How did a Guinness Book of World Records holder for mental calculations end up in Miami building a startup?
By being bold.
To escape Cuba in 2007, Yusnier Viera, a professor in Havana making barely $20 a month had to put his ingenuity to work. He already had a natural ability and passion for math and believed with hard work he could win the Guiness World Record for mental calculation. He did. Yusnier, known as the “Human Calendar,” knew competing globally in competitions could give him the opening to defect – and it did.
In 2015, his small team created Hectoc, basically a math game for IOS and Android. It became part of a three-game portfolio of math games geared to younger children, part of his former company called “Matematica Picante” (Spicy Math). In 2016, Spicy Math evolved into Viera Academy, an education game and tutoring platform.
He recruited his co-founder, Carlos Raul, who also studied computer science at the University of Havana, as a tutor while with Spicy Math. Raul created one of the games.
Viera Academy has acquired its first large customer, a school in South Florida, and it offers an after-school tutoring program. It’s a six figures deal and exactly the supercharge the team needed at this stage of the young company, Viera said.
In 2017, Viera Academy was also a finalist in a national WeWork Creators competition, which provided free work space for a year. The company also participated in Startup FIU accelerator. Viera Academy launched on September 20, and has more than 2,500 online users and more than 50 tutors. The business model includes several revenue streams. For consumers, in addition to a free version there is a premium version of its product, which for about $60 annually offers access to all its tests and games for college prep. Viera Academy also takes a cut of tutoring revenue and it offers a B2B model for schools. Together with organic growth among consumers, Viera believes the deal with the school and ones that follow could put the company in the black this year.
The school could bring more than a 1,000 users and another 3,000 next year, and that is just one school.
Viera Academy is a team of six plus some interns. The team has bootstrapped so far but may raise funding this year.
It is planning to soon launch an application that connects tutors and students. The startup’s biggest challenge, as Viera and Raul see it, is scaling. Each new school Viera Academy brings on requires the hiring of more Academy-certified tutors. If its current deal works out, it could be scaled to 10 schools in its group of schools.
But in the past month, the company has had amazing success, attracting 1,500 users to sign up. The creative bait: the marketing was peppered with Math and English problems that only 2 percent can answer. Everybody loves a test. Social media and Google adwords have also been fruitful.
Viera Academy’s goal is to be at 40,000 students by the end of the year. Yusnier’s fame as a world record holder has gained press coverage, including on the Ellen Degeneres show in which he demonstrated how he could add 10 two-digit numbers together in his head instantly. Viera’s team also visits schools regularly to entertain them with mental calculation prowess and inspire them to prepare for college.
Cheer him on: Viera is going for a new Guinness World Record on Jan. 27.