Some USC entrepreneurs stay in Los Angeles and make Silicon Beach their home, but Amy Lin ’08, MS ’09 took her tech talents to Silicon Valley. After a stint in Seattle with Microsoft, the computer science graduate moved to San Francisco to create the digital education resource site Blendspace, which was acquired by London-based education technology company TES Global in 2014. Today, Lin leads global product development at TES. Her rapid rise recently earned attention: She was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for education.
With tens of thousands of USC alumni in the Bay Area, Lin is one of the many Trojans influencing the region’s tech industry. She stays connected to USC and gives back by serving on the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Emerging Leaders Board, where she helps link up USC Viterbi alumni through events and programming.
Why did you move to Silicon Valley?
We were accepted into Imagine K12’s incubator program, which is modeled after Y-Combinator, a tech startup accelerator that helps with mentorship and funding. It’s important to congregate around like-minded people. My motivation for building an education technology company stems from my interest to get more girls into math and science, and Silicon Valley is a great place to work on that.
You sold Blendspace in 2014. Why?
Trying to tackle problems in the education space is deeply complex. Schools are not quick changers. Innovation comes with time. We wanted to get back to our original mission of helping teachers and we realized we couldn’t do that on our own. TES shared the mission to help teachers. We are a lesson delivery platform and they have tons of resources. There was a natural synergy.
What makes you a good entrepreneur?
Empathy and curiosity. To invent something you have to deeply understand the needs of the people you’re inventing something for. I talk with them and experience the problems firsthand. I need to be in those shoes. I step out of the office and sit in classrooms and shadow teachers. I’ve always loved doing that and learning what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes and having that deep empathy for the other person.
Curiosity goes hand in hand with all of that. I want to flip over every rock I see. If there’s a way to know why something is the way it is, I’m going to pursue that answer.
What inspires you?
Teachers really inspire me. Not just because I work in education technology, but because the work to grab the attention of 30 young minds is absolutely amazing. That’s something that motivated me to start an education technology company more than anything else. Teachers are the most hardworking and inspiring people I’ve ever created products for. They’re so vocal when something works.