Technology may be king but Courtney Shuster, CEO and Co-founder of IRL Trivia, is bringing back the one thing that many workplaces have lost over the years - human connection. In this interview, Shuster shares her insights on employee engagement, female founders, and following her passion.
It’s your first day at a new job and your supervisor introduces you to the team. After a round of introductions, you’re back in your seat, hard at work and before you know it, it’s time for lunch. You don’t want to eat alone so you wait. Five minutes go by -- then ten; and suddenly, your greatest high school fears are realized.
You’re going to eat lunch all alone.
While there’s a time and a place to fly solo, there’s nothing quite as deflating as a lonely workspace -- especially since most of us will spend a third of our adult lives at our job. It’s a growing problem considering that more and more people are feeling isolated at work. Fortunately, Courtney Shuster, CEO and Co-founder of IRL Trivia, is working on a cure.
“We discovered that a lot of employees are lonely because they’re not connecting with others in any meaningful way. When it comes down to it, it’s shared experiences that create bonds between people moreso than shared attributes. In a world that’s increasingly digital, those human experiences are being lost.”
To help people connect in person, Shuster’s platform operates like your favorite trivia night bar. Designed for groups, IRL Trivia randomly assigns players to teams and then challenges them with interactive trivia questions and spontaneous activities like acting out a scene from a favorite movie. The platform also captures and shares highlights from the game with photos and videos. Although IRL Trivia is currently designed to help employees connect on a deeper level at work, Shuster says she has bigger plans.
“The initial goal with IRL Trivia is to target companies who are seeking ways to drive greater connection, creativity and collaboration. However, we see a real opportunity to extend this beyond the corporate world to large events, college orientations, and other venues where a modern icebreaker like IRL Trivia can be a game changer for the group dynamics.”
To expand IRL Trivia’s offerings and audience, Shuster applied for and was accepted into the seventh cohort of 1871’s WiSTEM program, a 12-week accelerator for women entrepreneurs. Although Shuster came to the program with entrepreneurial experience working at startups and as the co-founder of a startup studio, she says that WiSTEM provided her with a strong sense of community -- particularly for female founders.
“Prior to IRL Trivia, I had worked in a number of different product development roles and learned that my passion in life is to make products that people love. When I came to WiSTEM, I knew that it could help me grow that passion, but I also found that the program provides its members with a sisterhood that really helps you realize you’re not alone.”
And like many of WiSTEM’s members, Shuster brings years of know-how and business proficiency to the program. While she has many insights on how women entrepreneurs can succeed in a highly-competitive environment, her number one tip is to listen for the opportunities that are knocking on the door.
“One thing that I’ve learned is to be highly opportunistic; I’ve said ‘yes’ to every person who has offered to make an introduction. I’ve discovered that when you ask, most people are very generous about connecting you with someone who can support you or just give you feedback.. You never know what you can learn or gain from those experiences and sometimes you won’t see the fruit immediately, but it’s always worth it. Those connections are incredibly valuable.”
And if you don’t know someone who can help you make a connection or lead, then you should consider meeting someone at trivia.
And yes, in case you were wondering, there is an app for that. Well, there will be soon.