The Sutori team (from left to right): Jonathan Ketchell, Thomas Ketchell and Yoran Brondsema.
The Sutori team (from left to right): Jonathan Ketchell, Thomas Ketchell and Yoran Brondsema.

How did Thomas Ketchell go from studying history to being recognized as a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree and running a Silicon Valley startup? On Tuesday the 14th of January Ketchell visits Arcada to share his story.

Thomas Ketchell is the CEO and co-founder of Sutori, a digital learning tool that promotes collaboration and engagement in the classroom. At Arcada’s networking event My Future Work that takes place on the 14th of January Ketchell will be one of two keynote speakers.

- I'm looking forward to sharing my story with students at Arcada. I've been fortunate to experience lots of ups and downs in running an EdTech business, Ketchell says.

At My Future Work, Ketchell will share his experiences of starting a business as a first-time entrepreneur holding a history degree.

Sutori is a collaborative presentation tool, used by over 1.2 million people around the world creating and sharing stories.

- Think of it as an alternative to PowerPoint where students can work together in real-time and add all types of media to their presentations. We focus on creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication, and teachers can use our product for project-based learning.

Air pollution inspired

The idea behind Sutori was born when Ketchell was living in Beijing, China, working on environmental projects while doing social media work for organizations like Greenpeace.

- We were growing tired of the air pollution in China at the time. We came up with the idea to relive the Great Smog of London in 1952 on Twitter as if someone had a smartphone and was live-tweeting the event as it unfolded while comparing it to air pollution today.

The reenactment got picked up by UK media and got thousands of followers and tons of impressions. Ketchell teamed up with his brother Jonathan Ketchell, a teacher, and Yoran Brondsema, a friend from school and full-stack developer. The three of them started Sutori together.

- Working on a history-focused product in China where many things are still censored did not make much sense. We moved back to Europe and tried our Great Smog event with students in the UK. They really took to the content, which we packaged in a vertical timeline format with videos, quizzes and tons of great images. Sutori was born shortly after.

Ketchell says he sort of fell into the education sector. It was not his original premise or idea to focus on the education technology field, but he realized that many teachers were being left behind in terms of technology built for them.

- There are lots of outdated and antiquated software tools, so we wanted to solve this issue for a whole generation of teachers and their students. That's how we got into this field.

Sutori is now aiming to reach 2 million educators and students by the end of 2020.

- We are also in the midst of launching a new project around education and personal finance called Curvo. This will be launched next year for all millennials across the European Union.

Results make it worthwhile

Starting and launching a business is a tough process, but it has taught Ketchell a lot.

- The best part of starting a business is that you keep learning every day. There are always new challenges to tackle and obstacles which you never imagined when starting out.

Ketchell reminds aspiring first-time entrepreneurs that they don’t have to be experts in any particular field, but rather generalists that can work on numerous different things at the same time in order for their businesses to grow.

- As a non-technical founder, I ended up doing marketing, sales, business development and customer support, as well as making sure the business had enough money in the bank to grow. It can be daunting at first but the results make it worthwhile once you have your product in the market.

According to Ketchell, it is also vital to have some background when starting a business – it is definitely helpful to have completed a degree, he says.

- You will often read stories like Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard in order to launch his business, but that's more the exception and it's an outlier. I recommend completing your degree as you're not sure how the business will actually turn out, so it's great to have a degree as a backup.

 

You are welcome to attend the keynote speech at 11.00-11.45 on the 14th of January at Arcada's My Future Work event (in the Big Auditorium) for more of Ketchell’s insights and advice on becoming an entrepreneur.

Read more about My Future Work here.

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