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Leila Ancelin


The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team.


The problem: teenagers have difficulties and lost confidence. Math is a difficult subject.


Leila Ancelin is up.



Leila Ancelin


Who are you and what do you do?


My name is Leila Ancelin and I am the founder of Schooltopia. 


The problem: teenagers have difficulties and lost confidence. Math is a difficult subject. Schooltopia helps to get better at maths and gives this passion through gamified lessons and AI. In Schooltopia, students embark on gamified math adventures guided by Toshi, their AI teacher, who personalizes learning quests and challenges to make mathematics engaging and educational.



What did it take/how did you get started?


From a challenging start in a Parisian suburb as the child of an immigrant, life was never straightforward for me. My early years were shadowed by the struggles of a poor neighborhood, yet school became my sanctuary, a place where I could feed my ever-growing curiosity. At eight, my life took a turn for the better when my family moved to a more affluent area in the south of France. 


It was there that my academic journey truly began to flourish. Libraries became my haven, and I dove into books, discovering worlds and ideas that seemed boundless. My hard work paid off with access to some of the best schools and scholarships from the French government. When I turned 18, I made a pivotal decision to strike out on my own. I needed to break free from the familial constraints that held me back. Moving to Strasbourg was the first step on this new journey, and it was there that I met the love of my life, my future husband. 


University days in Strasbourg were a blend of studying math, physics, and chemistry, and tutoring students. This was more than just a way to get by; it sparked a realization in me—I was meant to be a teacher. So, I pursued a master's in teaching and embarked on a decade-long career as a freelance educator. I encountered students from all walks of life, dealing with challenges like ADHD and dyslexia, and it was enriching in ways I never imagined. But as demand for my teaching grew, I realized I couldn't help everyone on my own. 


Then one transformative night, a conversation with my husband, Boris Hoechstetter, a futurist, sparked an idea. Together, we dreamed up Schooltopia. Starting as a VR educational game in 2017, Schooltopia evolved into a mobile app by 2019, guided by a passionate volunteer team. Our efforts led us to a French incubator in Strasbourg, where I pitched my vision, securing mentorship and our first grant.


In April 2021, post-COVID, Schooltopia officially became a company, though juggling it with teaching was challenging. In 2022, I raised €220K in a pre-seed round, allowing me to dedicate myself fully to Schooltopia. We built a MVP and started gaining traction in the French market, but I knew our potential was global. Despite the tumultuous market of 2023, I persevered.


Joining the Supercharger Ventures Edtech program in Malta was a game-changer. There, I refined my fundraising approach and connected with potential investors. Now, in early 2024, as we're on the verge of closing another funding round, I reflect on my journey. My resilience, grit, and determination have been my constant companions, driving me to create an educational revolution with Schooltopia.

What does the future look like for you and your business?Driven by the effective accelerationism’s mindset, I am committed to leveraging innovation and strategic growth to positively impact humanity. My vision extends to Schooltopia, a product designed to revolutionize learning. 


Currently, I'm poised to close our second round of investment, marking a significant milestone. This infusion of capital will enable us to expand into the European market, scale our user base to 100,000, and adapt Schooltopia into English, broadening our reach and impact. However, my aspirations don't stop there. The next step is to venture into the highly competitive U.S. market. To achieve this, I plan to secure a third round of investment and gain entry into an American accelerator program. 


This move is crucial, offering invaluable insights and access to a network of potential investors. The success of this round is imperative to stand out in the U.S. market. While integrating Schooltopia into schools remains a goal, I understand the slow nature of this process. Therefore, I view it more as a valuable bonus rather than the primary objective. 


My sights are also set on exploring opportunities in the Asian market, diversifying our global presence. Ultimately, the journey leads to the potential sale of the company. This not only aligns with our investors' expectations but also provides me with the resources to pursue even more ambitious ventures in the future.



What drives / motivates you on a daily basis?


I am deeply passionate about transforming education in response to the swift evolution of technology. It's a challenge to keep pace with such rapid changes, but I am driven by a vision: a world where students are not just studying mathematics but are truly happy and engaged in it. I want to ignite a joy for learning within them, making each lesson resonate with purpose and direction, especially as they consider future careers in science and mathematics.


With the advent of artificial intelligence, I'm acutely aware of how quickly the job market is shifting. My goal is to prepare students for this dynamic future, to make them adaptable and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. I believe that by making education more engaging and relevant, we can inspire a new generation to not just navigate but to lead and innovate in a world increasingly shaped by AI. This is more than a mission for me; it's a journey to redefine education and empower the leaders of tomorrow.



What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?


