Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! Today I’m excited to cruise around with Krikor Dzeronian, the co-founder and CTO of Electives, Inc. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Hey Krikor, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge is Electives, Inc. addressing?
Krikor: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! At Electives, our mission is to build the most engaging online school for employees. We help organizations provide meaningful and exciting learning experiences across learning and development (L&D), and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Our teachers range from authors, FBI agents, Olympians, top college professors, and more. The goal is to make it easier for companies to bring teams together in a virtual world and learn from the best.
Spiffy: That sounds super, Krikor! Tell me more! What motivated you to do it?
Krikor: My co-founder and I met at MIT Sloan where we were exposed to phenomenal educators. In one particular lecture, we had a guest speaker who had led six expeditions to Mt. Everest. He was sharing lessons about team building, project management, making difficult decisions, and other skills that are transferable to the corporate world. This got us thinking about the lack of multidisciplinary education in the workplace and wondering how we could change that.
Spiffy: That’s a great initiative! Can you elaborate on the company’s mission and how you plan to work towards a more equitable world?
Krikor: Diversity, equity and inclusion has recently become one area where a lot of companies are trying to educate their workforce. However, they struggle due to the lack of engagement from existing programs. We have made it a goal to provide the most engaging speakers on subjects like why personal pronouns matter, how to create psychological safety for LGBTQIA+ colleagues, building inclusive workplaces, and more than 60 other topics within the DE&I category. One fun fact is that we had a Juneteenth class in progress when Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday.
Spiffy: Wow, that’s very cool! Can you tell me about a recent milestone for the company? What impact do you expect it to have?
Krikor: We recently added a learning track called the Empathetic Manager Training. Our goal is to elevate leaders’ appreciation for the importance of DE&I and equip them with the knowledge, tools, and resources to advance their organizations’ standing in this category.
Spiffy: That’s important work, indeed. My next question is about something equally important. I’m curious about how entrepreneurs deal with failure. Can you share a memory of when you faced failure and didn’t give up? What did you learn from it?
Krikor: Launching our business at the height of the pandemic was a difficult undertaking. As most companies were dealing with extreme uncertainty, they were trying to preserve cash and they weren’t purchasing new services. This forced us to think hard about the viability of our business. One conclusion that we reached was that learning and development is no longer a discretionary spend but an absolutely vital employee benefit. Furthermore, we knew that inadequate learning and development was a top reason for people to leave companies—predominantly true for the younger generations. Despite the lack of immediate market validation, the trends were clear and we persevered. We are enjoying a steady stream of new business now.
Spiffy: There is definitely something to be said about keeping the faith! I’m sure Electives, Inc. will continue to go from strength to strength. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Krikor, it’s been an honor!
Krikor Dzeronian is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Electives Inc., a corporate learning and development platform. Prior to co-founding Electives, Krikor spent his entire career in FinTech and held engineering leadership roles at Acadian Asset Management, one of the largest quant funds in Boston, as well as at Eze Soft Group, an investment management software provider. Krikor holds a BS from St. John's University and an MBA from MIT Sloan. (Nominated by Pathway Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 27, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.