Entrepreneurial teachers create app to connect them with others

In the 31st episode of Isto Não é Pera Doce! we meet Leandro Mota and Marcelo Fernandes, teachers, IT professionals and founders of Wolf Smart Industries, who a few months ago created an app that they were quick to define as not being the Tinder of sports.

Entrepreneurial teachers create app to connect them with others
Fígura de ondas técnologicas azul

Between their professional careers, their background in programming and computer science, and the demands of the market from professionals in the field, this episode looks at the app that seeks to match people with other people - already presented at the WebSummit - in order to find partners and companions for sporting activities. In between the informal chat and the script error, we also talk about the impact of artificial intelligence in education. Don't miss the whole conversation:

The paradigm shift: it's limiting to choose a course at 18 and spend the rest of your life in that profession

Nowadays, we get the idea that IT professionals have greater negotiating skills because there is so much on offer. This trend is reflected by Leandro and Marcelo, who name a few reasons why this may have happened: covid, which has accelerated the possibility of remote working, which has brought us the possibility of being in Portugal but working in the United States, for example; the impact of digital on the visibility of a brand or company, where today if that project isn't online, it practically doesn't exist.

Now [there's] a trend that if our business isn't online, or on the Internet, we're invisible. So with a lot of demand for these systems, be it websites, software..., for our business, the demand for professionals in this area is also growing. So there are companies growing, there are more jobs available. In this case, computer engineers have more vacancies and can negotiate contracts much better, because this is a normal trend.

In this context, the demand for these systems - be it websites, software, etc. - is increasing, which also increases the demand for professionals in this field. Professionals who, in the end, can offer a perspective of greater independence in themselves and less loyalty to companies, as it becomes more accessible to change professional opportunities. For Leandro, this idea is due to the paradigm shift that society is undergoing:

And the fact that we change jobs a lot is also due to a paradigm shift: in the past, our parents would get a degree or something and work in that profession for 40 years. They couldn't see themselves doing anything else. Nowadays we have access to so much information and I think it's a bit limiting to choose a course when you're 18 and spend the rest of your life in that profession. So nowadays we're also looking for new things. Not just to change jobs, sometimes for the salary, but also for new challenges. 

With their commitment to creating Wolf Smart Industries, Leandro and Marcelo are now on the other side: the hiring side. Marcelo says that there are things he had as an employee that he wants to bring to his company. Leandro reflects that the difficulties he encountered in the companies he worked for are the ones he wants to improve in his own company.

We have that spirit and commitment to the company. I think you have to give people freedom, and at the moment it is easier to manage with just one person, but we want to try to bring people into the company who will take responsibility. Who will also have the support they need from our side. And flexibility, which I think is essential these days.

The business side and IWaP

It's not often that we see teachers starting businesses, but Leandro and Marcelo's entrepreneurial side predates their teaching careers. The ambition to start a business was always there, ever since they graduated," explains Leandro.

Ever since I graduated, I knew deep down that I wanted to work in a company. But we met at university and while we were at university we did small projects, nothing to do with school, just to try out small companies. And we tried several times. In 2021 I challenged Marcelo. But I told him from the start: if it's full-time, there's no part-time.

After several attempts to start a business since they were students, in 2021 Wolf Smart Industries was born and Leandro and Marcelo began their entrepreneurial career. The inauguration took place without any clients yet won, but with the will to row an immense ocean.

When we opened the company in September 2021, on the 6th of September 2021, it was exactly "We've just got on a boat, we've got a whole ocean to row across. Now let's see where there's work, clients..." We had no clients, zero. We opened, zero clients.

Neste momento, o portefólio já conta com alguns projetos, mas aquele que ganha destaque é a aplicação que desenvolveram e que já levaram à WebSummit – a IWAP – a app que procura fazer match com outras pessoas, que tenham motivação desportiva. 

There are several projects already in the portfolio, but the one that stands out is the application they developed and brought to WebSummit - IWAP - the app that seeks to match people with a sporting motivation.

In just over a month, it has over two hundred users, one trip to the WebSummit and comments from countless people.

At the moment, people are coming on board. We already have almost 200 users, which isn't bad for someone who started a month ago. Everyone finds the idea very useful, but now we need to grow the community, give it more to offer, basically. And that's what we're starting to work on here, to improve.

Faced with what they call the pains of growing up, they have found a way forward.

Also in terms of marketing, so as not to be an app lost in the store, a website lost on the Internet: work on the marketing side. And then work with the users inside the app, get them to create bonds, to interact.

Objectives that are now part of the development of the company and the app itself, which, based on the feedback they received at the WebSummit, realise that users and investors will want to hear more about them in the future. A future more likely to be shaped by artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence and education

And how could artificial intelligence (AI) affect education? What do Leandro and Marcelo think: optimistic or pessimistic? Much has been said about the downside of AI, especially when it comes to replacing professionals in various fields.

Specifically in education, we can see that AI is already having an impact. Marcelo tells us that some students turn to GPT Chat to try to solve an exercise. But while this can have its drawbacks, the advantages are clear, he explains.

In my case, I'm giving practical lessons. In other words, there is a practical assignment: you have to do this. And it's incredible that the students take the assignment and put it in the GPT chat. Of course, you don't do all the work. Well, in terms of functionality and so on, it helps a lot. As teachers, we also have to take advantage of the artificial intelligence platforms that are out there. 

Marcelo believes that it will be very difficult for AI to replace a teacher in the future, "very difficult," he stresses. For Leandro, the future of AI is optimistic: it could create more specialised and even better paid jobs.

I'm optimistic about AI. For example, I used to work in the industrial market. We made machines to produce more, in less time, with fewer people. It doesn't steal work. Somebody just has to take care of the back end. So it creates more specialised work, which is even better paid.

As for the application of AI in a teacher's day-to-day life, both argue that AI can help with individualised student monitoring and make some of the teacher's tasks easier.

In other words, you can see where the student has the most difficulty learning and the AI will focus more on that subject, so to speak. (...) [The teacher] will save time.

Becoming a teacher was not something they had imagined. But for Leandro, the school's commitment to hiring professionals to teach is an asset.

I never thought I'd be a teacher, but I think it's very good for the school to involve professionals, people with experience, in teaching. Because we can bring in real cases and adapt the content to the real case. And I think that's how we can develop education. At least that's my view. 

Watch the full episode on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes or Google Podcasts.


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