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The majority of EdTech startups think that the way to succeed is to digitize traditional learning methods and amass as much content as possible. But nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the whole approach to learning in the digital era should be reimagined from scratch. 

With the advent of the PC and then smartphones in the last few decades, the world has changed dramatically, and we are now living in the age of distraction. We are always online, receiving hundreds of emails, messages, and social media notifications every day. Technology has cut the hours of the day into smaller and smaller pieces placing deeper learning out of reach. As a result, many people are at risk of missing life-improving opportunities.

Using our three years of experience in developing an EdTech product that fits the lives of busy adults, we have compiled a list of the top emerging trends for the EdTech industry that will shape the future of education. 

1. Bite-sized learning will replace traditional courses

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have found that the dropout rate of online courses has increased to 96%. It means that current digitized studying methods — let’s call it EdTech 1.0 — don’t work anymore. They require time and focus, which are nowadays becoming a luxury. So, we need an EdTech 2.0 solution. 

EdTech companies focus on creating bite-sized content to address users’ needs. There is no need to set aside hours for studying — you can take just 5 to 15 minutes a day to keep your knowledge updated and your mind in good shape. For instance, reading or listening to one book summary a day on the Headway app will give you crucial insights into 365 nonfiction bestsellers by the end of the year. But a short format does not mean superficial learning; you will be profoundly immersed into a wealth of genuinely relevant and helpful content.

2. Gamification is the way to motivation

It’s no secret traditional learning methods are dull and require a considerable attention span and constant striving. But with goal setting, gaining points, moving to the next level and challenges, games can make learning exciting and enjoyable to the modern clip-thinking user.

The combination of studying and game mechanics is called edutainment, first introduced by geographer Robert Heyman in 1973 as his genre of interactive films about animals. Initially, edutainment was used for children’s learning but later, adult audiences picked it up. As a result, the global edutainment market is increasing and is expected to reach $10 billion by 2025.

Gamification engages attention, encourages motivation and instills a willingness to learn. In addition, it transforms the studying process from a tedious obligation into something you would want to do with a cup of coffee instead of watching TV. 

Creating gamifying elements on the Headway app has partially met the need to study with excitement, not boredom. After introducing rewards for finishing the first summary and saving the initial insight, we have noticed a steady increase in user engagement; first-day retention has increased by 5.2%, and the number of new users who completed their first summary has risen by 3.6%. 

Related: Gamification, A Rising Business Model In Edtech

3. Knowledge is readily at hand 

Over 80% of the world’s population uses smartphones, and that number is constantly growing; it is expected to climb to 7.5 billion users by 2024. Most of the time, a smartphone is at hand. Do you remember the last time you went out without your smartphone? You probably went back right away to retrieve it. Our smartphones hold our plans, thoughts, work, social connections and entertainment, and they are with us at business meetings, important events, bed and even showers. Therefore, have a smartphone if you want to get closer to a user.

EdTech 2.0 products are accessible anywhere and anytime. For instance, if you are on your way to work on the subway or have five spare minutes waiting for a friend — just open your learning app. Nearly half of Americans spend five to six hours a day on their phone every single day, not including work-related use. So rather than scroll a boring feed, they could choose to have fun and learn.

Smartphones are becoming the main instruments in the self-education industry as they help make the learning process more efficient by interaction. It is no longer enough for the user to just read, watch or listen; they want to discuss the received information, share it and create notes.

4. Get to know your customer and personalize

YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Instagram and TikTok require users to choose what to interact with. Dozens of digital products compete for customer attention each second, so remember, you will have strong rivals if you are in EdTech.

You should offer something relevant to attract and retain users, and personalization is key. With the growth of Big Data and AI, personalization of educational content is becoming the “new norm,” making this trend applicable to EdTech services.

For example, Coursera asks users about their interests between lessons, analyzes their responses and offers courses that align with their interests. The Headway app also makes it personal. For instance, we create a unique selection of book summaries for each user based on their preferences and allow them to set their own reading daily goal.

