DO Masterclass Minutes: A summary of the insights and learnings from each class. 🚀
Recently, we had our ninth masterclass in the series.
Topic: Building Jackett - The Bridge between AI & Education
Expert Speaker: Rachiket Arya, Co-founder and CTO of Jackett
So, without further ado, let’s get into a (summarized) recap of what we learnt in the class.
“We built the plane while flying it,” says Rachiket Arya, the co-founder and CTO of Jackett.
Jackett is a platform created by integrating artificial intelligence AKA AI in education. The application is designed for teachers and professors in order to help them create test papers and assignments quickly and effectively. Currently targeting the Indian market, teachers can use Jackett’s library of questions while also customizing their own papers for various subjects based on the Indian curriculum. Teachers can also use the “AI in Education” model of Jackett to auto correct their papers, saving them time and effort, which they can then use to help students better.
In this masterclass, we listened to Rachiket Arya, the co-founder and chief technical officer of Jackett, and learned about his journey from mechanical engineering to entrepreneurship while utilizing AI in education.
Entrepreneurship is an arduous journey and starting something of one’s own requires immense dedication and consistency. To achieve success, in whatever form it may be, entrepreneurs should be focused and do certain things effectively. According to Rachiket, these are the eight skills entrepreneurs should have in their arsenal, based on his own journey of creating Jackett and utilizing AI in education.
Let’s deep dive into each skill and how Rachiket learned them through his journey of creating Jackett and integrating AI in education.
As an entrepreneur of any kind, being resilient and not shying away from failure is extremely important. While creating Jackett, Rachiket faced a lot of issues in the beginning itself. From not having enough business knowledge to dealing with funding presentations, that too in the middle of COVID-19, his co-founder, Charlotte, and he needed to stay strong at every step. Resilience for Rachiket not only meant staying strong but it also meant taking risks. Hoping that the work gets done will not get the work done, says Rachiket. He believes that as entrepreneurs, we will have to constantly keep trying new things and learning to be completely okay when we fail.
This was a lesson that Rachiket believes is the most important in his entrepreneurship journey of integrating AI into education with his startup. Given his tech background, he was confident in his skills to solve issues that teachers faced when creating assignments. However, he realized that he wasn’t entirely sure about databases, frontend, and backend parts of development, which he laughs about now. He, in retrospect, believes that one thing he did well was focusing on what he could get done by himself. This included taking courses and learning about front-end development himself while getting the rest of the work done by hiring experienced engineers. When utilizing AI in education, there are already a lot of new topics that Rachiket had to learn. He dotes on having a growth mindset as the most important tool in his arsenal as he continuously learnt new things and pushed himself to do so without feeling overconfident in his skills or delegating all the work to others.
This was a very interesting principle that Rachiket discussed when creating his startup and utilizing AI in education. He discussed how he now focusses on things in which he can put in 20% effort and get 80% value. He focuses on the low hanging fruit and the most important tasks at hand, instead of spreading himself and his team too thin. He then prioritizes based on what will create the most impact in the least amount of effort and time.
This brings us to the skill of prioritization. Rachiket really focusses on continuously getting better at prioritizing even today, because as an entrepreneur he has a lot of verticals to deal with. Lean prototyping and focusing on what matters are extremely important, especially when working with deadlines and creating something from scratch. Utilizing AI in education required a lot of discipline for the founders, and that was only possible if they prioritized what needed to be done. In the beginning, Rachiket focused on joining the Entrepreneur First incubator program to meet other founders and test his idea out before committing to it. He then networked with people and met Charlotte Trudgill, his co-founder in the program with whom he went onto create Jackett with. Overtime, he has learnt to prioritize his time and focus on what matters. Some of the things that matter to him the most include hiring processes and customer interactions. He believes that ideas are good, but customer feedback is vital to make the ideas worth it. Furthermore, he also believes that hiring the right kind of employees requires time and effort, more than a lot of other admin tasks.
Artificial intelligence is constantly evolving while education requires discipline. Both these verticals require great synergy to work together well. In order to do that, it is extremely important for entrepreneurs to take ownership of their actions and learn to change course when needed, out of their own volition. Given that entrepreneurs are in unchartered territories a lot, it is extremely important to take ownership of all actions, especially the ones you take early on when starting up. The attitude of “every problem is my problem” is what separates the leaders from the managers. Rachiket believes that he and Charlotte both were leaders and only then dd they become good managers in the long run.
Customer interaction and market research is extremely valuable and vital when creating a new problem. Entrepreneurs must research about their target market through primary and secondary methods while continuously listening to customers. Firstly, the question, “Are you solving a burning problem?” needs to be answered. If the answer to this question is yes, then Rachiket believes that entrepreneurs should go ahead. On the other hand, if research and customer feedback prove that the problem is not as important as perceived, entrepreneurs should rethink their solution as it may not be as impactful as previously thought. While utilizing AI in education, Jackett is solving issues that teachers in their target market, India, were facing daily and desperately wanted a solution for. This helped the founders expedite their process of starting their business as they sensed the urgency in the market. After this, they asked the question of “Can this problem be solved by our solution?” From there, began the second leg of the research where they had to hold their strong beliefs and ideas weakly. With the constant changes in the Indian education system and AI in education being connected to technological advancements amongst other things, Rachiket and his team had to pivot multiple times and let go of their ideas, however, good they were, for the benefit of the consumers. For instance, the lack of laptops in Indian schools led teachers to provide feedback that made Jackett change their timelines and fast-forward the development of a mobile application, which is currently their main focus.
