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Our Blog

5.3.13 Five Questions with Pamela and Jack McGrath of Zerebral


Pamela McGrath, CIO, and Jack McGrath, CEO, Zerebral.


What’s your business?

Zerebral is an academic incentive and rewards platform for K-12 schools, aimed at decreasing the student achievement gap by utilizing external motivators to foster an intrinsic desire to learn within students. We accomplish this through rewarding the positive behaviors that drive academic success.

Why are you proud of it?

Our education system has previously focused on a one-size-fits-all repeatable formula to drive results. The assumption is that the same methods of instruction can be used for every student’s learning style and reinforced by the same motivators for each student to obtain the same result. We’ll use some basic math to demonstrate this point.

5 + 5 + 5 = 15

(same instruction) + (same learning styles) + (same motivators) = Success

At Zerebral we are part of the modern shift in changing the previous assumptions. There has been great work in developing various instructional methods as well as adapting to various learning styles but not much has been done on the student motivation side.

The motivation systems currently implemented within education primarily focus on outputs (grades) and while this is great for those who are disposed to obtaining good grades, it often ends up discouraging those who have to put forth more effort to overcome external and internal barriers. We are told to believe it is primarily the outcome that matters, but we at Zerebral believe that the inputs (effort, classroom participation, attendance, student citizenship, etc.) are the drivers to the desired academic outcomes. We focus on helping students, teachers and parents to collectively define the desired result and find out what individualized variables deliver repeatable outcomes.

? + ? + ? = 15

(individualized instruction) + (adaptive learning) + (personalized motivators) = Success

What’s your best advice for a fellow entrepreneur?

Stay hungry, happy and humble.

By hungry, I’m not telling entrepreneurs to not feed themselves but rather to realize that they’re likely a small fish in a big pond. You will only succeed if you outhustle your competitors. If you’re too comfortable, you’re not pushing things hard enough.

As an entrepreneur, happiness can be a hard to maintain at times. You’ll see the highest highs and the lowest lows. This is why having strong and supportive co-founders really helps you get through the tough times. Take joy in the little victories and always make some time to disconnect from business and ensure you’re still connected with yourself.

We’ve found that humility goes a long way. It’s easy to ride high on your successes, but there were probably many others who helped you get there.

What local entrepreneur do you look up to and why?

With such a great selection of local entrepreneurs it’s hard to define just one. Applying creativity to the mundane is something we both thrive on, so naturally, Josh Linkner and his methodology come to mind. The best applied example that we’ve found is Andy Didorosi (The Detroit Bus Company, Paper Street, The Thunderdome and probably three more ventures since we submitted this). Andy establishes businesses to either address a specific market need or because it’s something he wants to do. Whatever the case may be, he always does it with a creative flair that’s all his own. Combine his grassroots entrepreneurship style with the local powerhouse at the top and the Detroit stage is being set for something great.

What do you do when you need a mental break?

The only true mental breaks come when we’re asleep. We’ve had to establish a routine so that our brains can “power down” at night. There’s nothing worse than your brain racing when you’re desperately trying to get some rest. Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job, so don’t expect too many mental breaks, but it doesn’t mean that the entire process can’t be fun.