Related: Here’s How EdTech Companies Are Creatively Revolutionizing Special Education

5. It is time for digital-native consumer brands in education 

The post-war consumer economy boom of the 1940s and1950s and the rise of new mass markets created consumer goods powerhouses. From the 2000s, the digital economy has been giving rise to digital native consumer services powerhouses such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple and Netflix. 

Today, the demand for accessible and entertaining self-learning content is apparent, especially during a pandemic that has emphasized online studying. According to HolonIQ, the global EdTech market will reach $404 billion by 2025, and the education apps market will increase 26% by 2024. Our growth is similar; at Headway, we develop EdTech 2.0, focusing on gamification, personalization, technology and short-form content. Our team has tripled using these principles and implementing new formats during the past year, and our revenue has grown sixfold. So, the numbers confirm it is time for digital-native consumer brands in bite-sized educational content.

Related: The Rise and Continuing Evolution of the Digitally Native Vertical Brand

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As we know, the pandemic moves slow. And so it has gone for young children and their parents amid a nearly year-long Covid-vaccine rollout. But yesterday, an independent panel of experts advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended emergency use authorization (EUA) of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid vaccine for children ages 5-11. The panel included medical professionals from agencies and institutions including the National Institutes of Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Harvard Medical School. The final vote was 17-0 in favor, citing benefits that outweighed any risks. (One panel member abstained from the vote.)

So, if you have been hopeful for this moment, what does it mean, exactly? Well, think about it as comparable to how legislation moves through Congress. A bill that originates in the House of Representatives gets put up for a vote. If it passes, it then moves on to the Senate for its approval, before being signed into law by the President.

In this instance, think of the FDA as the House. Now that the FDA’s advisors gave their thumbs-up — the equivalent of putting it up for an official vote — the FDA itself has to second their consensus and officially issue an EUA for the vaccine. (Expectations are this could happen before the weekend.) Once the EUA is issued, a vaccine-advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), functioning as a kind of Senate body, weighs the EUA’s merits. This is scheduled to take place on November 2. Assuming they concur with the FDA’s determination, the committe then advises CDC Director Rochelle Walensky — whose role here is a la the President for our purposes — who would ultimately choose to formally recommend (or not) the vaccine for children ages 5-11. 

Assuming Walensky gives her go-ahead, at that precise moment (which could reasonably arrive as soon as early next week), the actual Commander-in-Chief, President Biden, will execute his plan for distributing the Pfizer children’s vaccine to tens of thousands of pharmacies, pediatric offices, hospitals and health and community centers around the country.

Related: Pfizer and BioNTech SE Submit Data on Covid Vaccine for Kids 5-11 to FDA; Emergency Use Authorization Could Come By Halloween

The upshot? Most kids in that cohort will be able to get their first dose — if their parents so choose — potentially by late next week. (The children’s dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be a third the amount of an adult dose, and delivered via a smaller needle. The second dose will be administered three weeks later.)

To date, Covid-19 has led to the deaths of more than 736,000 Americans, including nearly 700 children.

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Millions of anxious parents are one formality closer to having the option of vaccinating their kids against Covid-19. This morning, Pfizer and BioNTech SE announced that they have submitted data from comprehensive trial results of their mRNA vaccine on children ages 5-11 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The statement referred to last week’s disclosure that “the safety profile and immunogenicity data in children aged 5 to 11 years vaccinated at a lower dose are consistent with those we have observed with our vaccine in other older populations at a higher dose.” 

In other words, after a three-phase trial conducted with thousands of participants from diverse backgrounds, the companies are confident that a modified dosage of their product is safe and efficacious for kids in kindergarten and up.

An important note is that, although the FDA intends to immediately start poring over the data, Pfizer and BioNTech have not yet applied for Emergency Use Authorization from the agency, the final procedural step before vaccines can be administered those in question. But per their newest statement, that “is expected to follow in the coming weeks.” 

And as Dr. Anthony Fauci has mentioned in recent days, that could mean parents who choose to vaccinate their elementary-aged children might be able to do just that by late October.

As of this writing, nearly 687,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 infection. Between June 16 and August 14, child hospitalizations due to Covid infections rose nearly tenfold over the prior six-week period.

