Featuring Real Time Cases
Read Time: 15 minutes
Welcome to Episode 48 of Students vs. Startups. This week, moderator John Gilroy talks with the Founder of Real Time Cases, Jake Schaufeld. Real Time Cases takes case studies into the modern era by using fresh, up-to-date videos to teach students the latest business problems. Listen below to hear why Jake started the company!
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John Gilroy: Welcome to Students Versus Startups showdowns Potomac. My name's John Gilroy. I'll be your moderator today. Let's have a big round of applause for show number 48.
I can't believe, you know. Al Gore hasn't closed us down. The FCC hasn't shut us down, so we're kind of lucky. If you've heard these podcasts before, you know what we do. We are at the offices of Eastern Foundry.
We kind of took over a conference room, got a student on one side of the table, start up on the other. We have a 26-minute discussion. We all walk out of here fast friends and maybe learn a little about some of the challenges in starting up a company.
I'm gonna introduce my student first and then introduce the startup. Our student today is Greg Foreman and he finished his Master’s degree in Systems from Georgetown University, that right Greg?
Greg Forman: That's right. I work for the Mitre Corporation. I do economic analysis for them and I have finance background.
John Gilroy: Good. Such a very, very interesting set of questions for our start up. Our start up, his name is Jack Schaufeld and the name of the company is Real Time Cases. Local fellow from the Washington, D.C. area. Jake, tell us a little quickly about your background, please.
Jake Schaufeld: Well, I went to Lehigh University. I majored in Environmental Science and minored in Entrepreneurship, worked in a bunch of different jobs while I was in school including venture capitalist and analyst and really just wanted to change a lot of the ways that I learned in higher ed.
John Gilroy: You know, one of the best chief technology officers I ever met was a young man who has a background in environmental science because he, all of a sudden, the cloud and the environment, he was a perfect fit for it. He just was so quick in the company because he understand the interrelationships in the different systems. We'll talk about all that today. So, let's say we're sitting in the metro and I turn to you, have a little conversation. So I say, "Hmm, Real Time Cases, that's a strange name for a company, what business problem do you solve, Jake?"
Jake Schaufeld: We solve the problem of engagement and relevant learning within the higher ed business curriculum.
John Gilroy: Well that's kind of interesting. Just like teaching a higher ed curriculum and we have a recent student who graduated from a higher ed curriculum so this makes for an interesting conversation. I'll let you jump in right here, Greg. I have tons of questions. You can just start with the first question, please.
Greg Forman: Sure. First of all, this sounds like it would have been the perfect thing for me to have, Real Time Cases, going into the workforce, so it sounds like a really good opportunity here, but how did you come up with the idea for Real Time Cases?
Jake Schaufeld: So, it's kind of funny. I took some business classes when I was up at Lehigh University and I really didn't enjoy a lot of the classes either because they were very theoretical or because they were based so far in the past which was very difficult to grasp onto and was frustrating for me and I ended up majoring in environmental science, but I was working as an analyst part-time for a venture capital firm that my father started, so I was their first analyst, and I just kind of got thrown into it and had to learn how to do financial modeling, which environmental science actually helped with surprisingly and had to learn due diligence and had to help CEOs solve their problems and all these different things.
And then, at the same time, I had a fraternity brother, who was an accounting and finance major, got straight A's in accounting and finance, but had a lot of difficulty with sort of practical accounting and finance, which I had knowledge in through venture capital. And it just didn't make any sense why this straight A student would have to ask me for any help with anything business related because it just wasn't my background and he ended up getting a job at KPMG and they told him anything you need to know to be successful here, we're gonna have to teach you. So, he was obviously a little frustrated spending $50,000 plus a year going to school, getting straight A's, doing everything that he needed.
You know, Lehigh's a very good accounting and finance school and then we took an entrepreneurship class together and we tried to identify how I learned really by solving problems through the executives I engaged with and why can't we bring that experience to students and obviously the closest methodology that's used right now is the case study methodology, which originally was to solve exactly this issue. It's just, back in 1906, when they started this, things just didn't move as fast as today.
John Gilroy: So what your website says is that you're reinventing the way case studies are administered and the way you're inventing it is through video. Is that right?
