(or "The Story of Storillo" if you're not a fan of possessives)
And welcome to Storillo! If you like to know the history behind the products you're using, then you’re in luck, because this is a chronological account of Storillo’s journey told by one of its founders (yours truly)!
It all started when as a senior in college studying English and Spanish, I approached Tim, who was studying computer science and aerospace engineering about an idea I had.
At the time, we were just a couple of friends from high school who thought the world needed a little more creativity and collaboration. So the unlikely team of an English major and a rocket scientist got to work on what has become Storillo.
My goal writing this is to give you a sense of where we came from, where we are, and a where we are going, while recognizing some of the people who have helped us along the way.
I hope you enjoy learning more about how we got started!
With great appreciation,
An idea was born….
So this was the original note I made in my OneNote app. I was getting ready to start a social media marketing internship at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. And in looking at everything else that was out there, I realized how much social media bread individualism and consumption. I wanted to flip that so people would use social media to come together to create, and I thought it would be cool if you could use these tools to tell stories together. OutWrite was the first name I thought of (something like out-sourced writing) but turns out it was taken.
Over the next couple of months I kept thinking about the idea until…
Tim gets on-board
Before a group of us from high school got together for lunch while on break from classes, I pitched Tim this idea I had for what I thought of then as an online collaborative storytelling platform. There is contention as to which restaurant we went to; I maintain that we went to a Greek restaurant, Tim (wrongly) believes we went to an Irish pub. Probably doesn't help that they're right next to each other...
Regardless of where, to my surprise, he liked it. While he seemed hesitant to get involved, he didn’t say no, and that was the critical first step (little did any of us know what we were getting into)!
We have a name!
I never thought it would be so hard to come up with a name. What turned out to be the tougher part was coming up with a name that we could still get the domain name for.
As you can see by this list, we went through a lot of different names before landing on Storillo!
Our first public presentation
And it doesn’t go well…I mean our presentation was flawless from a delivery standpoint, but we soon learned that the content left much to be desired.
We did learn the important lesson that when they give you 10 minutes to pitch and 5 for Q&A, finishing the presentation early will not give you more time for Q&A!
Our big break!
After a year of working on Storillo on-and-off, a new program was announced for the summer of 2015 called the Buffalo Student Sandbox: an accelerator program for companies started by students. It not only gave each company a little seed money, but it gave team members a weekly stipend to work on their ideas “full-time.”
We went in thinking we had this great idea and all we had to do was build it, but week after week the advisors in the program just didn't seem to get it. And we kept fighting it, trying to get them to understand, but it made us realize that if all these people didn't get it, then maybe the problem wasn't them...Instead, we needed to look at what we were saying and what we were doing.
It was then that we decided to pivot (an important step for any entrepreneur) and focus on developing Storillo to be used in the classroom.
We always thought Storillo would be good in schools for storytelling, but we realized that through building the site, it could solve a problem Tim and I both had as students: group work.
Our first Pilot!
We catch a very lucky break as one of my former Spanish professors hears about what I am working on and wants to give it a try! (Better yet I am able to use our pilot as the basis of my Master’s thesis, a two-for-one!)
Considering this is how our site looked at the time, the pilot went very well!
We made it more responsive (and colorful), and added more student functionality based on the feedback from our first pilot.
Fall 2016 - Spring 2017
Second round of pilots
Here we really got to test the site! Over the year we had 10 teachers use Storillo with probably about 300 students, and while stressful at times, we learned a lot.
Won Esprit d’Corps Award for Social Entrepreneurship at the New York State Student Business Plan Competition
This was the first award we ever won. After placing top in our category in the Western New York competition, I got to travel to Albany to compete against teams from across the state. And while we didn’t win one of the cash prizes, it was nice to finally walk away with something!
Redesigned the collaboration features based on our second round of pilots. we also added a new project type, Sections (pictured above), and gave teacher access to more student activity data.
Our first press!
While we had some mentions in articles related to the Student Sandbox, our article in the WNY Catholic was the first article we had written about us! We had done some pilots with our high school, Cardinal O’Hara, and they wanted to feature a couple of their alumni!
Third round of pilots
Accepted into Phase I of the National Science Foundation’s I-CORPS program at the University at Buffalo
We didn’t know what to expect when we got accepted into the program, but it turned out to be the best thing to happen to us since the Sandbox program!
I-CORPS really focused on going out and talking to people. And not going out and “selling” but going out to ask questions and to listen. We had more conversations during this short program then we had in the year prior and these programs really helped us hone in on what we wanted and needed to do.
Accepted into LaunchNY
Accepted into Phase II of the National Science Foundation’s I-CORPS program at the University at Buffalo.
This was great because we were able to receive funding to attend the Connect edtech conference in Canada as well as ISTE in Chicago. Both helped us connect with some great educators and get a better sense of what’s going on in edtech as a whole.
We added many new administrative and management features to the site based on teacher feedback. Also, we improved several key collaboration features on the student end to streamline workflow.
We then added an idea bank and a drafts feature for students, and improved the layout for the teachers.
Won second place in The University at Buffalo’s The Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition.
This was the moment where Storillo really became real! You may not be able to read the giant check in the picture, but we won $10,000!!! This was just huge for us because it finally gave us some resources to do some of the more business-y things we needed to do.
Featured in article on UpstartNY
Our 2nd article! Well this time we were featured as a part of a larger article about the resources and programs in WNY that support student entrepreneurs. And we know we wouldn’t be here without the amazing support we have received from our local colleges and the larger Buffalo community. It seems like with every step we take, there’s another support system in Buffalo ready to step in and help. We are very proud to call Buffalo home and to be a by-product of the city’s recent re-birth.
With that hard-earned $10k, we went and hired local design company Helm to take our site to the next level. They helped us greatly improve not only the look of Storillo, but the overall functionality and workflow on the site. And their changes have made it possible for us to seamlessly add new features in the future! (But you gotta sign up if you want to see this one!)
The Storillo Armadillo
You never know what to expect when you ask to make an armadillo the focal point of your new logo, but Helm, again, knocked it out of the park!
Techstars and the launch
We were planning on launching in October, but after coming in second at UB's Pitch Wars, we won a trip to Techstars in NYC the first week of November.
Since we didn't want to launch and then leave, we decided to wait until we got back, and so on November 19, 2018, we made Storillo available to the world at the annual NYSCATE conference!
Being from Buffalo, this is a huge deal for us! 43North is the organization that has really lead Buffalo’s recent start-up ecosystem growth, and we were super honored when they said they wanted to feature us!
And maybe one day, we’ll be able to win their annual business competition with a grand prize of $1 million!
The Big Show
People from around the world make the pilgrimage to the ISTE Conference to see the latest and greatest from the edtech world.
And after originally being told no, we found ourselves in the Start-up Pavilion speaking to more educators than we have ever spoken to in just 3 days.
To make it extra fun, I was able to flex my Spanish speaking skills by giving an impromptu Spanish presentation to some educators from Chile!