Related: Pfizer Says its COVID-19 Vaccine is Safe and Likely to Work In Younger Children, and it’s Planning to Ask for Permission to Use it In Kids as Young as 5

Kenny Herzog

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Kenny Herzog is currently Digital Content Director at Entrepreneur Media. Previously, he has served as Editor in Chief or Managing Editor for several online and print publications, and contributed his byline to outlets including Rolling Stone, New York Magazine/Vulture, Esquire, The Ringer, Men’s Health, TimeOut New York, A.V. Club, Men’s Journal, Mic, Mel, Nylon and many more.

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The UK-based pharmaceutical maker’s two-shot solution appears to be even more efficacious against symptomatic infection than Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose injection.

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March 22, 2021 2 min read

Every major vaccine developed in the race to ward off Covid-19 has experienced a similar narrative arc: initial optimism over its potential; momentary wariness over its efficacy and/or side effects; and eventual acceptance and desirability. AstraZeneca‘s two-shot offering — already in widespread use around the world, though not without intermittent hesitancy — appears headed toward its ultimate destiny in the U.S.

This morning, the UK-based, British-Swedish pharmaceutical company released partial results from late-stage testing on more than 32,000 adult U.S. participants. Of those, only 141 developed symptomatic Covid-19, according to AstraZeneca’s press release, which summarized its findings. That amounts to a 79% efficacy rate against symptomatic cases (80% for participants 65 and older). The test results yielded a 100% success rate in shielding against hospitalizations and deaths related to Covid. The studies were conducted under a randomized, 2:1 distributions vaccine versus placebo. 

Related: FDA Says Johnson & Johnson’s One-Dose Vaccine Is Safe and Effective

As AP reports, AstraZeneca will apply for authorized FDA use of the vaccine in early April and, if approved, be prepared to deliver 30 million doses right away and another 20 million by the end of that month. As of this writing, the CDC tabulates that more than 13 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. Roughly half of those have been 65 or older.

Recent fears over a possible link between administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine and subsequent blood clots have been largely allayed by the global scientific community. 

Related: AstraZeneca Claims to Have the ‘Winning Formula’ for Its Vaccine

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This reusable rocket needs a little more work.

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March 4, 2021 3 min read

This story originally appeared on PCMag

Yesterday, SpaceX almost successfully completed a high-altitude flight test of a Starship rocket. We say “almost,” as the prototype test was going well and completed an almost perfect landing, but then it exploded.

Like siblings SN8 and SN9 that came before, SN10 was powered by three engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to reaching apogee — about six miles in altitude. The vehicle performed as expected, reorienting itself for reentry and descending into a precise landing at the intended location.

“Starship SN10 landed in one piece,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday—almost willing something to go wrong. SpaceX’s livestream video ended before the eruption, giving the appearance of victory. Ten minutes later, the reusable rocket was reusable no more. NASASpaceflight continued to record and captured the explosion. You can watch what happened in the video here at about the 10:39 mark. 

“As if the flight test was not exciting enough, SN10 experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly shortly after landing,” according to SpaceX, which left out the gory details. Various reports suggest a massive fire at the vehicle’s base sent it on an impromptu second trip into the sky.

“All in all a great day for the Starship teams,” the company website said. “These test flights are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration interplanetary flights, and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond.”

“SpaceX team is doing great work,” Musk added in a tweet. “One day, the true measure of success will be that Starship flights are commonplace.”

Related: Elon Musk Is Creating a City in Texas. It Will Be Called Starbase and It Will Be Ruled by ‘The Doge.’

This isn’t the aerospace manufacturer’s first explosion. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last month concluded investigations into a pair of recent SpaceX Starship trials, including the botched touchdowns of two high-altitude test flights.

In early December, SpaceX successfully launched its Starship rocket — which crash-landed back on Earth. Two months later, the firm sent the SN9 soaring miles above the company’s Texas facilities, completing another successful flight demonstration — which, once again, ended in a fiery explosion of prototype pieces.

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New features and tools are rolling out over the next year.

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February 18, 2021 3 min read

This story originally appeared on PCMag

Google Classroom continues to cater to at-home schooling needs with a series of updates, including better student controls and a simplified workflow for teachers.