Jake Schaufeld: Yeah. All of our material is video-centric, so we do have some written materials and teaching notes and things that go along for our professors and the students to reference, but it's video-centric. It needs to be very engaging from the student's perspective because if you're looking at, you know at least the millennial consumer today, the biggest issue is eliminating barriers to the education more than getting them passionate, because most people can say, "I'm very passionate about learning," but you put, you know, 30 pages of text in front of me, you've just made a barrier to me figuring out what that issue is and then you tell me it's about McDonald's in the 1980's. Well, I wasn't in the 1980's, so there's another barrier to me figuring out how to solve that issue.
Greg Forman: So how do you go about developing these systems cases?
Jake Schaufeld: So, this took a while to really figure out because originally I just said, "What would I like to learn?" I just went to executives and said what's a challenge you have, can we put that out and put that in a video format and see if we can get it into the classroom. But academia and the real business world don't really line up very clearly. Things are defined very differently in academia than they are in the business world.
For example, sales is very rarely taught in academia, it's just sort of assumed that you're making revenue. So we have a process where we really identify the co operations of a business, and then we identify challenges on their side and then try to map those to learning objectives and learning outcomes for different programs and different classes. So that not only are we solving the issue of the company, but we're directly mapping those to learning objectives of the classroom so that a professor who gets this doesn't have to creatively think about how to involve it in their classroom. It clearly maps to their course, so it's just an easier adoption. And that took a while to really get that down.
John Gilroy: I'm trying to understand the business model here, you know, the buy low sell high or the add ten percent or something. So you would walk up to Foreman Industries and go ... Tell me the model, I'm confused.
Jake Schaufeld: Besides selling dimes for nickles?
John Gilroy: Yes. Something like that. What's the buy low sell high, or show me the money here?
Jake Schaufeld: So we started, our model is really like a traditional publisher right now, except it's more subscription based. Internationally, it's all site licenses because just culturally you're not expected to pay for course materials past your initial tuition. But in the US it's either a site license with the department or a school, or it's mandated by the professor where individual students end up paying for the material in a lot of those cases.
John Gilroy: So your targeted market is a university, then?
Jake Schaufeld: Our target customer is a professor. Either an aggregated professors who purchase this through a university or a department or an individual professor for their classroom. Because, although the student in most cases is paying, professor is the one whose mandating it.
Greg Forman: So is it difficult to get companies to open up about problems they have, and that kind of segues into another conversation, which is how do you go about finding executives or businesses that are willing to share, maybe problems that they have that are real world that might give competition insight into problems they're having? How do you break down those barriers?
Jake Schaufeld: So, that's actually one of the easier parts. Most of the companies that engage with us just see so much benefit in getting feedback from the millennial consumer or whoever else in the student demographic that it's totally worth it to them to put forward their challenges. And in today's world, most challenges are pretty forefront anyway. It's like you know what's going on, and it's really just can we get help with it.
Now there are situations where they'll share proprietary or confidential information, but we usually help them identify MBAs or graduate level courses where they're used to signing an NDA and it's a different type of engagement. For undergraduate students, I don't think you can legally hold them under an agreement like an NDA. It's more of a moral agreement, if you ever do it.
John Gilroy: So, you've read Harvard Review case studies, I'm sure? Would this be a good mix for you, Greg? I don't know.
Greg Forman: It definitely seems like it would be. I mean, what Jake mentioned before was that some of these business cases or case studies tend to be difficult to apply in real world, even though some of these Harvard Business Review, they're probably the better of business cases. But the video format and I think just their target audience seems like it’s really beneficial for going into the workforce and people that are getting an early start on their career.
John Gilroy: Would you qualify for receiving grants for education? I mean, it seems like one way to fund your company, wouldn't it?
Jake Schaufeld: I think there are a lot of grants that we could go after for our company. It's mostly from a, when you look at it from a bandwidth perspective and a sales perspective receiving grants or searching for grants is like developing another sales team. You have to develop people to drive revenue in that way rather than just selling our product. It's not something that we've gone after, we got some grants very early on, but we're lucky enough to be well funded. We can continue the way we want to.
