A journey to empower children learning with Alexa lessons: Lorenzo Carver and Russell Brand’s Startup Story
Lorenzo Carver first became an entrepreneur to pay his college tuition bills when studying music. He quickly realized he had a natural talent for building and selling products, and he started a series of successful projects before founding Brainsprays, his current startup. Lorenzo built Brainsprays based on a problem he experienced — not only did he wanted his daughter to get an education that would place her lightyears above her peers, but he wanted her to enjoy and be engaged with the process. When he realized other parents were facing a similar dilemma, he created Brainsprays.
What is Brainsprays?
Brainsprays uses the Alexa home assistant device to offer engaging and interactive reading and mathematics lessons to young children. Brainsprays’ lessons have helped thousands of kids excel above their grade level and develop a passion for learning. Lessons are customized to each child and Alexa ensures they get personalized attention and assistance. Parents love Brainsprays because it saves them time and ensures their child gets a customized success plan.
During our Clubhouse interview with Lorenzo and his business partner Russell Brand, we learned more about their startup journey, biggest obstacles, and most successful strategies. Let’s dive right into their startup advice:
1. You don’t need a big team to be successful
2. Always assume your traction channels won’t work forever
Lorenzo found that the Alexa device itself was a great traction channel to spread the word about Brainsprays. He found the device would suggest his product to relevant audiences, similar to how Google presents related ads at the top of its search engine or how Amazon suggests related products after a user makes a purchase. However, Lorenzo warned against getting too comfortable in any one channel, even if the channel is very successful.
“If you do an okay job, you can get some customers…but eventually someone with big capital is gonna come in and you’re not gonna get substantial traffic.”
Not only do startups fiercely compete against each other, but they also compete with established brands who have significantly more resources and power. Bigger companies can easily steal a startup’s traffic or users, essentially wiping them off the map. Lorenzo’s solution to this issue is to always be looking for and experimenting with new channels:
“So a lot of our effort has been on trying to get prepared for the next stage for other ways of reaching people.”
Lorenzo has also been using Growth Channel AI to help him find and implement new growth marketing strategies for Brainsprays.
3. It takes time to see progress
It typically takes a significant amount of time for startups to expand their reach, gain a loyal customer base, and generate word of mouth. When Lorenzo first launched Brainsprays in March of 2020, his lessons were installed about 50 times a month. However, “by the end of the year it was right around 150 times a day,” Lorenzo said, “and it bounces between 250 and 300 installs a day today.” Lorenzo was able to grow so rapidly because he created valuable content users wanted to share with others. He asked for feedback to improve his lessons and experimented with different methods of promotion. But most importantly, he stayed consistent and committed.
4. Build personas off those who are willing to engage with you
For many startups, it can be difficult to know exactly who your target audience is. You may think you know who’s going to buy your product, but your actual customers may be completely different than what you anticipated. When it comes to marketing and targeting customers, incorrect assumptions can greatly hurt your chances of success. The best thing you can do is build a persona off of the data you already have, as Lorenzo did.
“We built a customer persona based on the people that were willing to talk to us.”
He directly reached out to users for feedback, and built an ideal customer profile from those who were eager to help. Users who are excited to offer feedback are the most invested and engaged with your product, so it makes sense to target similar profiles. Lorenzo also used this customer feedback to see how people were actually using Brainsprays. He even received videos from some families.
“We were able to look at those videos and actually see how these kids interacted,” Lorenzo explained, “and that was really insightful also.”
5. Capital allows you to work towards multiple objectives simultaneously
Lorenzo has worked on projects with and without the support of capital, and he told us the biggest difference between the two during the interview.
“The thing that capital gives you is options. You can pursue more than one thing at a time, more than one objective at a time.”
Focusing on many objectives at the same time is less risky, because if one aspect fails, you have other things to fall back on. You can also optimize your business faster by working towards multiple goals at once.
6. “Feedback keeps us honest” — Russell Brand
User feedback is incredibly important for any company, but especially for startups.
“The most common mode of failure for tech companies is they build wonderful products that no one cares about. They build things that no one wants, that no one can use.”
Both Lorenzo and Russell emphasized how important feedback has been in ensuring people actually want what Brainsprays has to offer. They’ve collected feedback and recommendations from various users and used it to improve Brainsprays’ lessons. They’ve also used customer success stories to encourage other families to download and use Brainsprays.
Our favorite quotes from Russell Brand:
“It’s very easy to believe that something is wonderful but not see what stops it from being useful.”
“There’s nothing as valuable as having early users so you can see what’s working and what’s not.”