When Classroom launched six years ago in an effort to streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students, it didn’t expect to become the bedrock of education during a global pandemic. Alas, Covid-19 has forced many to adapt to unexpected challenges, and Google is no exception.

“We’ll continue to put the people who use our products first and listen to your feedback to address your top priorities,” program manager Melanie Lazare wrote in a blog announcement. “And we’ll always make sure Classroom retains the simplicity and ease-of-use that’s made it so helpful to teachers, students, and school leaders around the world.”

Classroom integration

Starting later this year, teachers using Google Workplace for Education Plus or Teaching and Learning Upgrade can use their favorite EdTech tools and content directly inside Classroom — no extra logins required. Simply choose from the content directory and send assignments to students without leaving the virtual school room.

Educators can also expect options to set up classes in advance with Student Information System (SIS) roster syncing and streamline grade entry, as well as gain deeper insights into audit and activity logs.

Hybrid learning

School can be difficult enough when the teacher is standing directly in front of you. Introduce unreliable Zoom meetings, at-home distractions and social isolation, and kids can easily start falling behind. Google wants to help by launching student engagement tracking, allowing educators to see relevant stats like who submitted an assignment or commented on a post on a particular day. It’s also updating the Android app to work offline or with intermittent connections.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of images uploaded to Classroom — especially from students taking photos of paper assignments,” Lazare said. “We’re making it easier to attach and submit photos in the Classroom Android app and for teachers to review. Students will be able to combine photos into a single document, crop or rotate images and adjust lighting.”

Related: Google’s Big Move to Disrupt and Upend Higher Education

Simplified workflow

Keep an eye out for Android improvements, including the ability to switch between student submissions, grade while viewing an assignment and share feedback. iOS and web users will also soon be able to customize assignments and posts using rich text formatting — bold, italics, underline, bullets, etc.

Originality reports, meanwhile, will be available in 15 languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Swedish, French, Italian, Indonesian, Japanese, Finnish, German, Korean, Danish, Malay, Hindi), making it easier for instructors to detect potential plagiarism.

“Many of these features were based on your feedback,” according to Lazare. “We hope these features improve your experience as they become available.”

Subscribe to the Workspace Updates blog for more info on upcoming additions.

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The 15-year-old wunderkind was interviewed by Angelina Jolie about her efforts to combat everything from contaminated water to cyberbullying.

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December 3, 2020 2 min read

One year ago, Time magazine anointed then-16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg its “Person of the Year.” Twelve months later, the publication has doubled down on elevating accomplished youths by partnering with its sister platform, Time for Kids, and Nickelodeon to designate its first-ever Kid of the Year.

The honor goes to 15-year-old scientist and inventor (what have you done lately?) Gitanjali Rao, who aims to harness tech and innovation to confront crises including contaminated drinking water, opiod addiction, cyberbullying and persistent gender and racial inequality. In fact, she’s been actively applying her skills toward those goals since pre-adolescence, having won 3M and Discovery Education’s Young Scientist Challenge when she was just 11. 

Related: This 17-Year-Old Recovered From Coronavirus, and Then Started COVID Candies to Help Fight It

Actress/activist Angelina Jolie snagged the cover byline, interviewing Rao about her preternatural accomplishments and lofty ambitions. As Rao tells Jolie, “Our generation is facing so many problems that we’ve never seen before. But then at the same time we’re facing old problems that still exist. Like, we’re sitting here in the middle of a new global pandemic, and we’re also like still facing human-rights issues. There are problems that we did not create but that we now have to solve.” 

As Rao, Thunberg and the rest of their teenage cohort continue to demonstrate, they might just be the ones to do it.

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The virtual assistant is now capable of predicting what your goals are.

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November 12, 2020 3 min read

This story originally appeared on PCMag

Christmas has come early for Amazon Alexa users. The virtual assistant’s latest update means it can better predict customers’ goals and help make remote caregiving easier.

Ideally, interacting with Alexa would be “as natural as interacting with another human being,” according to Amazon, which previously integrated sophisticated conversational experiences into the AI.

Predicting Goals

Well on its way to reaching the Holy Grail, Amazon this week introduced a skill that lets Alexa infer customers “latent goals” — requests you didn’t even know you wanted to make.