When creating Jackett, Rachiket ended up realizing that he was extremely passionate about this subject. However, for the business to be successful, his first hires and his establishing team needed to share the same interest and excitement in doing the work. According to him, hiring people who are already empowered is extremely important early on in the business because those will be the employees that will pave the path for the entire hiring process for the business. He also discussed how hiring for value and being able to predict an employee's value in the organization was far more important than hiring someone to solve just one issue. In Jackett’s experience, even if one potential hire is extremely experienced but the other is “nimbler” and takes more initiative, they would go for the latter because skills can be taught but attitude cannot.
Interestingly enough, this seems like a skill one should avoid. However, while creating Jackett and trying to utilize AI in education, Rachiket realized that overcommunication (in some ways) was something he needed to do. Firstly, he learnt that overcommunicating with his co-founder was actually helping them make business decisions given their completely different backgrounds and skillsets. Charlotte focused (and continues to) on the business and commercial side of things while Rachiket took responsibility for the technical. However, to keep the other person updated and get feedback, both the founders overcommunicated details with the other, so nothing fell through the cracks. Secondly, overcommunicating and explaining tasks in detail was something that was necessary for the founding team. Delegation turned out to be far more effective in scenarios where the tasks were extra detailed and spoken about multiple times to reduce miscommunication. Besides that, Rachiket explained that his personality and working style is fairly stagnant where he doesn’t necessarily showcase a lot of emotions often. This is something he learned to change, as he became a leader for his company and team of people. He overcommunicated his happiness when things went well to keep the employees and himself more motivated in the long run.
Jackett raised $1 Million in its angel investor/seed round with Forge Ventures and venture capitalists like the founders of Carousell leading the rounds. However, the journey was not at all easy. As discussed in the masterclass, Rachiket put forward his experience and what he believes is an effective process for entrepreneurs who are looking for funding. Firstly, entrepreneurs should research extensively and create a list of investors they want to pitch their idea to. These investors should include people who you think will have a similar thought process to yours and will understand your passion, while backing it. However, don’t let investors who may seem “out of the ordinary” scare you. If you think an investor will add value and give you tough love when necessary, you should go for it. You should also look for investors that will not just give you funds but also add strategic value and insight into your work. Secondly, you should use prior networks you have been a part of to connect with people and investors that your startup may sound interesting to. Thirdly, when you do meet and present to investors, be prepared for all kinds of questions and don’t fake any answers. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say it clearly, and also ask for advice from the people in the audience so you can tackle the problem with expert guidance by your side. Remember to take all the feedback you can and accept it constructively. Don’t feel disheartened or angry if investors give feedback that isn’t immediately favorable to you. Learn from your mistakes and use their expert comments for your benefit. Another thing Rachiket encourages is not putting all your hopes into one avenue. For instance, when he was creating Jackett and learning how to integrate AI into education, he was looking for multiple investors in the seed round so he would not have to depend on just one source for funding and feedback. He spoke to multiple people and successfully pitched his idea to a few stakeholders who helped Rachiket learn new things every step of their way. Since his funding came from angel investors as well as venture firms, he also received feedback and guidance from sources with different strengths, making it more holistic for Jackett.
The ASK: This should be based on an expected future cost but be tolerant for dilution
The PITCH: Make sure to practice, implement feedback, amend, and repeat
Rachiket was a university graduate from the National University of Singapore and his co-founder, Charlotte, had been working in companies like Meta and Grab when they met through Entrepreneur First. Although they had never met before, they bonded over their interest in entrepreneurship and AI in education. When asked about working with someone from a completely different background, Rachiket discussed his experiences and tips for entrepreneurs who work with co-founders. From his experience, what worked well for Jackett was the distribution of work that both the co-founders had established since the beginning. With one handling the technical side and the other managing the commercial side, all tasks were divided easily. They made sure to align all their tasks to the bigger picture, which was “overcommunicated” between them at every step of the way. They faced challenges with differences in their experience levels and backgrounds, however, they chose to move forward. Reminiscing about the disagreements, Rachiket discussed the ways they helped each other out and made the partnership work successfully. Firstly, they made sure their decision making was data-driven instead of just data fed. They focused on customer feedback and then decided to do what was best for the business and the consumers, sometimes even keeping aside their personal opinions. Secondly, given how challenging integrating AI in education was, they focused on being transparent with each other and “overcommunicating” details to ensure nothing was missed. Thirdly, to stay on the same page and ensure results, they aligned on priorities frequently while changing course whenever necessary. Lastly, even if it was not the most positive sometimes, they made sure to share feedback with each other. Although this can seem scary, Rachiket discusses how such a transparent way of working made both of them more adaptable and efficient as co-founders of Jackett.
And that's it for this masterclass minutes!
Stay tuned for the next one!