Sanjay Srivastava, CEO1989 saw the Dalai Lama win the Nobel peace prize, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Mikhail S. Gorbachev named Soviet President – events that would have a lasting impact. In San Francisco, along with the Loma Prieta earthquake, 1989 also marked the year that Sanjay Srivastava, the CEO of Vocareum—the first Learning Management System (LMS) built specifically for coding— migrated here in search of a job. Srivastava’s fervor for coding gained during his pursuit of a masters degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois would help him to secure a job at Vantage Analysis Systems. That was the start of the journey that led him to founding Vocareum and becoming the Entrepreneur that he is today-
“Some of my colleagues and I wanted to start a company and the focus was on software and hardware co-verification which was a big buzz during late 80s,” says Srivastava. “We bootstrapped and founded Denali with an initial personal investment of $10000, and thought we would run it for a year and see what happens,” he adds. However the company overran their expectations. Its first product became profitable quickly and Denali became a strong private company for the next 15 years before it was acquired by Cadence. “Denali was a great experience for us. The company gave us the opportunity to explore new markets and products. It turned out to be our incubator for other companies,” recalls Srivastava. The rest, as they say, is history.
After his successful entrepreneurial stint with Denali followed by two more successful exits, the exploding opportunities in Education —with mushrooming demand for coding—offered Srivastava the next big idea to found anew company in 2012. “Coding has become a very exciting and worthy foundation– mostly because it is an incredible life skill beyond K-12 education,” says Srivastava. “With the exploding demand for computer science education, teachers are faced with challenges to teach at an unprecedented scale,” he adds.The scenario where introductory programming classes had a single teacher teaching about 30 students has now transformed into a group of teachers and graders managing hundreds of students. “Classes with multiple teachers and graders are burdened with assigning projects for coding, checking student submissions, assigning grades to students, handling multiple grading rubrics, in-context communication and more,” he adds. While there are products that give self learners anytime and anywhere access to top-notch classes, Srivastava’s Vocareum focuses on helping teacher-led classes ease the burden of managing huge enrollment. “We provide scalability by building a vertical Learning Management System (LMS) focused on coding that leverages cloud and mobility,” extols Srivastava.
Coding instruction made efficient
We greatly simplify and bring the experience of managing coding assignments to the web browsers of teachers worldwide
“We leverage cloud infrastructure to enable teachers to be a single click away from setting up assignments for students, guiding them through the learning process, viewing analytics on their progress and grading the students,” he adds. The solution gives the ability for grading automation; provides in-context communication and complete visibility into the student work.
While most of the solutions in a market have the horizontal approach— offering one-size-fits-all solution, Vocareum focuses on the vertical approach targeted to improve the efficiency of the coding experience for both teachers and students. “We don't look at the assignment just as the document, but give the teachers the ability to look inside the students’ work and offer them the guidance” remarks Srivastava. “Also, our solution seamlessly integrates to existing learning infrastructure through LTI, LMS APIs, and CSV files” he adds. This ability significantly reduces the time and cost associated with setting up, managing and assessing coding assignments.
Improving Institutional Efficacy
“We are in classrooms at high schools and universities today,” says Srivastava. In one occasion, Vocareum helped the University of California in San Diego to successfully host introductory programming class of 650 students. The university built its internal process to manage such a huge class but it did not meet all the growing and changing needs. They then adopted Vocareum
“If you are starting a new company, one should first deeply learn the needs for a given market segment and then ask yourself if you can assemble the funding and execution to match that opportunity. And you can only anticipate the funding success if you have an in depth understanding of the needs of your investors - either a fund or strategic. Also, in technology segments, marketing is often a very under-utilized resource because the return is not obvious. I would advice on building an aggressive marketing plan and taking some chances,” he concludes.