For instance, ask how long it takes to steep tea, and the latent goal could be setting a timer for steeping a cup of tea. Alexa might suggest, “Five minutes is a good place to start,” then follow up by asking if you want to set a five-minute timer.

“Transitions like this appear simple,” Amazon AI scientists Anjishnu Kumar and Anand Rathi wrote in a blog post. “But under the hood a number of sophisticated algorithms are running to detect latent goals, formulate them into actions that frequently span different skills and surface them to customers in a way that doesn’t feel disruptive.”

Obviously, not all conversations come with a latent goal; asking Alexa for “recipes for chicken” does not require a follow up to play chicken sounds (as one initial prototype incorrectly assumed). That responsibility is left up to a deep learning-based trigger model, which factors in various aspects of dialogue context, including whether the user has engaged with multi-skill suggestions in the past.

The function — currently available in English in the U.S. — improves with use; regularly ask about the daily weather forecast, and Alexa could one day automatically offer advice about an umbrella or sunscreen.

Related: Everything You Can Do With Amazon Alexa

When you live alone, plants and smart assistants are often your closest companions, especially during a pandemic that’s forcing families to support aging loved ones from afar. Which is why Amazon launched Care Hub: a set of features designed to simplify remote caregiving.

Your family member or friend will need an Echo or Alexa-enabled device; you can connect via the Alexa mobile app to access alerts, activity feed, and two-way calling. Security measures limit what folks can see, so while you may notice your parents used Alexa for entertainment, you won’t know what song or podcast they listened to, or what command they used.

Perhaps most importantly, Care Hub also serves as an emergency contact solution. In a crisis, simply say, “Alexa, call for help,” and the device will call, text, or send a push notification to the designated confidant.

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November 11, 2020 7 min read

Dry- manufacturers have been sounding the alarm for months that demand for cold storage of eventual Covid-19 vaccine samples is going to far outpace supply. So when pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced this week that the vaccine candidate it developed with German firm BioNTech is demonstrating 90% efficacy rates in late-stage trials, Buddy Collen found himself in a conundrum. 

Collen is Executive Vice President of Midland, Texas-headquartered Reliant Dry Ice Pacific, a nearly half-century-old supplier of trapped-and-frozen CO2 (dry ice) to food-processing giants like Tyson and Smithfield, along with clients in sectors ranging from biotech to oilfeld markets. 

The 42-year-old industry veteran, who’s based out of Reliant’s Amarillo office, wasn’t surprised to receive my call. The phone’s been ringing plenty of late, including what Collen calls “precursory” outreach from the federal government, as well as concerted inquiries from various state health departments. It could be a blessing in disguise for Reliant, but as Collen tells it, the company can’t exactly sideline its stalwart clientele, nor can it manifest more natural or ethanol-derived CO2 from thin air. 

I spoke with Collen for more insight into what news like Pfizer’s breakthrough means for businesses up and down the supply chain, what the government’s role should be and whether all this will translate to a widely innoculated American population any time soon.

Related: Pfizer Says Its Covid-19 Vaccine Is 90% Effective

Firstly, how pressing is the nation’s reported dry-ice shortage?

They’ve made mention of it on various news channels, but I don’t know if anybody’s seeing it as being a serious issue, and it is a very complicated issue. We’ve had internal meetings trying to figure out, “Who are we going to be when this time comes?” Because there’s a moral obligation we have, but we have contractual commitments to our current customers. They expect to receive dry ice to run their operations, and so really, we’ve decided that for anything more than what we have on an as-available basis, we’re going to wait for the government to step in and tell us, “You will allocate product for this instead of your contractual customers.” That way it lets us off the hook.

Are you referring to the Defense Production Act?