Greg Forman: So we've talked about Harvard Business Review as an example potential competitor. Do you consider them a competitor or would you say, maybe there's another niche that you kind of fall into, or who would you say your major competitors are?
Jake Schaufeld: So, we're competing for time in the classroom, which could mean anything. If you're talking about us as just a case, then Harvard owns, I think 80-90 percent market share of case sales. So they are the standard. The problem with the case methodology is its been so defined by Harvard for such a long time that it's unobtainable for most students. A traditional Harvard case takes a year or two to make, it's lots of pages, it's very difficult if you don't have an overarching knowledge of finance with marketing and sales and all these different things.
And a lot of the cool parts about our cases is that you can actually focus on one section of the business. You could say I'm going to focus on this marketing aspect or you can pull together different modules of operations that we have so that you can look at an all encompassing case that might have 40 minutes of video broken up into sections. So it's just a lot more dynamic than sort of the traditional case, but really it's what do ... Professors have a set amount of time, they have certain things that they have to teach to their students. Are they gonna teach it with this? Or are they gonna teach it with a textbook or some other methodology.
John Gilroy: You know my sister, named Cathy, lives in California. She teaches out there, she teaches Social Media Marketing. And so what you folks would do is your sales rep would call up Cathy and go Hey Cathy, how you doing, I'd like you to subscribe, I'd like you to buy a set of cases for your class or what's the nuts and bolts of it?
Jake Schaufeld: For her class, we either will have a package of cases selected for her, based on the learning objectives of those types of classes because a lot of them are very uniform. Even if they're taught in a different way, they have similar learning objectives and we would help identify cases that she would want to use and then get a code that her students would then come onto our website or through their LMS be prompted to pay at that point, unless they were doing a department wide sale or an enterprise deal with the university.
Greg Forman: So in terms of these cases, do any of your cases, are they solved so to speak or are they all kind of unresolved issues that a company has. The reason I ask is, is there a way for you to kind of measure maybe a student or a classroom's solution that they've offered and measure that against maybe a real world solution.
Jake Schaufeld: Cases on our platform that are marked legacy have been solved. Most of our cases, how we divide them up is timely versus timeless. You have some cases that really do last for years. For example, we have a great one with Wedding Wire. It's a local company, but one of the number one wedding planning companies in the world and they were looking to go international. Which countries are the best opportunity internationally and why?
During that case when it was deployed, they purchased a company called Bodas.net in Spain, and students then say, okay where do we go next and how do we integrate Bodas.net, it really is a continuing case because they're trying to grow globally and continuously. One of the cool parts about our cases though is because they're all happening right now, every student has the opportunity to submit their solution to the company with the chance of being recognized and maybe even rewarded by the company if they're interested in their solution.
John Gilroy: Well, you know Jake, I am your target audience because I teach in the graduate school of Georgetown and I just submitted a rubric two weeks ago for a class starting in January. Now, what happens in my situation, I'm automatically subscribed to the HPR, I can assign as many HPR articles as I want and it doesn't cost me a dime. And so, when I look at a student, I say well I'm not a big fan of HPR but I think there are some professors that use it for a lot of different reasons.
But I don't have to pay a dime for that, so what you're gonna do is you're gonna call me up and say Hey Jon, you're getting these free HPR articles, but I want you to use our videos because of one, two and three. Is that kind of the back and forth that takes place?
Jake Schaufeld: Yeah, and for students one of the toughest parts is a lot of these schools have set up relationships with publishers where they can already purchase and then they're taking the price away from the students, but really it's just tied into their tuition anyway. And then in other cases, there are highly highly discounted cases where I'll talk to professors and they'll say I have problems with my students getting upset about paying $495 for a case, and your cases are $11, for each of your video cases. And the way I usually respond to that is the reason why you have trouble is the students had a bad experience.
It doesn't matter how much you pay if you have a bad experience, you're going to be upset about it and you're going to be upset that you paid anything. You're going to feel like you got ripped off. You had to go through the humiliation of typing in your credit card to buy something that you don't like and that you're not going to enjoy learning from or watching, which I think is a travesty. I think learning should be fun, and it should be relevant. Students learn to hate learning super early, and it's just really unfortunate. And it happened with me, too. I would go to school and I would dislike a lot of the ways I was being taught and then I would go home and I'd watch the History Channel for two hours. So I knew I didn't hate learning. I just didn't like the way I was learning.
