Student team creates education technology startup ‘Mindsmith’

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From left to right, the Mindsmith team is made up of Ethan Webb, Zack Allen, Christy Graves and Coleman Numbers. These four students created the startup Mindsmith through BYU’s Sandbox program. (Photo courtesy of Jack Morgan)

Editor’s Note: Mindsmith member Coleman Numbers is employed at The Daily Universe.

When faced with issues, one finds a solution.

When finding solutions in the world of education, four create a product.  

Mindsmith, a collaborative web-based product that works to make instructional design easier for teachers and professors, is the work of BYU students Ethan Webb, Zack Allen, Christy Graves and Coleman Numbers.

They each have their own role within the startup: Webb as the product manager, Allen as the software engineer, Graves as the head designer and Numbers as the content writer. Webb said their idea for the startup was born out of a “mutual love for education.”

“Our goal as Mindsmith is to enable teachers and institutions to be able to deliver learning that the student needs,” Allen said.

Webb said the team at Mindsmith realized they did not have to solve just one problem, but solve problems for students, teachers and institutions with their product.

One of the larger issues the team found was that students have a harder time engaging with longer content, such as textbooks and lengthy slideshows and videos. Webb said, “Students are presented with way more content than they’re able to process.”

Webb added it is common for instructors to send their lessons to instructional design departments for assistance in creating lessons, but it may come back as a static lesson where the teacher may not be able to edit or update the lesson.

With Mindsmith, Webb said one of their goals is to encourage independence for educators to make things easier for both instructional designers and educators.

When comparing their product to Canva and Google Docs, Mindsmith is intuitive and collaborative, with the ability to share and edit instructional design projects, according to Webb.

“We’re mobile first, so we’re very mobile-friendly,” Webb said. Mindsmith also works with learning management systems such as Canvas and Learning Suite.

Mindsmith aims to make high-quality instructional design available for everyone. Allen said, “What that means is, for the students, they’re going to get access to better learning content, and for the teachers, they’re going to be able to make this content in a really intuitive, easy way.”

Mindsmith works to make it easier for educators to collaborate on the instructional design of their teaching materials. Mindsmith, a startup through BYU’s Sandbox program, is the work of BYU students Ethan Webb, Zack Allen, Christy Graves and Coleman Numbers. (Created in Canva by Trevor Myers)

Each member on the team at Mindsmith fulfills a different role, but each team member got started at the same place.

These four students first got involved with each other through Sandbox, the technology incubator program hosted in BYU’s Marriott School, according to Webb. Students on the teams are able to get school credit while working through Sandbox, and faculty mentors at Sandbox often work closely with students and their startups. 

Scott Evanson, who is over accelerator programs at Sandbox, said, “We’re on customer calls and introducing them to alumni and people from the community that can help them navigate some obstacles they are facing.”

Webb encourages students who are interested in finding the most efficient solutions to look into Sandbox. 

Allen advises students to get started on their business journeys soon. “Just try something simple, even if you don’t think it’s the biggest thing in the world,” Allen said. “Pursuing that idea is going to make you way more prepared for the next idea.”

If a business idea does not work out in the beginning, Allen says that it will help to build skills to keep pursuing it.

The team at Mindsmith also has to deal with rejection emails. “It’s a cliche, but it’s 100% like a roller coaster starting a company,” Webb said. “If you are someone that does well with rejection and can push through rejection well, then Sandbox would be a good fit.”

If students are unable to make the full-time commitment to Sandbox, Evanson said they should consider getting involved with the Creators program, which hosts events where people share ideas and review projects with each other.

While there are ups and downs in starting a business, Evanson said Sandbox works to partner student teams with alumni and others in the community with industry experience.

“We’re really grateful to all of our alumni and all the people on and off campus who are so supportive of Sandbox and the student teams,” Evanson said.

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