Well, between 40 to 50 percent of all the CO2 manufactured in the United States of merchant quality comes from hydrocarbon. Without people consuming , those sources dry up. And so refineries began to shut down, ethanol plants shut down. There was no place to go with ethanol to blend it into gasoline, because all the refineries were full. California is probably the best example. There are six refineries that host CO2 plants, and at one time, only one of them was running. So, all the available product coming in from the east — and when I say east, I really mean the midwest — was supporting the west, and then the east started having the same issues. It’s gotten a little bit better. We’ve been having enough trouble supplying our own customers, and most of that product is coming from alternate plants. So, we’re getting all these calls from health departments throughout the states, and it’s a sizeable quantity of dry ice. It beats me. I’m not sure how this is going to come about. We have some abilities, but Pfizer is just one step, and we’re going to choke, probably, in supplying that quantity, because we don’t have the product. And I don’t know that our competition is in as good a shape as we are. There are going to be some trials here. It’s going to be difficult.

Have you talked at all with your competitors to take their temperature on all this?

No, not really. We hear things and wonder how much of that is true. I know that hearsay is my competitor up in the north has signed a deal for commitments on shipping from Pfizer’s plant. [Editor’s note: Collen later confirmed he was referring to Matheson Tri-Gas in Irving, Texas. We have reached out to a representative from Matheson for comment, but have to receive a response.] But that’s just to get it out to the various locations where it’s going to be utilized. For instance, it will go to a hospital system in Miami, and from there it’s goning to be distributed out, and all this has to be done at -70 degrees, and so the element for failure is pretty high. What I’ve seen so far in the health departments’ requests … I’m not sure they’re really understanding how they’re going to do this. They’re looking at shipping out to their substations a certain quantity, and that’s what their inquiries have been. But once it gets there, it still has to be maintained at that temperature. So, the hospitals are saying, “We’re just going to fit it in all the ultra-[low] freezers” in those facilities, and if you look at the United States, there are maybe 10 ultra-[low] freezers in .

Are you worried that enterprising manufacturers in other sectors may pivot to making dry ice, a la the way distillers started producing hand sanitizer?

Yeah, definitely, and I think some of that’s going on. But, it still comes back to the fact that the base product for dry ice is liquid carbon dioxide. That’s where the shortage is. It’s not in the capacity of dry-ice machinery.

I appreciate that your existing customers come first and there’s a shortage of natural materials, but have their nevertheless been internal discussions about how you could see a way to ramp up production?

We do have some plants running that aren’t based on hydrocarbon. What’s been our success is that we’re tied to several naturally occuring CO2 deposits. So, that’s like natural gas under the ground, only it’s pure CO2. That’s been what’s gotten us by, and where it didn’t used to go, it’s now going.

Have your existing clients been reaching out in a panic?

No, they haven’t shown any concern. I don’t think they realize.

Have any other pandemic-related trends driven new demand in the industry?

The door-to-door ecommerce business has boomed, so when people were on lockdown, they were ordering food via the internet, and those all use dry ice for shipping. So, that business has gone through the roof and also put pressure on the supply side. 

Related: NY Stock Market Soars Because Pfizer Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Shows 90% Efficacy

I know the federal government casually poked around, but just to clarify, Pfizer has not?

Pfizer has not, nor have we contacted them. We’re hiding from them. [Laughs]

This reminds me of when I asked a pair of Covid-testing facilitators in Utah about their forecast for successful, widespread vaccine distribution, but can I basically pose the same question to you?

For this first shipping time for Pfizer in December, I woud say the shipping would be waiting on the production of dry ice. Really, what I hope out of this is that — and I never thought I’d ever say this — the government steps in and tells we have to. I feel like we have a moral obligation to make it happen, but following that links us to a lot of trouble. If the government helps us, it takes the weight off our shoulders.

Related: NY Stock Market Soars Because Pfizer Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Shows 90% Efficacy

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October 30, 2020 6 min read

Hudson Hale is, by his own account, young and “really healthy.” But when he contracted Covid-19 in early September, it still took a toll. “I lost my taste for about a week and a half,” the 17-year-old Portland, Oregon high schooler and COVID Candies creator recounts during a Zoom call. Behind him, Hale’s laboratory-like basement workspace is bedecked with design sketches, a framed New Yorker cover and copious notes scribbled in neon green on a translucent dry-erase board. “And I was super nauseous throughout, and I had kind of a mild headache, always kind of in the back of my head.” 

