t start with a solution that you think is perfect. This means you need to talk to customers so that you aren’t wasting time on a product or service that ultimately no one needs. The mind will play tricks on you and will convince your soul that your solution is perfect for what the market desires. It was the first major lesson I learned when I started, and the reason I still harken back to it today is because of how painful the memory of a failed product is.
Specifically, I had devised a b2b solution for schools and organizations that I thought was perfect. After spending one year of developing and marketing the product, we had only one customer. The solution was a disaster. That’s one year of my life I will never get back. Still, I am grateful for the experience because it taught me to talk to customers, hear their pain points, discuss pricing, and focus on the UI/UX of onboarding and product usage. After internalizing these lessons, Transizion grew exponentially after pivoting entirely. Turns out that listening to your customers really works.
Personally, the most important lesson I’ve learned is to be patient and acknowledge that this is a journey. Things will take time, so appreciate the lessons and don’t rush progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m getting better at this every day. As a result, I’m less hard on myself while keeping the same high standards.
(SQ32) What are you curious about now?
(Jason) I’m ultra-curious about which solutions will help close the Opportunity Divide in America. From massive infrastructure projects to monitoring dark money in political campaigns, I am constantly reading and thinking of solutions that will help end income inequality in our country. Neither the invisible hand nor high taxes will solve this problem. What the country needs is a new litany of solutions - ones that embrace speed, efficiency, and results-based outputs without letting one entity, whether its the federal government or a public company, control the entire building process.
The rate of change for all markets - including education, healthcare, security, and transportation - is so fast that the government can’t keep up. In the same vein, the stakes are so high that we can’t allow one CEO or corporate board to have sway over how a solution is implemented in our communities. Finding that balance between public and private implementation is what will get our country back on track.
(Sq 32) Where do you go online, who do you follow to get inspired, to learn more about edtech, or entrepreneurship?
(Jason) I love reading biographies and tales of adversity in business. There are the standard-bearers of entrepreneurship, like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Howard Schultz, that I love reading about, but less commonplace figures, like Travis Kalanick, Ryan Holiday, and Michael Pollan, inspire me to think differently, and think less, about potential detractors and failures.
I’m a big fan of Medium - where I’ll read up on the entrepreneurship publications - the Wall Street Journal, Joe Procropio’s blog, Brett Fox’s blog, The Tim Ferris Show podcast, Startup Therapy podcast, Jason Calacanis’s This Week In Startups podcast, Harry Stebbings’s 20-Minute VC podcast, Eric Weinstein’s The Portal podcast, John Warrillow’s Built to Sell podcast, and the Inside Intercom podcast.
Otherwise, I’m on kindle reading about Roman, military, and political history. I cannot get enough of history.
(SQ32) What’s next for Transizion?
(Jason) We’ll continue to grow our business, scale our marketplace to include more mentors, and likely raise more money. These things will take time, but we’ll get there. I know we will.
Personally, I’m working toward hitting 400 pounds on my deadlift and getting my brown belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu, whenever the sport resumes post-COVID.
Jason, thank you so much for sharing your background with us and the great things you’re doing at Transizion!
You can find Jason here:
Our Blog: https://www.transizion.com/blog/