Scotty Iseri is on a mission: To make math and science fun for kids. For those of us who still break out into cold sweats at the thought of isosceles triangles or Newton’s laws of motion, that may seem like a tall order. But Scotty and his outer space rock band, The Digits, just might be on to something.
In a changing media landscape, questions abound as to how to best leverage technology for children’s education. FUNDA is jumping into the fray with a multimedia math and science curriculum that aims to improve the reputations of these oft-reviled subjects.
OEN sat down with Scotty to learn more about FUNDA and its pilot project, The Digits:
What was the spark that inspired the birth of FUNDA?
I have a bunch of nieces and nephews. Like, 14, not including the “unofficial” ones (you know, friends’ kids that call me uncle). So I was noticing that when they hit a certain age, there wasn’t a lot of good educational programming out there for them. Most apps top out after ABCs and 123s, and most educational television is produced for preschoolers. I wanted to make something unique for them that spoke to their changing media experience. And most importantly, that made math and science fun and interesting.
I’ve heard it said that the two times in your life when you’ll get the most unsolicited advice is when you have a baby and when you start a business.” (Tweet this.)
What problem does FUNDA solve?
Well, we help kids not just learn math and science, but love math and science. There’s a lot of companies out there that can make digital flash cards and help with rote memorization, but we approach STEM like it’s a foreign language. Anybody can have an aptitude for math if they have the right attitude.
How did you come up with the name?
It’s a silly pun. We make shows that are FUN-da watch and games that are FUN-da play.
Tell us a bit about your first project, The Digits.
The Digits are an outer space rock band that’s stopping an evil corporation who wants to turn the universe stupid. We’ve created mobile apps, web videos, and live events that teach a math and science curriculum, and we also provide a subscription service for parents that let them know what their kids are learning. It’s a great way for parents to be involved in their children’s education and give them a rocket booster to middle school math.
The exciting news is that we recently got a distribution deal for a 13-episode television series and we’re currently writing scripts and new curriculum for that expansion of the company.
What has been your biggest success to date?
One of our early QA testers is now in the 3rd grade. Her mother told me that, since she has been watching The Digits, her math scores have improved and she enjoys doing the math. When I asked the girl about it she said, “Yeah, it’s fun but a little boring because I get done before the other kids. I already know this stuff.” We worked well enough to make math boring for her at her grade level.
Do you have a failure story to share? What did you learn from this failure?
There’s this notion as an entrepreneur that you need to have all the answers all the time. You want to impress investors and customers and mentors. But it really is important to know when to listen. I know a couple of occasions where I was too busy trying to impress a person that I didn’t take the time to get the most out of what they were saying.
What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?
I’ve heard it said that the two times in your life when you’ll get the most unsolicited advice is when you have a baby and when you start a business. My wife and I had a son last year, so I can attest that it’s true. So the only thing I can reliably pass on is this: Listen twice as much as you speak, and sort out the good from the bad afterwards.
What song best describes your entrepreneurial journey?
Let Me Clear My Throat by DJ Kool? Not for any particular reason, but it’s one of the songs I sing to my kid these days.
What’s your favorite local business and why?
John Friess has a great company in Journey Gym and he’s such a great supporter of the Portland community. I also quite like Pacific Northwest Kale Chips, and Nedspace.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The first scientist to win a Tony on Mars.
Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business? How has it helped you, and what challenges has it posed?
Oregon has been great for us, though we find ourselves at a bit of a crossroads now. As we’re raising funds, I’ve found that there is some pressure to move the company away. We’re currently doing an Indiegogo campaign to put on a live show at OMSI and build some local buzz. Portland has a great diverse mix of companies, and we’re hoping to show that there’s good local support for this type of enterprise.