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Founder Story: How Stuart embraced social entrepreneurship after Le Wagon

Stuart’s final project for the Le Wagon coding bootcamp was more than just an assignment — it was the much awaited opportunity to bring his vision to life. Read how a Salesforce developer went through our coding bootcamp and started building an app for autistic children.

Hi, Stuart, thanks for your time! So what were you doing before joining Le Wagon? 

A long time ago, in the age before even the birth of Windows XP, I graduated university with a degree in software engineering. But sadly I didn’t continue programming for long after that. I started learning to code again only a few years ago when I landed the chance to become a Salesforce developer at a global insurance company. With that opportunity, I learned the Apex programming language, but I lacked the knowledge needed to build an app from scratch. 
How to use my skills for social good has been on my mind for many years, but a series of personal experiences related to the corona pandemic made me think more deeply about my life goals. As a result, I decided to turn my dreams into action, and set out on the journey of building an app for children with autism and learning disabilities.

I looked for a place where I could learn how to quickly build my app, and the product-oriented aspect of Le Wagon coding bootcamp really resonated with me - i.e. they give students all the tools they need to bring ideas to life, and their main programming language, Ruby on Rails, is the fastest way to build and deploy web products. 


How was your bootcamp experience? 

An unforgettable two months of challenging but fun coding exercises, topped by our final project - a frenzied grand finale of git pushes in a race against time to deliver for Demo Day.  
I was really happy when my app idea was chosen to become one of the final projects, and I was deeply moved by the dedication of all members who chose to join the team.  As a team I feel we made an unusually deep connection, and this is reflected by the fact that all members volunteered to continue working on the app together even after graduation.
In the beginning I couldn’t imagine how to build an app from zero, but Le Wagon taught me how to plan the project, and turn those plans into an actual app.
Watch Stuart’s pitch (from 41:55)

Could you tell us more about your project idea?

AVC Calendar is a non-text based audiovisual app for children with autism and special needs. The idea is inspired by personal experience: my daughter is autistic and because of this I understand one challenge that many children with special needs face… schedules!
Transitioning from one activity to another can be stressful for autistic children. Sudden changes, or not clearly knowing the daily schedule in advance can be a great matter of anxiety. Conventional text-based schedules can be difficult to understand, so at home we use a whiteboard with magnetic stickers to help my daughter visualize her daily tasks.  
Home whiteboard with magnetic stickers
Our app digitizes the whiteboard concept and makes the whole routine of updating and communicating schedules easier.  Parents can create schedules with custom made icons downloaded from the internet, or they can add a personal image for their child to easily understand.  All this can be done from any device with a browser, anywhere! 

What’s your next plan for the app? 

Since Demo Day we've continued building the MVP (minimum viable product) to be ready for actual users, adding new features, fixing bugs and making it any device friendly.
Next, we’ll release AVC Calendar to the public for end-user feedback.  In the future we’re planning to leverage crowdfunding and apply for government grants too.
In the long term I want to build a community for parents to share best practices for using the app and general tips for tackling the daily challenges of raising children with special needs.

How does it feel to be an entrepreneur? 

Speaking honestly, I’ve found it can be tough to be an entrepreneur, for example when things move more slowly than expected. However, at the end of the day it’s fantastic to steer your own ship and to be able to focus on the endless possibilities of your own vision.
I’m glad that I made the leap of faith to leave my ‘steady’ job to start my adventure.  As a move that many may perceive as risky especially in the middle of a global economic downturn, it was a difficult decision for both me and my family.
However, starting a business is an amazing chance to learn new skills, stretch yourself and make an impact of your choosing on the world.  I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity!

Amazing, wishing you all the best in your entrepreneurial journey! Any final words?

Please checkout our website www.autism-avc.app for more information about AVC Calendar.  We’re constantly looking for back-end and front-end developers who can contribute to the project - please email me at admin@autism-avc.app if you’re interested!

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