girish_ventak1
Girish Venkat Chairman & CTO

As working parents, many of us feel guilty for not having spent enough time with our kids when they were growing up.  I personally carry an oversized guilt from when my son was small.  I was so busy building my first company, CoreObjects, that by the time I realized it, my son was already in middle school!

I started spending more time with my son after we sold CoreObjects in 2010. I used to get intrigued while talking to my son's best friend's mom who happens to be a very active mom (you might call her a 'super mom'). I remember casually asking her one day about what she was doing with her son for the summer and she told me about the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) program.  I had no idea Johns Hopkins offered programs for middle school kids.  It seemed to me she was always recommending incredible programs I had never heard of.  Another I recall was a public debate workshop (to help improve her son’s leadership skills) someplace in Texas. Another was a comedy workshop in LA (after all the intensity, she wanted her son to chill out and improve his social acumen).  I was fascinated by all this, but at the same time I couldn’t help feeling lame as a parent.  How come I was not aware of all these enriching and stimulating activities?  I started sharing this with other parents and they all felt the same way.  I realized this must be a problem for a lot of parents out there. There needed to be a better way to ensure that parents were aware of all the opportunities out there, and in particular which ones would be right for their kids.

This was just the seed of an idea, but the vision for Thrively (“Bloom” was the initial working name) started taking shape in my mind then.

A few things happened around that time that helped crystallize the idea further.

The first was Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, which I had picked up casually one day at the airport. Two things stood out for me: 1) Gladwell talks about how Bill Gates became Bill Gates and The Beatles became The Beatles – yes, there was a ton of hard work, but it was also about exposure to the right opportunities at the right time.  2) Gladwell introduces the “10,000-hour Rule" as a key to success in a any field – you need to practice something for a total of 10,000 hours in order to develop a truly special expertise.  But first, you have to become passionate about it.  Once an opportunity becomes a passion, everything else flows from that, and the combination of opportunity and passion can be life-altering.

Next, a friend introduced me to Jenifer Fox, an educator, after I told him about the high level idea I was working on.  Jenifer runs the Clariden School of Southlake (prior to that she ran Purnell, a school in Pottersville, New Jersey) where she founded and conceptualized the Global Strengths Program. Her specialty is helping teachers and parents discover children's strengths and passions and finding ways to translate those into pathways to success (a very similar vision as Thrively’s). Her book, “Your Children's  Strengths” triggered a lot of ideas about how I should approach building Thrively.  In our current society, we don't teach kids based on their strengths. We put 30 kids in a class and everyone is taught the same subjects the same way. If a kid is not good in math or science, we bucket them as mediocre or give them some other label. Jenifer has been pioneering strength-based education for years. She breaks down strengths in her book into: “Activity Strengths” (doing multiple activities in the same area – this ties back to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of effort), “Relationship Strengths” (engaging in activities with friends, providing challenge and motivation) and “Learning Strengths” (each kid learns differently).

A few months later I was introduced to Bob Doman, who runs the National Association for Child Development (NACD), which he founded in 1979. Bob has been an innovator in neurological and educational interventions for decades and has developed an entirely new paradigm of education focused on maximizing child potential.  In a nutshell, I learned from Bob that brain development is largely about getting the right kind of stimulation, and that our current education system is simply not set up to provide optimal stimulation.  It’s up to parents to find that.  Everyone learns differently (some visual, some auditory, some have analytical strengths, some are more focused, more creative, etc.), and there are some incredibly powerful ways that we, as parents, can help our kids develop to their potential if we treat them as the unique individuals that they are!

All of this got me thinking about how different the world would be if parents were equipped with all this information and could expose their kids to the enrichment of these incredible programs, all customized to their children’s strengths.

To me, this was clearly the next disruption in the education space. Personalized Strength-Based Education. I could see how Thrively could democratize learning and development opportunities to drive this disruption and provide a level playing field for all kids.

I knew that Thrively was a big idea. I ran this by two good friends of mine, Jon Kraft and Dong Chang. Dong was my colleague at Ubermedia, and an exceptional product guy.  Jon, a colleague at both Ubermedia and CoreObjects, is a very successful entrepreneur and the founding CEO of Pandora. There have been a lot of synergies with what Jon did at Pandora (discovery and personalization). Both Dong and Jon immediately got excited about Thrively. The last piece in the puzzle was to find the right experts who could help us build the strength assessment, which would form the foundation of our platform.  The strength assessment enables parents to discover their children’s strengths and enables us to personalize the opportunities we present to them. This turned out to be a much harder search than we thought, as the combination of experience and expertise required to develop an assessment like this is very rare. After months of searching, we were finally connected to Dr. Jayme Kimel and Dr. Jonine Biesman, two of the seven board certified pediatric neuro-psychologists in California. Dr. Kimel and Dr. Biesman further validated our vision through their enthusiasm for the project, and agreed to help build the industry's first strength assessment for kids.  We were on our way!

We at Thrively sincerely believe in our vision of helping kids discover their passions and achieve excellence by uncovering and building on their own unique strengths. As a first step towards that vision, we recently launched our limited beta build, www.thrively.com.

I should say my guilt has reduced over the last couple of years as I have been exposing my son to a lot of enriching activities that are extraordinarily well-suited to his strengths, and I have seen him approach those opportunities with a new kind of energy!  I would encourage every parent to come and explore Thrively, and as a community, we can help our kids pursue their passions, achieve success, and make it a better world!

About Girish

Girish brings more than 20 years of experience in launching highly scalable, robust and secure applications. Girish was the original Chief Software Architect at Stamps (NASDAQ: STMP) and helped architect one of the Internet’s most secure (first application to print legal tender online) and scalable platforms. Most recently, Girish was Chief Technology Officer at Ubermedia, a leading independent developer of mobile social apps and dynamic advertising solutions, launched within Idealab. UberMedia’s portfolio includes market-leading third party Twitter applications UberSocial, Echofon and Plume.

Prior to Ubermedia, Girish was the founder, CEO and Chief Architect at CoreObjects, a product development company focused on building core intellectual property for early stage companies. He built a 400+ person engineering team across 3 continents and helped launch over 75 products in 10 years. He has assisted the portfolio companies of over a dozen of VC firms including Mayfield, Redpoint, Trinity Ventures, LightSpeed, KP, Norwest and others. As part of CoreObjects, Girish also founded and spun out ClearVu, a software product life cycle management platform addressing the issues of visibility, productivity, predictability and traceability into the software life cycle. He also pioneered distributed agile software development and authored Core Unified Process (CUP), an agile, feature-driven development methodology.