Small Business Spotlight: Youtopia

Who: Simeon Schnapper, @Youtopia

What: A platform that turns student engagement and classroom management into a game

When: 2012

Where: Chicago, Illinois

How: “Youtopia is an engagement platform that uses the mechanics of games – like points and badges – to turn any activity into a meaningful game,” says founder Simeon Schnapper.

Schnapper says that the platform has caught on in many schools that value service learning and tie volunteering to the curriculum, as well as schools that use Positive Behavioral Intervention Support to reinforce positive behavior in the classroom. The gaming aspects of the platform, he says, incentivize students to achieve goals set by teachers or organizations leaders.

Biggest challenge: Schnapper says that the biggest challenge has been figuring out which track to focus on with regard to marketing and developing Youtopia. “Right now, we’re concentrating on schools and nonprofits, and I’ve been asked, ‘Why aren’t you focusing more on companies?’ My response is that we’re going to focus on one trillion-dollar vertical at a time,” jokes Schnapper.

One moment in time: “The biggest joy,” says Schnapper, “is seeing activity on the platform, like when someone earns a badge or completes a goal. It’s so rewarding.”

Best business advice: Schnapper says that the best advice he’s received is to “strive to fail.” “If you think really big and you fail, you’ll learn from that mistake, build up character, and take that experience to make your company better in the future,” he says.

Most influential book: Schnapper cites “The Lean Startup” as particularly influential; the book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of putting out a minimum viable product, and then learning from the public’s response to that product.

Quote from the owner: “I’ve been entrepreneurial since I was a kid, as well as interested in social good … Both of my parents were Peace Corps directors in Africa.”

We’re highlighting small businesses from around the country as nominated by you, our readers. If your favorite small business is using Twitter to communicate with customers, let us know about it @fbsmallbiz with the hashtag #mysbc, and it may be featured as an upcoming Small Business Spotlight.

Follow Gabrielle Karol on Twitter @GabrielleKarol