NJTechWeekly.com decided to get in touch with former winners of New Jersey pitch competitions, to see how their startups have been faring since they won their events. In this first of an occasional series, Steve Sears interviewed Christopher Dudick, of SiLAS Solutions, who won the February 6, 2019 TechLaunch BullPen.
Christopher Dudick, CEO and founder of SiLAS Solutions, in Fair Haven, is no stranger to learning. His company offers a social-emotional learning platform for teachers and students.
He also learned a lot from his experience of pitching to investors and audience members at the TechLaunch BullPen. “I would highly suggest any pitch type of events [to founders], anything that really makes you look at the business,” he said. Dudick won both the Investor Panel and Audience Choice awards at the February 6, 2019 TechLaunch Bullpen, held in Morristown.
“TechLaunch was wonderful. I think it’s just a great community of leaders. I’ve met a bunch of advisers that I stay in touch with, some within the field, some not in the field. But, in most cases, business is business, so if you’ve got somebody that has grown a sales team in one area, it most likely applies in education as well. I think the exposure has been great.”
Dudick, an Emmy Award-winning producer, educator, and entrepreneur, praised accelerators and pitching events, especially TechLaunch. “They’re always a phenomenal thing for an entrepreneur to do because you have to hone your message, you have to really do the due diligence that you need in order to be able to present and back up the things that you’re talking about.”
The TechLaunch BullPen events feature questions from the audience, which he appreciated. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount from audience members just saying, ‘Hey, what about this?’ or, ‘This seems high. What are you going to do about that?’ And, in most cases, when you’re focusing on the product, you’re not really looking at some of these extra things.”
Dudick noted that SiLAS currently has four full-time employees and 10 independent contractors. “We sell into the education market,” he explained. “We provide teachers pre-made curricula and assessments, and we provide students with a really innovative, gamified way of practicing their social and emotional learning.”
Since its TechLaunch success, SiLAS hasn’t changed paths, but it did have to speed up some developments along its current route that the company wasn’t planning to implement right away.
“We were digital prior to COVID,” said Dudick, “but we were never fully able to be remote with our software. We had to speed that up and make that happen last year. So, things have definitely changed, but in most cases for the better.”
One of the things Dudick highlighted is that his organization is now completely virtual, and it’s on-site at schools. “That’s one of our new innovations. We’ve added a lot more assessments, more curricula for the teachers and just an easier way of doing pretty much everything. We tried to simplify it for virtual learning.”
Dudick and his team are now also working in partnership with Rutgers University. “We’re helping them with some studies using SiLAS. That’s what we’ve done, but we’re still organically growing and doing better this year than we did last year, and every year since we started.”