Interviews with purpose-driven business leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
Hi everyone! I’m Shireen Jaffer, co-founder and CEO at Edvo. At Edvo, our mission is to help people make better sense of the world and think for themselves. We’re building software products that give people the tooling and environment to learn anything and think better.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
My parents sacrificed a lot to ensure my brother and I had access to better education. My mom, brother, and I moved from Pakistan to Palo Alto when I was seven. Although my dad was supposed to join us within the same year, due to immigration issues my parents remained physically separated for five years. But they did it for the education. So education has always been a big part of my story, and something I’ve given a lot of importance to.
Since I grew up in an affluent community as a not-at-all-affluent person, I had a different childhood than most of my friends. I began working in high school and recognized early on that what I was being taught in school didn’t completely align with what the real-world demanded. I learned quickly that my grades and test scores don’t matter as much as my ability to think critically, build relationships, and ask questions. At the same time, I noticed my friends tying their identities to their GPAs and degrees. So at 18, I started my first edtech company, Skillify.
At Skillify, my mission was to expose high school and college students to the real-world as early as possible, via internships and mentorships. But instead of simply placing people into those opportunities, we focused on equipping them with the lifelong skills, from networking to interviewing, that would allow them to always find those opportunities themselves. Over four years, I bootstrapped it to a profitable, seven-figure social venture that impacted hundreds of thousands of students from more than 220 schools. My exposure to the “behind the scenes” of the education system made me recognize how flawed the system truly is. So in 2018, I started Edvo, with the mission to redefine what it means to be educated in our society.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Somewhere along the way, we allowed ourselves to be told what’s worth paying attention to and what to think about the world around us. We built and relied on an education system to make sense of things for us. We valued prescribed curriculum—interpretations of information that tells us what’s worth knowing. Naturally, we developed perspectives and opinions that weren’t necessarily ours. But worse, we neglected our natural capacity to make sense of things independently. Fortunately, we no longer live in a world where we need to pay thousands of dollars to a centralized authority to give us access to information. Information is at our fingertips, and we can find information on anything we care to understand.
We also no longer live in a world where we can completely rely on others to make sense of things for us. 2020 showed us how fast the world can change overnight. We witnessed firsthand how quickly information evolves and how critical it is for each of us to be able to make sense of those changes. That’s why our first step at Edvo is to create Personal Learning, the first personal Sensemaking system. We’re building it for each of us to take control of our own sensemaking process and learn anything we desire.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Since the start of my career in 2012, my desire has been to help people develop the knowledge, awareness, and skills to create a life on their own terms. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to impact hundreds of thousands of people with the programs and products I’ve created. My ambition is to help billions and with Edvo; we’re building software that can impact anyone who desires navigating the world better.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
I’m a big empath so I’ve always been motivated by solving deep pains felt by each of us. The desire each of us has to truly learn and understand the world better inspires me every day. The commitment we have as a society to knowledge share and exchange information inspires me every day. The emergence of open-source and decentralized technologies inspire me every day. The timing is ideal for us to help each of us take control of how we think and make sense of our world.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
We envision a world where everyone can think for themselves and feels confident in their ability to navigate life well. We aim to foster an ecosystem bigger than Edvo and our dream is to redefine what it means to be educated in our society. We believe each of us is born with innate curiosity and capacity to learn anything, and we’ll be ecstatic when we see adults re-igniting that within themselves, and kids never having it trained out of them.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
As with most early-stage startups solving massive pain points, we require a team of people that aren’t just skilled but also incredibly passionate about the work we’re doing and open-minded. We’re a team of seven that is building a deeply complex product. Finding key early engineering and design team members has been a challenge, so we’re always sharing our open opportunities at Edvo with a frequency to attract the types of folks we’re anxious to build with!
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
– Our financial freedom depends on how well we understand the world’s financial system and wealth creation opportunities.
– Our careers depend on how well we understand in-demand skills and emerging industries.
– Our health depends on how well we understand what our bodies need.
What if understanding these things well, along with everything else relevant to our lives, could be easier? Edvo is a manifestation of our commitment to making sense of our world easier and effective.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
“The creative adult is the child that has survived.”
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Orapin Marketing + Public Relations generates awareness and support for purpose-driven organizations so they can increase their impact. We believe those who are working to make a difference in the world need to be known, supported, sought-after, and celebrated. If you would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to email@example.com.