William Yang – Chief Strategy Officer of Learnerator

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William Yang - Chief Strategy Officer of Learnerator

It all comes down to testing and execution. First you need to set a clear vision for what you want to create. Then you need to think about the inputs needed in order to achieve your desired output. Create a basic system of processes that will get you to your output and keep testing until you reach your desired result. Once you’ve consistently done that, you can optimize your system and see your ideas in action.

William Yang is the Chief Strategy Officer of Learnerator, a company aimed at developing easily accessible e-learning and practice materials through an open and gamified platform.

Prior to Learnerator, William co-founded College Creed, an education startup that provided high school students with effective college admissions resources on-demand through interactive online courses. College Creed’s courses became the most enrolled massive open online courses for college admissions before being acquired by Learnerator in October 2013. William studied Economics and Chinese Language & Culture at Northwestern University.

Where did the idea for Learnerator come from?

The idea came from my co-founder, Luke’s, high school experience. Luke was your classic high school overachiever, taking eleven Advanced Placement (AP) tests back then; he would often venture to Barnes and Noble, pick out all the AP review books and work one by one through the books. The problem with review books was that they weren’t portable and they weren’t engaging.

Naturally when Luke approached me about joining Learnerator, I could relate. Having taken International Baccalaureate and AP courses in high school, I remember how frustrating it was lugging around extra review books in my backpack in those final weeks leading up to the exams so we set out to solve this problem.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day starts at 6:00 AM with a quick workout, shower, and breakfast. I read on my Kindle and catch up on podcasts on the commute to the office. I’m in the office by 8:30 AM. I outline the morning and set goals before checking my e-mail. From there it’s a matter of what needs to get done. I have a mid-day check in assessing what goals were met, and which need to be done, and then get things done.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It all comes down to testing and execution. First you need to set a clear vision for what you want to create. Then you need to think about the inputs needed in order to achieve your desired output. Create a basic system of processes that will get you to your output and keep testing until you reach your desired result. Once you’ve consistently done that, you can optimize your system and see your ideas in action.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The growing interest in entrepreneurship across college campuses and subsequently more college graduates taking a leap of faith early on in their careers. Millennials more than ever before are thinking outside the box when it comes to adding value to society. This crave to add value is enabling people to define new lifestyles and to live fulfilling lives.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Breaking things down into systems. I’ve learned from the past that systems make your life so much easier. If you can’t systemize it, you can’t scale it. I’ve tried doing everything at once myself but have found that when I can create a system, the outcome is always better and more efficient. Whenever you can and have a team you can trust, design a system and delegate.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I once worked part-time as a front desk clerk with a full-time manager who upon realizing I completed work quickly stopped doing her work and passed it all off to me while watching television shows right next to me. I learned that good management starts with the character and values that the manager demonstrates every day. If their values do not align with yours, things won’t work out. I left that gig shortly after.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would of started reading books on entrepreneurship earlier! I didn’t know what entrepreneurship really was until late in my freshman summer of college when I picked up Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup. After reading that, I realized that pretty much all the random projects I had done growing up were entrepreneurial. From there, I started to focus much more intensely on execution and creating value.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Listen and learn from others. There’s so much to learn and so little time. Chances are someone else has been there before.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

We view everything as constantly being in a state of beta. We often discuss ways to test to see if there are opportunities for optimization. This can be as simple as changing one variable in an e-mail campaign to something bigger like rethinking our entire strategy in a certain area of the business. Regardless, we don’t settle on something just because it works. We take this value seriously with our teachers and work tirelessly year-round to ensure they are constantly iterating and improving on their respective subject areas.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I can’t think of just one failure; I make mistakes every day but view them as just another learning opportunity. Handling setbacks are all about keeping things in perspective and staying humble with yourself in recognizing what is working and what is not. Being able to adapt in a constantly changing situation while testing new things every day is key.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Make an app where you can log into all of your financial accounts and allocate deposits and investments without having to navigate to the individual sites of those accounts to set those up.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

In high school I used to make violin covers of Top 40 hits for friends and leave them on their Facebook walls.

What software and web services do you use?

Pipedrive for managing leads/sales
Basecamp for keeping track of to-dos and projects
TextExpander for automated responses (this one is a lifesaver!)
Postbox for e-mails

What do you love about them?

Pipedrive is intuitive and makes keeping in touch with leads easy. Basecamp is collaborative and holds people accountable. TextExpander saves me hours of time when answering inquiries. Postbox makes e-mail management simple and clean.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Rework by Jason Fried. Simple insights and reminders on rethinking the way you’re doing things.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Tony Hsieh: @tonyhsieh
Aaron Levie: @levie
Mark Cuban: http://blogmaverick.com/

Connect:

http://www.learnerator.com
Learnerator on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Learnerator
Learnerator on Twitter: @learnerator
William on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/willcyang

Published on September 2, 2014 .

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