Sarah Cherry Rice is the founder of substitute teacher marketplace Parachute Teachers.
An experienced educator, she is working towards a Doctor of Education Leadership degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education while she is running her edtech venture.
How did you get started at the i-lab?
I started Parachute Teachers before coming to Harvard last fall, but it was only an inkling of an idea with a one person team. I joined the i-lab because I wanted to continue to test my original idea and assumptions and find other people that could help me grow the idea into a real venture.
Which resource do you use most at the Harvard Innovation Labs? Why is it so useful?
The EIRs are definitely the most useful part of the i-lab. We’ve gotten tech advice from Greg Gunn, who founded Wireless Generation; insight from Joanne Weiss, the former chief-of-staff to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; and real-time feedback on our business plan from venture capitalists and organizations focused on edtech.
There’s honestly not enough time in a week to meet with all of the EIRs on our list! Their honest conversation and genuine care for our success has helped us to refine our venture’s value proposition in the education sector.
How have other founders/companies helped you during your time in the i-lab?
One of my favorite parts of the i-lab has been getting to know other female founders, especially other women in tech. It’s humbling given their incredible talent, but meeting other female founders has also provided encouragement to take more risks and proceed with increasing boldness.
As a company working in education, what are the most surprising insights you have taken away from your experience at the i-lab?
Although I knew my co-founder, Jordan Dolman, before coming to Harvard, he has been one of the main reasons that Parachute continues to move forward and have such success in the education sector.
Our leadership styles are completely opposite, as is our expertise. But our differences have actually been complementary, which has helped the team and the company as we’ve worked through some of the challenges of building an early-stage startup.
We are adding more people to the team this semester, which will hopefully push us further by providing different perspectives to the problems we are trying to solve.
What’s next for you and your Parachute Teachers?
We are headed to SXSWedu next week to compete in their launch competition. We feel extremely lucky to have been chosen.
We are also getting ready to expand our program in Boston next school year.
If you had to give another student one piece of advice to get the most out of the i-lab, what would it be?
Sign up for every EIR appointment that you can with folks that know your sector extremely well as well those that have absolutely no idea about your product or business.
These appointments allowed us to refine our pitch and get it under two minutes. But more importantly, it allowed us to see potential possibilities that we had missed because we were just too close to the product.
Anything we missed?
The people there celebrate with you, grumble with you, learn with you, and fail with you.