there's an app for that

Houston founder's corporate training app shifts to enhance remote learning for employees

Trivie, which gamifies corporate training, has launched a new way for employees to connect with remote learning amid the pandemic. Photo via Trivie.com

How much of corporate training do employees actually remember? Texas-based Trivie, a training reinforcement app, sought to not only answer that question, but change the results entirely. Using adaptive learning and gamification, the Trivie app is reshaping online learning while the world adapts to remote working in a global pandemic.

According to Gallup Panel data, 62 percent of Americans currently say they have worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic. In a connected yet socially distanced environment, corporations are choosing to automate remote learning and disseminate critical COVID-19 guidelines with the help of Trivie.

One of Trivie's founders, Leland Putterman, who is based in Houston, first had the idea for a consumer-facing trivia game 18 years ago. When the app rolled out in 2013, it garnered more than three million downloads. Like anything in technology, App Store games were diversifying. Competing applications were deviating into in-app purchases — a move Putterman's app hadn't planned.

Rather than sink under the pressures of an unfit revenue model, the founders pivoted to a more fruitful investment in an untapped space: corporate training. After receiving multiple emails from users asking if developers had ever thought of using the app for company training, Putterman jumped into research on information retention and learned that trivia vastly benefits human memory.

With a new business plan and research backed by neuroscientists, the Trivie app launched in 2016. Reaching a broad list of organizations with five to over 40,000 users, Trivie has generated the praise and trust of business goliaths such as Subway, Unilever, and Anheuser-Busch. The app has been used to roll out onboarding, marketing training, safety protocols, sales information, remote learning and more.

"The vast majority of companies and organizations do nothing after a training event," he says, adding that, according to Trivie's own research, the app has found 50 to 75 percent of people had forgotten workplace education within a month. "It makes training one of the least effective business processes out there because everybody knows people don't remember their training unless it gets reinforced."

What if the secret to remembering is forgetting? Studies have shown that re-learning information over time strengthens memory recall.

"The way our solution works is very unique in that we want you to forget so you can re-remember again. The process of re-remembering is what pushes things into durable memory," explains Putterman.

When a company sets up a training on the Trivie app, the program serves each employee personalized training refreshers over time that are balanced with the retention levels of each unique learner. Using adaptive learning, the app prompts employees to remember previous facts until they master the subject.

"The AI [artificial intelligence] on the backend predicts when you're going to forget again, and it automates the whole thing," Putterman says.

In a Trivie control group, half of the test subjects used Trivie and half received basic employee training. Putterman stated the Trivie users typically have 95 percent retention after a month while non-Trivie users show less than 60 percent retention.

Employers can see the results of each Trivie assessment, pinpointed down to individual questions — a feature that is especially crucial for compliance and safety protocol. One of Trivie's university clients published a training on Title IX, where students passed yet 65 percent missed the question: "Whose responsibility is it to gain consent during a sexual encounter?"

When the university received the results, "they were able to see down to that level of detail—and that knowledge gap is pretty darn important," explains Putterman.

"Training is important but nowadays it's mission-critical," he says.

While Trivie already had many clients with needs for safety training, COVID-19 has brought new compliance guidelines to the forefront of every industry. Currently, Trivie has made the CDC's coronavirus guidelines available to all of its clients for no additional charge to be used across their entire employment bases.

Putterman acknowledges the pitfalls of sending out a corporate memo only to hear crickets.

"In a Trivie platform you would send a video, PDF, or word document via Trivie. You'd know people opened it up and after they're required to take a quiz so you know they understand what was in the message," Putterman explains.

An internal discussion board also allows company employees to discuss why the communication is essential to the organization. Another prominent feature of the app is a customizable survey.

"You know as well as I do that there's a ton of anxiety out there [about the coronavirus]. Wouldn't it be nice to push out a survey and then have a discussion around how people are dealing with it?" he questions.

With most of America's workforce working from home, Putterman expressed that it's common for employees to feel disconnected.

"The only way to maintain that company culture and close communication with confidence is to use something like Trivie," he says. "There's no feedback loop right now. The only way to bridge that gap is to have something like Trivie that's the glue."

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Building Houston

 
 

Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.

“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.

But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.

“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.

His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

When asked how he connected with co-founder Dana Abramowitz, Audronis admits that it was Match.com — the pair not only share duties at Tempest, they are engaged to be married. It was a 2021 pre-SXSW brainstorming session at their home that inspired the pair to start Tempest.

When Audronis mentioned his vision of drone battalions, where each is doing a specialized task, Abramowitz, a serial entrepreneur and founder who prefers to leave the spotlight to her partner, told him that he shouldn’t give the idea away at a conference, they should start a company. After all, Audronis is a pioneer in the drone industry.

“Since 1997, I’ve been building multicopters,” he says.

Besides publishing industry-standard tomes, he took his expertise to the film business. But despite its name, Tempest is a software company and does not make drones.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

Harbinger is not just drone-agnostic, but can use crowd-sourced data as well as static sensors. With the example of wildfires in mind, battalions can swarm an affected area to inform officials, stopping a fire before it gets out of hand. But fires are far from Harbinger’s only intended use.

The civilian version of Harbinger will be available for sale at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. For military use, Navy vet Audronis says that the product just entered Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 5, which means that they are about 18 months away from a full demo. The latest news for Tempest is that earlier this month, it was awarded a “Direct to Phase II” SBIR (Government Small Business Innovation Research) contract with the United States Department of the Air Force.

Not bad for a company that was, until recently, fully bootstrapped. He credits his time with the Houston Founder Institute, from which he graduated last February, and for which he now mentors, with many of the connections he’s made, including SBIR Advisors, who helped handle the complex process of getting their SBIR contract.

And he and Abramowitz have no plans to end their collaborations now that they’re seeing growth.

“Our philosophy behind [our business] isn’t keeping our cards close to our vest,” says Audronis. “Any potential competitors, we want to become partners.”

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Paradise may have been lost, but with Harbinger soon to be available, such a disaster need never happen again.

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

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