Rob Henderson has always been at the intersection of technology, startups and engaging younger generations – especially students. He has founded angel investing groups, started Enactus locally, and built Yconic into the largest platform in Canada for students pursuing higher education. “At Yconic, we built the platform to over one million annual student users in Canada because students felt completely unsupported in their learning journey,” stated Henderson.
Simply put, learning support is either unattainable or not accessible because there aren’t enough teachers, tutors and trainers in the world to support the individual needs and demands of students globally. This problem leads to worse educational and social outcomes and needs to change
In search of a solution, Rob began researching artificial intelligence and how it might support education. He learned that with the ever-growing amount of data available combined with improvements in technology and a more digitized world, AI would be at the center of transforming the way we learn. “AI will be powering the future of education, so I put together a list of leading AI experts to join us on our mission to unlock the potential in every student through smarter and more supportive learning experiences,” stated Henderson.
In 2018, Rob recruited AI expert Dr. Fakhri Karray, head of the University of Waterloo's AI Institute, to join as a Founder as well as his acclaimed Ph.D. student, Dr. Shady Shehata (who spent 10 years at D2L) as CTO. Together they share a common belief that almost all of the world’s problems come back to a lack of understanding or education. So, they created YOURIKA – with the core value that anyone should be able to learn, understand and discover anything without limits.
Two months after the team’s formation, YOURIKA enrolled in The Accelerator Program® and entered Waterloo’s tech community. As an experienced tech founder, Rob has seen the value in operating out of Waterloo and being a part of the innovation ecosystem, especially as a startup. “I went to school in Waterloo and had set up several offices in Waterloo because it is one of the best places in the world to build a technology company,” said Henderson. “After being introduced to the AC, it was a perfect fit to join and one of the best decisions we have made.” YOURIKA credits the advice and guidance they received during the early days to play a big part in its development, including attracting elite investors like Amazon.
The unique access to a community of experts across all business functions is what separates the AC from other programs. Building a meaningful start-up is difficult, and we would not be where we are today without the unconditional, candid, and unwavering support that we have received from the AC and its mentors. We are humbled and grateful to be a graduate from this program and look forward to being a supportive alumnus.
During YOURIKA’s time at the AC, they surpassed several critical milestones, including developing AI technology that can accurately predict and assess what a student knows and needs to know, all in real-time. Their proprietary technology is 7.2x more accurate than what is currently in the market. It is the backbone of ORBITS, its Personalized Learning Experience Platform (PLXP) that provides teenage students smarter, faster, and more supportive studying experiences outside the classroom. Students add, access, and interact with their materials, and ORBITS takes care of the rest by helping students curate content, assess their understanding, and connect them in real-time to the resources they need to be successful.
Like every startup, their tenure in the AC included several highs and lows, but it seems their vision for the company has only expanded. “Over the past two years, we have learned a lot from our mentors at the AC and Amazon, including that we need to think bigger as we are well-positioned to create a once-in-a-lifetime company that can transform the way the world learns, and that is exciting.”
The Accelerator Centre’s Fall Graduation is on Friday, October 22nd, and will be an online event celebrating YOURIKA’s success. All are welcome to attend our fun and exciting virtual celebration that will include some surprises that you won’t want to miss!