A tale of teachers, technology, and a whole lotta tenacity.
The internet as we know it was in its infancy when the concept of ExploreLearning was first formed. Through hard work, luck, and pure determination, that concept became reality. Eventually.
In the beginning, there was Dave.
In the mid 90’s, Dave Shuster was a practicing math teacher and applied mathematics PhD student in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a six-month stint at a local ed-tech start-up would change his life forever. He’d found his calling and, as his graduation approached in early 1998, he’d also found his own concept taking shape – an interactive web application that could replace traditional textbooks and bring math and science to life in new ways.
His first thought was to take his idea to his former company. But… they weren’t interested. Undeterred (and without other obvious options) Dave decided to try to start a company to do it himself. Unfortunately, while his enthusiasm and his wife’s faith were infinite, his finances and programming skills were… er, less so. He waited tables and tutored students to make ends meet while he searched for a way forward.
A meeting of minds.
Six months later Dave had learned enough to begin building a prototype of his product concept. All the while, he scoured the internet for ideas and people to help his company. Eventually, he discovered ExploreScience.com, a collection of interactive online physics labs by nuclear physicist and professor, Raman Pfaff. Mind. Blown. This was the person Dave had been looking for. With an awkward email, and a less awkward meeting, he persuaded Raman to create a special version of one of his labs for Dave’s prototype.
The stars align.
All along, Dave had an unshakeable belief that he’d ultimately find investors to back his venture. He just had no idea how that would happen. Or how long it would take. Or who he could even approach. But as fate would have it, his extra jobs led to a lucky break. While tutoring, Dave met a student’s father. Who coincidentally asked about what else Dave did. Who was coincidentally struck by Dave’s idea. And who was coincidently a venture capitalist willing to help when Dave was ready. Now Dave just needed to perfect his plan and pitch. Funny how life works, huh?
Two men and a moving van.
After months of pitching and negotiating (and more side jobs), Dave finally secured enough funding to generate an actual paycheck. For Raman. And although Raman was about to take a dream job at his dream university, Dave’s shrewd negotiating, packing, and furniture moving skills convinced him to sign on and relocate to Charlottesville instead. More investment followed and together, on the side porch of Dave’s home at the turn of the millennium, they began to build the business that would become ExploreLearning.
Since those earliest days, Dave, with the help of Raman and many other amazing people who have joined the cause, has continued to grow and evolve our company into a nationally recognized leader in STEM education. ExploreLearning now serves more than 15 million students across the country with 4 products. We continue to develop solutions that support the most critical needs at each stage of STEM learning and, as our history would suggest, we strive to be better at it every day. Our team of over 250 employees is a bit bigger than when Dave first started, but it is still his passion, commitment, and vision that guide us in creating the most seriously fun learning experiences around. Thanks, Dave.
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