From my experience, here's some advice I'd like to share: - Start with a global mindset right from the beginning. Don't just focus on your local market. Your product might find surprising success in places like the UK, even if it doesn't take off in your home country. - Embody certain key qualities: be determined, patient, and persistent.


Cultivate a strong mindset to withstand rejection, be proactive, continuously learn, stay curious, and be organized. - Approach this as if it were a game. Your aim is to create something that benefits people, but remember, success is not guaranteed. Enjoy the process, and find fun in this entrepreneurial journey. - Don't take failures or setbacks personally. However, it's important to analyze and understand why things didn't work out. - It's crucial to have someone by your side for support during this challenging journey.


This support can make a significant difference in your resilience and outlook. - Remember, having co-founders isn't a prerequisite for success. It's entirely possible to succeed on your own, with the right approach and mindset.



What has been the hardest part of your business journey?


At first, I was unsure where to begin. However, I've developed strong organizational habits that have been instrumental in my journey. Every day, I create a to-do list with 2-3 key goals, ensuring I stay focused and not overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks at hand. This practice has been a cornerstone in navigating the complexities of growing a business. 


Building a network and securing resources was a formidable challenge. It's not easy to find the right people to surround yourself with, people who believe in your vision and are willing to invest in it. Over the years, as Schooltopia evolved, so did my network. It took time and perseverance to build these relationships.


Raising funds was particularly difficult without a proven track record or significant traction in the market. However, one area where I never faced much difficulty was in assembling a talented team. Recruiting the right people and building a strong, cohesive team came naturally to me, which has been a key factor in the success and growth of Schooltopia. Also, building and having ideas to test on the market, is not a blocking point.



How have you managed burnout thus far?


Throughout this adventure, I've come to realize that often, your greatest adversary is yourself. Mastering self-discipline has been key to tackling challenging tasks and surmounting obstacles. This journey has been a mix of frustration, the sensation of stagnation, and self-doubt. But here's what I've learned: 


1) Acknowledge that it's impossible to do everything. Accepting this has been vital in managing my expectations and workload.


2) I've learned to recognize that I'm doing my best and to refrain from self-blame. This mindset has been crucial for maintaining my mental health and motivation. 


3) Embracing the possibility of failure has been liberating. It's an integral part of the journey, and accepting it has helped me take calculated risks and learn from my mistakes.


4) I've made it a priority to take time off to indulge in activities I love. Limiting my work hours to 8-9 a day has been essential.


While there are times when I need to push harder, I ensure these periods are brief and infrequent to avoid burnout. This approach has not only helped me progress in my work but also maintain a balance that keeps me driven and passionate about what I do.



What are a few resources that you'd recommend?


- Walter Isaacson, an acclaimed biographer, has authored several books exploring the lives of influential historical figures. His works often focus on innovators who have significantly impacted technology, science, and society. Isaacson's detailed narratives blend personal stories with the broader historical context, providing insights into his subjects' contributions and their lasting influence on the modern world. Some of his notable books include biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin. 


- The Lex Fridman Podcast is a series hosted by Lex Fridman, a researcher in artificial intelligence, where he conducts in-depth interviews with guests from various fields, including technology, science, philosophy, and more. The podcast is known for its thoughtful discussions that explore complex topics, ranging from AI and deep learning to human consciousness and the future of humanity.


- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal - This book explores the psychology behind why some products captivate users and how to create such habit-forming products for your startup.


- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: In this best-selling self-help book, Manson challenges conventional self-help concepts with a blunt, straightforward approach. He emphasizes the importance of understanding limitations, embracing flaws, and recognizing the often harsh realities of life. Instead of advocating for relentless positivity, Manson promotes finding what truly matters to you and focusing on that, while letting go of superficial concerns. The book has been praised for its raw honesty and refreshing perspective on personal development. 


- Contagious: Why Things Catch On is a book by Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In this book, Berger explores the science of why certain ideas, products, and behaviors become popular and spread like wildfire. He presents key principles that explain how and why certain things capture public attention and become widely known. The book delves into the psychology of sharing, the importance of social influence, and the role of word-of-mouth in driving trends and popularity. It's a highly recommended read for marketers, entrepreneurs, or anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of viral content and ideas.




The STATS





List the founders


Leila Ancelin



How many hours a week do you work on this hustle?


Between 40 to 50 hours



# of Employees?


1



When did you start?


April 2021



How much did it cost to launch?


A thousand



What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?


We have raised in February 2022 €220K. I am contacting investors by cold emailing and on different platforms (linkedin, connectd...) and I am asking my network to do introductions.



Annual revenue?


Not provided.



Projected revenue?


Not provided.



What's the #1 thing you need right now?


Investors to close my round



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