John Gilroy: You know Greg, big wave on Facebook of course, video. Right now Microsoft owns LinkedIn, LinkedIn is doing a lot of videos. It seems to be this is big waves, is this something trendy or something appealing or ...?
Greg Forman: So I certainly think that this has some legs to it. I think branching away from just the paper or things that you can hold in your hand, I think the digital content is definitely going to reach different audiences, especially a millennial type audience and future generations. I mean, obviously you've seen that pretty big wave like you were talking about, and I certainly see that playing strong in the future, so.
John Gilroy: So what's the dream for you? Five years from now, you own an island on the Caribbean, put your feet up on tables, smoke a cigar? You own the New York Jets? Maybe the Red Skins, I don't know if that'll happen... Where do you see this ...
Jake Schaufeld: The inflection point that you get to, at least with us is when you're looking at your TAM, or your Total Addressable Market, you need to figure out where spending money and where could we expand this type of learning to really help the educational experience, because I want students to enjoy learning. So, for us it's the decision do you go wide or do you go deep? And if we go wide, then we say we're gonna do supplements and videos for every course possible. And if we go deep, we try to take money away from the textbooks and we say that's where the money's being spent and we really want to provide a better option for that. And for us, you can get unlimited cases at $60. You could teach an entire course with cases that you switch out that hit every subject all the way through.
I would really love to continue the disruption of a lot of the big players. It's not a secret that McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Cengage, the biggest players have been losing money for almost the past decade and laying people off. And that's because they've been holding on to a model that just has been dying a little bit at a time, really with these printed textbooks. If I can create something where I can make the market realize that they have to deliver content in a different way to students in bite-sized, engaging, relevant pieces; just making that change ... Biggest thing for me is I want to get copied. I want everyone else to try to do the same thing just to spark that change.
When I started this company, it's really something that we're really passionate about, making education better and it's honestly not about the money because you can make a lot more money not in education, a lot faster.
John Gilroy: You know, Greg, when I think of quality, HPR I mean ... Harvard. And then so, are there qualitative issues you see with any of these videos, or are these just provocative for discussions in the classroom, or?
Greg Forman: Everything I saw seemed actually quite high quality, to be completely honest. And while I think HPR you can certainly expect a certain level of quality and consistency between every video, there is something I think valuable having another entrant with a different viewpoint, with different ideas coming in and providing a different solution. Yeah, I definitely see some value-
John Gilroy: What I do, in my classroom, is I bring in humans. I bring in entrepreneurs. I brought in a guy from IED-ME and he talked about starting a company and he ... I think the week before he had asked for 8 million dollars or something, so they couldn't make it last week because I had to bring in 8 million dollars. So that's what I try to engage my students. So what you're seeing is that there are instructors, professors whatever you want to call them who have a hard time bringing humans, or never even think of bringing in humans. I mean, maybe you're the human provided in video format for them.
Jake Schaufeld: Experiential learning, it's always been known that that's one of the best ways to learn and to get students involved. The biggest problem has been what modalities do you do it with and how do you scale it. So you end up in a situation with a lot of money being thrown at issues, but it's usually very inefficient. The used case that I've seen many times is you see a dean or you see a provost who has a couple hundred thousand dollars or half a million dollars or a million dollars for experiential learning because we're gonna hit all of our AACSB accreditation goals, and we're gonna put real world learning into everything.
And they go and they get their instructional designers, they get their alumni and things and then a lot of the professors like Okay, I'm just gonna keep teaching the way I've been doing because I'm a researched faculty, or it just doesn't make sense or it's so out of the box that it's just not really, it doesn't really fit the way that academia works. And then they create some special program, they educate 60 students with that half a million dollars. The money is there, it's just so many people just try to bypass a lot of what academia has learned over the years. There's a reason why we did case studies and we don't just do videos. We do video cases and real time cases because that's a modality that makes sense in academia, that's used in academia, can be adopted in academia. We created a more flexible way.
John Gilroy: One of the hottest courses now is anything to do with cyber security. Mobile security, moving the cloud, compliance, so do you have case studies that specifically address cyber security?
