2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Emile Learning, UCLA (Anderson)

Emile Learning

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

Industry: EdTech / Media

Founding Student Name(s): Michael Vilardo (Anderson ‘21)

Brief Description of Solution: Netflix of Education

Funding Dollars: $5.4M seed led by Kleiner Perkins with participation from Softbank and Owl

What led you to launch this venture? Going to 7 schools in 5 years in high school and college, I saw everything from a community college to an Ivy League School (I graduated from UPenn). I saw a great difference in peer-to-peer learning, professor differentiation, and social capital that certain schools did or did not offer. In addition, my experience at UCLA Anderson was going through nearly one full year in a normal setting and all of my last three quarters in a virtual setting. Combined, these made me extremely motivated to provide the best learning experience possible, bringing the best trends from social media and consumer tech into education. That is what led us to launching Emile Learning in October 2020, the Netflix of Education.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? It was hiring 51 employees in one year’s time is really exciting to me. Recruiting and getting people to bet their own and their family’s life on you/your company, is really, really difficult. I’m excited to see us continue to build. While raising money, we heard constantly it is easier to raise in this market (not easy by any means, but easier) than it is to hire top talent. Very proud of the top tier talent we have on our team. I am so honored to call them my teammates.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? My MBA has given me a holistic understanding of business, the ability to speak with leaders across any function: product, engineering, operations, finance, and marketing. This ability to confidently speak with leadership has allowed me to speak confidently with investors and successfully recruit people of all backgrounds. The MBA also exposed me to countless entrepreneurial competitions with the most relevant intensity and practice to simulate raising venture capital (albeit nothing can truly prepare you for this other than actually raising capital).

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Cameo has been a huge inspiration to me. The first new grad I managed/mentored at Uber was the first hire outside of the Co-Founders at Cameo. I saw them grow from the 1871 accelerator to a unicorn in a short amount of time. Before Series C and the pandemic, they were the best culture I’ve ever seen. Everyone dreamed of working at Cameo, and it was synonymous with being the coolest company in Chicago. Now the CEO (Steven Galanis), CBO (Arthur Leopold), and GM (Marty Pesis) have all invested in Emile, and I have a dream of Emile being the coolest company in LA to work for.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Tech Entrepreneurship with Professor Jim Kim and Anil Tamineedi was incredibly monumental to my development. I took this in Q4 of my first year of MBA (2019-2020), the beginning of COVID/remote life. I viewed this as an opportunity to take as many classes as possible and get ahead. This class took place late night Tuesdays (7-10:10PM). I would never have taken this in normal times, yet getting the chance to learn from two venture capitalists was life-changing. We evaluated current companies in their deal flow and learned why they invested in certain portfolio companies. It was incredible, I loved this class!

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Bill Cockrum was instrumental to my success. He is an HBS-trained, hyper-successful ex-banker who is a legend at Anderson. He uses the case method for his entire class (the one I took was Entrepreneurial Finance) and cold calls always. This keeps you intensely focused and challenged throughout the class. I loved the way he taught because it simulated the way my coaches coached me in hockey and baseball. He challenged me to become a better version of myself, and I am forever appreciative of him.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? IPO by 2026 or 2027 – go all the way! Let’s go!


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