COO Sit Down: Ryan Laverty on Arist

The first text message learning platform that helps to rapidly train employees in a scalable way.

Ryan Laverty graduated from Babson College in May and has been working as the Chief Operating Officer for Arist, a company that he co-founded and began working on for 2 years now. Ryan has a passion for digital marketing, writing, and public speaking, which he has utilized in a Digital Marketing Internship at IBM and in coaching public speaking under his organization Learn to SpeakOut. Ryan has a passion for all things “start-up” and even was the President of eTower, a living learning community for student entrepreneurs at Babson. Fun facts about Ryan include that he is learning to play the piano, he is from Rhode Island, and he is a triplet!

So, what is Arist all about?

Arist is the first text message learning platform that helps to rapidly train employees in a scalable way. The company was named one of FastCo’s 2019 World-Changing Ideas and was a recent participant in Y Combinator’s Summer accelerator.

Just recently, Arist has raised a hefty $1.9 million dollars in funding and is continuing to grow within the new digital landscape. 

Michael Loffe, the co-founder and CEO of Arist first came up with the idea while doing non-profit work in a Yemen war zone. Michael brought his idea for Arist to Ryan, who was running the entrepreneurship community at the time. The two of them put their heads together in thinking about how learning could be done via text messaging. Through iterating upon their idea, the founders saw traction in corporate learning and training, especially for front line workers. Michael and Ryan found that corporate training involved a lot of passive video based learning, which required a considerable amount of work on behalf of the educator and employee. Arist simplified this system dramatically, disrupting convention entirely.  

All of these insights, however, did not come without much time and effort on the founders’ part. Ryan notes that one of the company’s greatest challenges was figuring out who to serve within their market. It seemed to professors and academics that this method of learning just didn’t appeal. This stumbling block allowed the company to figure out how much they would allow the product to adapt to the user or the user adapt to the product. After one year of hard work, the team decided that out of the creators, teachers, and corporations that were using the technology, to go all in on focusing on partnering with corporations. 

In order to prove their concept and to get investors on board, Ryan notes that his team worked with a software engineer to have a very basic version of the platform in order to test demand. The company was able to get by for an entire year with scrappiness and innovative thinking, integrating already existing platforms into one system to save time and money. After the company saw proof that people wanted to learn over text, the risk for investors was lessened and more people were more open to get on board- like Y Combinator! 

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Ryan mentions that being in Y Combinator’s Accelerator over this past Summer has been an incredible experience. Ryan stresses that he saw a lot of value in the accelerator’s emphasis on focus and clarity of thought as well as goal setting and holding your company to a higher standard. Y Combinator has an incredible set of mentors and resources for businesses that is unparalleled, a definite victory for the company being accepted into the program as a whole.

Another victory of Arist you might ask? Getting the first 5 customers, mentions Ryan, which were a few enterprise organizations. There was a lot of persistence in getting them on board and even getting that first conversation, Ryan cites. Having no previous experience in enterprise sales, Ryan mentions that there was a bit of a learning curve for him at the beginning- but all that learning definitely paid off. 

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In wrapping up our conversation, I got to ask Ryan what he envisions the future of Arist to look like? He mentioned that the company’s focus was primarily on continuing to streamline the product experience on the learner’s side as well as scalability and being able to continue to deliver with simplicity. Arist is spending a lot of time and effort on how to create courses better and faster, which may end up incorporating artificial intelligence at some point. All that being said, Arist’s main goal is to continue to focus on being a tool that empowers learning leaders first and foremost. 

Ryan is most excited to see what impact Arist has on the world and continuing to find and work with amazing people as their team grows. Providing opportunities for personal growth is extremely rewarding for Ryan and I have no doubt that the company will be able to influence great change as our world becomes both more digital and complex in the years to come. 

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