Jake Schaufeld: Right now? No. But, that's actually something we've been looking into a lot and trying to work with some of the leaders in cyber security, like Telos locally and the northern Virginia community colleges and things to really create some engaging content so that a lot of students can push toward a cyber security career. One of the big things that we can do through tons of little videos that's different from a case is we can expose you to just a ton of different business aspects and a ton of different business models you couldn't otherwise.
I know at Lehigh, it's a big accounting and finance school almost all of the students said when they do well in accounting and finance, they say I'm going to go work for an accounting firm. Now there's an accounting department in every business in the world, why can't you go work for a fun start up? Why can't you say I think KIND healthy snacks looks great, or I think Custom Ink is a really interesting company because they always win top companies to work at. These jobs and things are all over, students just don't get the exposure to it.
John Gilroy: I saw some KIND bars in the shop today, and I thought about the video you have. You have a video on your site from KIND, don't you?
Jake Schaufeld: Oh yeah.
John Gilroy: So what's the business problem they were challenged with?
Jake Schaufeld: They had a bunch of different challenges. Some of their challenges are just around growth, they're moving so quickly, they've had some great challenges around what products should they put out next. Because they have a company called KIND, they can really go into so many different industries- so many different products, different than like pretzel crisps where it's like you're not gonna be selling deli sandwiches or something like that. They have a ton of fascinating cases, and they're all real. And they want feedback on, and even with some of these very large organizations, the feedback from students have really changed their organization, which is something that we always wished for but we didn't always know that it was gonna happen. But it really did, which is very cool.
John Gilroy: So Greg, let's rewind the tape Back to the Future, so right before you walked into my classroom and I started showing short videos like this, and it would provoke a discussion in the classroom. Would that aid, would that hinder; what would you feedback be?
Greg Forman: I certainly don't think it would hinder. Would it aid? So, I think given the right case for the right curriculum, I think you absolutely would have a perfect match and I think it helps you to really stimulate creative thinking as opposed to just learning rote material. So I definitely see an advantage there.
John Gilroy: I have an engagement model, where I had all my students come to an event at Eastern Foundry instead of going to class one evening, and they had to come back with like five business cards or something. And so, it was face to face engaging rather than with a video, but I think there's applications. I have a hard time with ... So what's the marketing model, you advertise? I mean, how do you contact these professors?
Jake Schaufeld: The tough things about professors is they're professors, so they're a very passive customer. They're not seeking out content, they're just kind of bombarded all the time with content from all over. The easy part about professors is all of their cellphone numbers and emails are up online. You can get access to all of them. They're up on their website, you know what they teach, you can tailor things directly towards them; you know it's a lot of inside sales, direct reach outs, different conferences. We do really well at the nerdy conferences, those are great. I love getting into case theory with people and why this works and why it's engaging is- those are the best.
We don't do as well at like the EdTech conferences, where everyone wants to see the very shiny new technology system that plugs into your LMS and breaks all your systems.
John Gilroy: LMS, Learning Management System? Okay.
Jake Schaufeld: Sorry, I always forget.
John Gilroy: So if someone's listening to this, wants to find more information about your company, what website should they go to?
Jake Schaufeld: You can go to RealTimeCases.com, you can see a lot of our cases right there, are readily available. If you're a professor, you can sign on and you can view all of our material. You can also call us whenever, we have instructional designers on call. It's our job to help you with it. And you have the selection that you want. We're there for it.
John Gilroy: And there's a lot of engaging videos, you can spend an hour there on all kinds of different topics and talk about KIND bars, all kinds of different things.
Well unfortunately Jake, we're running out of time here. If you're listening to this and want show notes, links or a transcript, just visit the OakmontGroupLLC.com.
I'd like to thank our sponsor, the Radeon Group. If you are interested in getting involved in geospatial projects, contact the Radeon Group. We are hosted by Eastern Foundry. It's a community of government contractors, who are bringing innovative solutions to the government marketplace.
For more information on them, go to Eastern-Foundry.com, and if you would like to participate as a student or start up, contact me, John Gilroy@The Oakmont Group LLC.com and thanks for listening to Students Versus Startups: Showdown at Potomac.