Learning his Lessonly

Max Yoder brings Silicon Valley to the Midwest

Maximillian Tortoriello

You might say that Max Yoder (B.A. ’10) has learned his lessons.

When he entered Indiana University, Yoder knew there was a variety of subjects to major in that would help him on his career path: business, communications, sociology. But he needed a little of each.

“What I really wanted to do in my college career was be a better thinker, be a stronger writer, and be a more eloquent speaker. And liberal arts is the way to accomplish those things,” Yoder says. “I wanted to learn about people and how they communicate, and also the foundations of business.”

He completed an individualized major in brand management and advertising that allowed him to sample from many disciplines, including psychology, journalism, telecommunications, and more. He has taken that multidisciplinary approach and applied it to his latest endeavor, Lessonly, an Indianapolis-based tech company that makes team training software.

“We’re building training software for sales and customer-service teams,” Yoder says. “We help people learn and practice key behaviors so they can do better work.”

Yoder's company Lessonly was named Tech Startup of the Year in 2015.

Started in July 2012, the company has grown significantly in just six years. In late 2014, Lessonly had 10 employees and had just received $1.1 million in venture capital. Today, the company has grown to 100 employees, 1.5 million learners, and more than 550 paying customers.

Not only that, in 2015 the company was named Tech Startup of the Year by TechPoint’s Mira Awards, which honor the best of tech in Indiana.

“There’s no magic to building a business,” Yoder says. “It’s a process like anything else, and if you follow the steps to that process, your likelihood of getting a venture off the ground goes up.”

That said, Yoder’s first attempt at running a business did not go as well. After graduating from IU and saving up his money, Yoder and his partners launched Quipol, a polling tool to help online publishers engage with their audiences.

“I ran that business for a year and a half,” Yoder says. “I didn’t make a dime, but I sure did spend a lot of my personal savings. It wasn’t a great formula. But I don’t regret the experience at all. Lessonly wouldn’t be what it is today had I not made those mistakes with Quipol.”

"There's no magic to building a business," Yoder says. "It's a process like anything else."

That startup also taught Yoder the importance of taking breaks and led to the creation of the Brighter Indianapolis Fund, a Lessonly-funded organization that donates time and money to youth-focused nonprofits in Indianapolis.

“Every time we sign a new Lessonly customer, we get to put more capital into the Brighter Indianapolis Fund,” Yoder says. “The bigger the customer, the bigger the contribution. Brighter Indy’s nonprofit partners are doing amazing work to enrich our community, and we’re proud to help support them.”

With all his success, Yoder has taken that little bit of everything that IU offered and turned it into a career and a way to give back to others.

“The things I learned at school certainly have a lot to do with everything I do today,” he says.

Jennifer Garrett

Jennifer Garrett is a freelance writer and editor living in the Boston area. With more than 15 years of experience, her work has covered a wide range of subjects, from topics in higher education to the real estate and mortgage industries. Connect with her on LinkedIn or reach her at jgarrett@gmail.com.