From Dyslexia to CEO

Learning disability?!

This is one word that most parents dread hearing.

Many of you may have heard of dyslexia.


Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.

Understanding Dyslexia

There are two basic kinds of learners – verbal and nonverbal. Intelligence does not play a role in this distinction—it is simply a difference in learning and thinking styles.

Verbal learners mainly think in words rather than pictures, with a sort of internal dialogue. Verbal thought follows the structure of language. Thinking verbally consists of composing mental sentences, one word at a time, at about the same speed as speech.

Nonverbal learners mainly think in pictures. They think with 3-dimensional, multi-sensory images that evolve and grow as the thought process adds more information or concepts. They do not experience much internal dialogue. This thought process happens so much faster than verbal thinking, that it is usually subliminal. [read more at]


Here is something to really change your perspective of this ‘dreaded condition’.

Did you know that Virgin, Apple, Ikea, Tommy Hilfiger, HP are all companies founded by people with the learning disability dyslexia?

Brett Kopf is the CEO and co-founder of Remind 101, now called simply Remind: which is a safe way for teachers to connect with students and stay in touch with parents. It is among the top 15 downloaded apps now, a super success story.

From Dyslexia to CEO: How my learning disabilities taught me to be a successful entrepreneur

This is what he says “I was that kid. I was the envy or target among my peers because I got to leave class for a few hours to go somewhere else. My teacher was Mrs. Whitefield and the somewhere else was a quiet classroom where Mrs. Whitefield taught me the skills to manage my dyslexia and attention deficit disorder (ADD).”

Special needs teacher planted the seed for my company, Remind101. Now that we are off the ground, I am often asked what advice I would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs with learning disabilities. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

When you feel like the only person in a room who isn’t grasping a concept seemingly easy for everyone else to understand, you learn pretty quickly that if you want to keep up, you have to ask questions.

When I came up with the idea for Remind101, I was a university student struggling to manage my class load. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if students got text reminders about tests and assignments?

Because I had no idea how this texting/reminder thing would work, I stood on the sidewalks of Michigan State University (MSU) asking complete strangers for their syllabi. Then, I would combine the aggregated data of these 2,000 or so willing students into a spreadsheet to help notify them a week, a day, or a few hours ahead of upcoming exams.

If I’d been too intimidated to stand on a corner asking people to help develop my concept, this idea would have just remained a thought. Acting on your ideas takes courage, and you shouldn’t be afraid to accept help.

Listen to others’ needs

If it’s anything you can benefit from it’s that you must remember to 1) listen to your user, and 2) make a simple product.

Before launching Remind101, I spoke to more than 200 teachers via Skype, in-person coffee meetings, or phone calls trying to understand how I could help solve their problem. I gave them scenarios on how the app would work, and considered their input to problems that needed to be addressed.

Their answers helped us develop a better understanding as to how we can build a product that’s right for our target audience. The best types of apps aren’t always ones with the most features – they’re straight-forward, simple, and saves people time. Teachers are busy people!

Learn to have a thick skin

I look at my learning disabilities the same way other CEOs look at delays in product development or company setbacks – they’re just another hurdle in a chain of obstacles that need to be tackled on the way to success.

Fortunately, I had early support from people who believed in me and wanted to help develop the tools I needed to do what I wanted. Through my experiences – from special needs classes to learning to time manage in college – I had to become pretty self-aware to understand how exactly to use dyslexia and ADD to my advantage. It’s important to remember that my disabilities did not deter me from success – rather, they helped me find the skills I needed to rise to the top.

Although I have no problem asking questions, listening to others, or simplifying concepts, if we’re playing cards, I still don’t know if you’ve got a six or a nine. But that’s an easy one to get around. I just won’t bet my house on a card game.

The story of Remind so far:

Remind101 released mobile apps for Android and iOS last year [2013] to help bridge that communication gap, creating a mobile platform that enables teachers to send reminders to students and parents via text and email — be they about permission slips or deadlines — and that acts as a secure, private communications network. The app caught on quickly among teachers and the demand hasn’t slowed down since.


By September of last year, Remind101 had six million teacher, student and parent users, a number which today has grown to 10 million, and over 65 million messages are being sent via the Remind101 platform each month.


Do not forget to share, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed to have a learning disability.




Published by Dr. S. P. Mathew

A Mumbai-based practising Physician, passionate about God's wonderful creation, fitness, and integral health, writer, activist and family man. Saved by God's Grace alone :-) to be his Ambassador.

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