He wasn’t alone in the Hale household. His mother, who experienced similar symptoms, also fell ill with the virus, as did his little sister. His father, who isolated from the family, was the only one spared. 

But the ordeal got Hale’s gears turning. He is, by his own admission, “naturally someone who’s happier when I’m busy,” adding, “I can’t really stand it when I’m occupied in my own mind and slacking off.” He gets that from his folks — mom owns a restaurant chain and dad runs a house-building company — but also admires iconic innovators like (in his crisp black hoodie, Hale calls to mind a hybrid of Jobs and ). And he knew he couldn’t sit idle after being fortunate enough to recover to full health.

“I was actually sitting right here in my workspace,” he explains, surveying his constructively cluttered environs. “And I was thinking it really sucks that I had Covid and was sick, and I really want to be able to help other people.” The problem, he realized, was figuring out exactly how to contribute. “I didn’t really have any ,” he recalls. “I already volunteered my time for this other organization — I had a bunch of 3-D printers, so I printed some face shields for people on the front line. But I felt like there was something more I could do.”

So Hale started brainstroming catchy branding ideas around Covid that didn’t seem insensitive or crass. He was drawn to something alliterative, landing on the hard-“c” synchronicity of COVID Candies. (While Hale’s product spells out “COVID” in all capitals, it is Entrepreneur style to just capitalize the “C.”) Initially, he thought, “It sounds kind of stupid. I mean, they juxtapose each other. No one wants to eat food with ‘COVID’ written on it.” 

Image Credit: Hudson Hale

Nevertheless, he determined, “I’m young. I have nothing to lose, so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll create a brand.'”

Related: These 13-Year-Old Board Game Creators Can Teach All Entrepreneurs a Thing or Two

Inspired by curiously coronavirus-shaped Japanese sugar candy kompeitō, Hale began working up illustrations for packaging and the confection itself. Again acknowledging his inexperience as a virtue, he concedes that “the fact that I was a little naive definitely allowed me to just kind of dive head-first and make mistakes and try to figure things out.” 

One of the things Hale immediately realized was he couldn’t do it alone. Surprisingly, he didn’t lean on his entrepreneurial parents for guidance. Instead, he recruited his friend, 18-year-old Ryan Westcott, whom Hale describes as “kind of like the Steve Wozniak” to his Jobs-like ideator. Of Westcott, Hale says, “He’s like the technical person who is able to kinda like make everything work and make sure that my ideas don’t crumble.”

Westcott created a website with the capacity to accept most quick-click virtual payments, in addition to helping streamline the intake and shipping processes. All of which was crucial given Hale’s aim to donate 100 percent of proceeds from the $12-a-pack snack to Covid-related and response. They are working specifically with three such organizations — he did not mention which — and Hale says that, thanks to Westcott’s site architecture, “The good part is when we have sales, we don’t actually stack all our money up and then donate it out after we’ve sold out. When someone places an order, their money money is donated directly to those organizations right after they purchase.”

Related: Why Did This 17-Year-Old Turn Down $8 Million for His Coronavirus-Tracking Website?

Thanks to word-of-mouth and some local media coverage, the site has been inundated with more orders than it can fulfill without occasional delays. (Hale is, after all, still juggling his studies amid an unprecedentedly volatile school year.) For Hale, it’s basically real-time proof of concept that he can intuit a market need and fulfill it. Or in his own words, “It’s kind of what we call a smoke test, like when you’re trying to like release ads into a platform. This is trying to create it and just learning a whole lot of information on how into actually do something like this and scale it up.”

To have done so in support of a charitable product that could have easily alienated customers on sight will certainly give Hale some leverage if and when he pursues outside funding for his next endeavor. And like most 17-year-olds, he’s already mulling how to modify gene-editing tech to mitigate the spread and severity of chronic and fatal diseases.

“One of our really close family friends was just diagnosed with a rare blood cancer,” he says, “and I hope that develops in a way that we’re able to create and  to really help people elevate the quality of their lives. I don’t think anyone should have to go through Parkinson’s or a blood cancer or anything that can completely alter the quality of their life in a way that their one focus is just survival. Then humanity can flourish even more than it already has, and so many more people can help create and discover.”

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