The Business Report recently met up with Anita Anantharam, MBA, PhD to find out more about LeaderLync, a business she launched in order to better allow college students to develop, track, and demonstrate the skills needed to ensure their professional success.
TBR: In layman’s terms for those who do not yet know about LeaderLync, will you please describe the purpose of the business?
Anantharam: It allows students to track everything they do outside of the classroom to give them a competitive edge. Leaderlync provides tools in the education technology space for students to track and communicate their skills, experience, and education to adequately articulate their value to prospective degree programs and employers.
Particularly, our proprietary web and mobile app platforms allow students to track and verify their volunteer hours, leadership education, and training offered through universities and other organizations related to their profession and educational track.
TBR: How did you come up with the idea behind LeaderLync?
Anantharam: Very little was being offered to students to provide a comprehensive way to show the value and the skills gained through their experiences outside of the classroom. As a result, students struggle to find jobs when they graduate because employers and recruiters are looking for students with a proven track record of work skills and real life experience, and despite resume writing skills and job applications, nothing provides a means for sharing anything qualitative or quantitative about a student’s activities.
Leaderlync addresses this problem by allowing students to track and communicate their job skills and experience and convey them effectively to potential employers.
TBR: Who currently makes up the LeaderLync team?
Anantharam: We are currently growing our team! At the moment we have six strong team members with expertise in education, finance, IT, data analytics, health disparities, teaching, and research. We are a women-owned company in the technology space which makes us a unique and dynamic business.
TBR: Why do you think it’s so important for students today to be building co-curricular transcripts while in college?
Anantharam: Students are considered unskilled workers because they do not have proven work experience when they graduate from college. They need to convey their unique competitive advantage over their peers at UF and at comparable institutions. They also need to demonstrate and prove in a quantifiable and systematic way why their extracurricular and co-curricular engagement demonstrates the acquisition of skills integral to grad school, professional school, and workplace requirements.
TBR: Can you please describe your experience with the Gator Hatchery program and the impact it had on you and on the development of your app?
Anantharam: The Gator Hatchery program gave me access to John King who was a superb mentor during the early stages of LeaderLync. He helped us refine the pitch and the business model, and gave us the confidence to build the business.
TBR: What is different about LeaderLync compared with other Education technology platforms?
Anantharam: We are a professional development platform for students that is a blend of LinkedIn and Facebook. We are a social platform for professional development and a resume building skills platform. Currently, there are lots of learning management platforms out there. There are also many recruiting portals for linking employers with job seekers. But what LeaderLync provides is the 360-degree profile of student over an 8-year period. This style of slow, systematic tracking will provide invaluable data—the soft skills as well as the technical skills—that employers/grad programs do not have.
Ultimately, we are student centered. We care about how students brand themselves and tell their story. We provide tools for students to tell the best story they can tell about themselves. What gets measured and tracked actually gets done! This in and of itself is a unique value that LeaderLync provides.
TBR: What would be your advice to aspiring female innovators/aspiring business owners?
Anantharam: It is hard to be in the startup world, period, regardless of whether you are a woman or not. Not everyone is cut out for the anxiety and uncertainty that entrepreneurship entails. For women in particular, one has to walk a fine line between likeability and expertise. I’ve had a lot of encouragement and support from male leaders/investors. Women don’t support other women enough and this is a real disadvantage.
My advice would be to find people who believe in your idea and who will champion it and help refine and advance it. Lots of folks will tell you that you will fail. Listen to them but make up your own mind as to the real value you are providing. If you have done your research and listened to your customers, they will tell you whether your idea is worth pursuing. Surround yourself with positive energy and learn how to build a team early!
TBR: Where do you hope to see LeaderLync five years from now?
Anantharam: We see LeaderLync being acquired by a larger ed tech firm. We’ve been slowly building our partnerships with established firms in the education space and we expect to be a major player in helping students convey the real value of their total educational experience.