No two days are the same here at TU Incubator. Passion and creativity nurtures new and exciting ideas. Financial literacy is an important part of, not just entrepreneurship, but in adulthood as well. And this is where Aaron Velky’s passion comes from when he created Ortus Academy. We were lucky enough to get some insight into Aaron’s mind as he traverses through the startup world:
Five questions with Aaron Velky, Ortus Academy founder
1. Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Aaron Velky, founder of Ortus Academy, speaks to an attendee at TU Incubator’s EdTech Innovation Showcase on October 10, 2019.
Being an entrepreneur is all about happiness and freedom. Not only is it freedom to do what you love, but it’s a freedom to develop the kind of inter-dependency on the community, friends, family, teammates, clients, investors, and industry that creates fulfillment. While that might not sound like freedom, to us, it’s the most liberating element of it all.
Second, being an entrepreneur is truly limitless. It’s about your process, not your product, so it lets you go as far as you want if you’re willing to put in the time and energy. It forces you to ask what you want and make the plan to get there. When you have the right process, there is truly no end in sight and personally growing from your process is a tremendous thing to have access to. It’s an infinite game — the game you play to keep playing.
It’s also about being able to build your business around your lifestyle — which is totally opposite what is normal. Most people build their life around their work, and we have been able to do the opposite. What an amazing gift! It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifices and challenge-readiness, but it’s so worth it.
2. Tell me about your product?
We created Money Club to change how young adults see money. We believe that in order to have a meaningful life, a person needs to be financially intelligent — meaning to understand the mechanics of money but also the habits and emotions that drive our financial behaviors. Those same behaviors are what get most people in trouble, and building better behaviors is our goal. When 95% of decisions are made on ‘rules of thumb,’ we are working to help young adults, in a world of spending pressures and identity challenges, build better rules of thumb.
Money Club is an online community. It’s not just education through courses, it’s access to people that you can talk to, ask questions and share with. It’s connections to opportunities — vendors, employers and more that can activate your knowledge. And it’s all about this behavioral side of money — the impulses, the pressures, the habits and the mindsets that can lock us in or set us free. When it’s easy to make money choices that impact our future, we need to be aware before we tie the golden shackles on ourselves.
We aren’t talking about saving for saving sake, or ‘stop spending on _____” — we’re helping them develop a healthy relationship with money. In a world where spending is easy, pressures are high, and social expectations are frontal, we want to give them the chance to think of their happiness, their skills, and their talents as possibilities for their future.
3. What do you see as your big challenges going forward?
We are working hard to cut through the noise. Financial literacy, as an industry, has never been fun or exciting, so cutting through that and changing that narrative is hard. But even harder is to get people to consider the conversation about money differently. It’s a taboo subject and changing the minds so that our young adults have a better future, especially given that they will one day rule the working class, is incredibly important. Still, changing the status quo takes time. If we want people to consider NOT going to college unless it has been determined to be in alignment with their end goals, then we must REALLY press the limits of social norm change. That’s just one example of many, too.
4. What excites you the most about what you do? The least?
Not only do we get to do cool shit all the time — speaking, pitching, building, outlining, teaching, uplifting, designing — but we get to do it our way. We always have amazing team members that believe in our mission and our purpose, and whether you’re the CEO or an intern or a client (parent) or a student of ours, we believe that we can support you being your best self. That’s always an exciting element. When we have the conversation about money, it’s through a lens of happiness, purpose, fulfillment and opportunity, and creating possibility for people in a world where the climate is all about “you are not enough” is truly amazing.
But not everyone is ready for change and an awakening. Sometimes that makes it hard — to see people that know they want to change or learn but haven’t decided to. Our job is to make it possible to change, but it has to be a choice that every individual makes.
5. How has becoming a TU Incubator member company helped your business?
We’ve been able to connect to lots of amazing people. Whether we are being supported or supportive, we are all working together to build our best self and we are all living in interdependence. Having a group like the TU Incubator call and check in feels like someone cares. As an entrepreneur, we’re our worst critic, and as we grow and change and challenge the world to hear us, we also never take the time to do self-check-ins. So, having a team that does that with us and through us is really helpful.
Bonus question: What are you ambitions for Ortus Academy?
Change the world, obviously!
While that’s a joke, it’s also not. The world needs something to shake up some patterns. We have an overwhelming amount of pressure, expectation and consequences swirling around our younger generation. When people are given the tools to add value to the world, we uplift a culture and a world that’s now more connected than ever.
Here’s an example of that. We’re changing technology with money so fast, it’s likely that the younger generation will never touch cash. As we transition into other value systems and digital currency, there is likely to be no value associated with numbers on a screen — there are numbers on many screens after all. Unless we find ways to liberate people from the over-indulgences that are allowed by colleges, credit companies and sub-prime lending practices, we’re going to continue to see the majority of people with large debts, an indentured servitude approach to working, and lowered happiness, not to mention stressed relationships and health because of financial issues. This can easily be exacerbated when we have digital trends making things easier to be irresponsible. These are behavior issues — not based on knowledge. So, our medicine must be a fit for the problem.
So, among many things, the ambition for this is to help the next person change their life. That might be in a small way, or kick someone off into the next unicorn start up. But either way, if we can help people figure out what money can be for themselves, we ultimately can change a person, a family and a community.