Reversing the Dropout Rate of Underserved Students with Founder Melvin Hines
Play • 47 min

Stephanie (@stephr_wong) and Carter (@carterthecomic) are back with a new episode of How I Launched This: A SaaS Story. This week, they welcome a Google For Startup Accelerator participant and a Google Black Founders Fund recipient, Melvin Hines, Founder and CEO of began as an online tutoring platform to assist underserved students and has since scaled to create a full service, 24/7 online student support system that empowers underserved and nontraditional students to complete their education.

With a strong focus on online and non-traditional students, Upswing is harnessing the power of the internet to create a level playing field in the education space. Melvin's strong parental role models encouraged him to attend law school, where he began to raise awareness of education inequality. Later, while earning his MBA, Melvin began planning Upswing.

Melvin explains how Upswing works, giving us an overview of Upswing's three Rs:  Reach, Relate, and Retain. Reach means Upswing meets the student where they are. Upswing provides a virtual assistant, Ana, to help organize schedules and check in with student progress and mental health. Relating to the problems nontraditional students face, Upswing helps Retain students by providing tutoring services and facilitating other student support offered by the education institution at no cost to the students.

Later, Melvin tells us about Upswing's evolution to a full-service system, describing the early struggles and how they were overcome. He talks about the importance of finding good partners that share the vision and can help advance the mission. We touch on how race can affect entrepreneurship and how minority mentors and celebrities are working to level the playing field. 

As a member of the Google Accelerator Program, Melvin tells us how the mentorships and connections have helped grow his business. We talk about how Covid has created a world of nontraditional students and the ways this has changed Upswing. Upswing continues to evolve, and in the future, will offer enhanced mental health aid through a partnership with Metta and better online support for financial assistance. 

Episode Links:
Google For Startup Accelerator Program
Google for Startups Accelerator: Black Founders
GFS Black Founders Fund Blog
GFS Black Founders Fund Recipients 

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