Taylor McClenny

Location: Newport News, VA
Age: 27
Job title: Entrepreneur/founder

Taylor McClenny is brimming with great business ideas. So many, in fact, he sort of regretted having to graduate from his university, where he started developing some of those ideas as part of his business major. In his final year, he indulged a side interest in physics and discovered the subject could help him take his technical ideas to the next level. So he stayed an extra year to add physics to his degree and picked up computer science along the way too.

That turned out to be a good idea, as he also hooked up with a professor who was a serial entrepreneur and could advise Taylor on running a startup. This professor referred Taylor to another colleague who was just launching an Internet of Things business. With Taylor’s growing desire to jump into a tech startup, it was a perfect fit. He went to work there and helped the company develop and take its first product to market; it’s now sold in 50 countries.

Now, Taylor’s using what he learned the last few years with that company to work on his own venture. Despite his university studies and practical business experience, when it came to building the technical side of his startup, he still felt like he “had no good skills ‘til I dove into Udemy.”

Taylor loves discovering new things and considers himself a lifelong learner, especially when it comes to science and understanding how things work. “If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you it’s a defining trait,” Taylor says, describing his tendency to “disappear for a few days and reappear with something new.” So he was really excited when he found Udemy through a Google search. At the time, an early investor was impatient to see higher direct sales, and Taylor “went into a room for four days to learn Google AdWords and Google Analytics” on Udemy. He created campaigns for products, and the results far exceeded expectations, achieving a double-digit click-through rate in just the first two weeks.

“The great thing about Udemy is that, I had a business background and a general-purpose tech knowledge base but not the skills, so I was constantly frustrated,” Taylor explains. He wanted to gain the tools so he could act on his knowledge, and that meant learning to code. Without Udemy, “I probably would have found other methods, but they wouldn’t have been as fast or enjoyable.”

Taylor felt much of his formal business education was common sense or “stuff you could just learn from reading a textbook in two days.” In the traditional university environment, where a set curriculum dictated exactly what he had to do next, he got bored or felt slowed down. Now, he loves being able to learn at his own pace and take whatever courses he wants on Udemy and also get expert guidance as needed from his instructors.

Since then his new sports training platform, Leaderboard, has gone into a live beta, and he and his business partner have been binging on courses to get up to speed on e-commerce, payment processing, SEO, general IT and networking, and “a lot of coding,” especially in PHP and HTML. Leaderboard is starting by connecting a very small, targeted audience of elite obstacle-course racing (OCR) athletes with a top-ranked, professional OCR athlete for coaching and advice. This pro had been using email, phone, and text and couldn’t work with very many clients before partnering with Taylor’s team. The idea is to kick off the OCR market and then expand to serve “other non-traditional fitness industries,” so high-end athletes can cut through the clutter of unvetted online content and get right to a professional who’ll provide individualized support.

For now, Taylor is focused exclusively on growing Leaderboard, and he fully expects all of his Udemy courses to have a business impact at some point. When asked if he’d rather have time to spend on other hobbies or trying new things, he explains that Leaderboard is both a business and a personal passion. “For me, learning new coding languages is as fun as taking time off to learn something else.”