Gustavo Rodriguez: Helping All Children Reach Their Full Potential
Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have one more interview for you this week. Today I’m excited to cruise around with Gustavo Rodriguez, the co-founder and CEO of BabySparks. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome to Spiffy’s Blog, Gustavo! Let’s dive right in and talk about the challenge you’re addressing with BabySparks.
Gustavo: Great to be here, Spiffy! Did you know that more than 90% of our brains are built in the first six years of our lives? Just as we exercise to grow our muscles and keep our bodies healthy, it is very important during these years for parents to interact with their babies and children in certain ways to help their brains grow in a healthy way. But babies don't bring instructions when they are born, so even if they hide it from you, parents often struggle to know how to support them during this stage. Just as your coach at school knows how to train you to make you stronger and better at basketball, baseball, soccer, or your favorite sport, we at BabySparks help turn parents into their kid's “brain coaches” so they help grow their brains and make them stronger in these first years.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Gustavo: My own son motivated me. When Nico was born, I was one of those parents that wanted to be the best possible father but had many questions about how to make it happen. I like science and research, so I decided to investigate and learn how to support this little guy that was now the most important human being in my life. Through my research I realized how important these first years were in the life of any person and the impact that it could have for the rest of their lives. I decided that I wanted to help parents around the world support the needs of their children in these years.
Spiffy: I love that! How are you and the company working towards a more equitable world?
Gustavo: Since more than 90% of our brains are built in the first years of life, the impact of supporting brain growth during this stage can help kids learn better, which in turn will help them go to better colleges and get better jobs. Before us, the type of guidance that we offer parents was only reserved for those who could pay specialists and expensive "baby gyms." But just because someone has less money it doesn't mean that they love their child less, it also doesn't mean that their child's brain can't grow as powerful as that of a richer child. Our program is very inexpensive, which means that many parents will now be able to support their children properly and open for them a new world of opportunities.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent BabySparks milestone and the impact it makes on your community.
Gustavo: Last year we reached seven million parents that are using or have used BabySparks. It makes us very proud to think that something that was inspired by my own baby is now helping millions of children around the world reach their full potential.
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Gustavo: A few months ago we were working on a marketing campaign with my team. But our technology team made a mistake when launching it, so it didn't go out in the intended way. Sales were low, the campaign was a failure. However, we decided to do a full analysis like we always do. We discovered that even though the campaign hadn't generated sales directly, it had accidentally generated tons of sales indirectly. We were fascinated and began using our discovery in future marketing campaigns. I understood that you often learn more from failure than success if you are paying attention. Also that if you aren't willing to fail, you won't ever take risks or leave your comfort zone, which means that you will learn much slower than those who do.
Spiffy: Wise words, Gustavo! What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Gustavo: It wasn't recently, but when my children were very young I remember one time splitting a delicious piece of cornbread between them in a restaurant. Being the supporter of fairness that I have always been, I divided it in equal parts. But the youngest split his half in two and gave one of them to his older brother. I was puzzled and asked if he wasn't hungry. He explained that it was not that, but that he knew that cornbread was his brother's favorite dessert in the entire world and therefore he would enjoy that little extra much more. As important as fairness is in life, it is often even more important to be kind.
Spiffy: Your son is onto something there! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience before I let you go?
Gustavo: Building a company is a very challenging but equally rewarding journey. Something that is just as important as finding a good idea that makes business sense is making sure that you find something that you really care about. In my case it was my children. Most businesses don't grow in a straight line to success, so the resilience that it takes to keep moving them forward is often only fueled by how passionate you feel about what you are building.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Gustavo—it’s been an honor!Gustavo Rodriguez is the co-founder & CEO of BabySparks, an education technology company that helps parents support the growth and development of their children. Prior to BabySparks, Gustavo worked as an investment banker for JPMorgan and Merrill Lynch advising clients in capital raising and M&A transactions. Gustavo graduated with Honors with a B.S., Industrial Engineering from Los Andes University (Bogota, Colombia) and has an MBA from the Darden School (University of Virginia). (Nominated by Lorenzo Thione from Gaingels. First published on the Ladderworks website on March 18, 2022.)