A Conversation With Allison Wood
Our original name was somewhat cumbersome — the acronym was easy to mix up, and people didn’t understand what it stood for, even after we explained it! But the biggest reason we reinvented our brand was to better convey the value of partnership with our company and the quality of the product and services we deliver. We knew we needed an overall identity that would be intriguing, aspirational, and accurate. I believe we got that in spades with DaVinci Education.
There are some really practical aspects of the name that we loved. “DaVinci” is easy to say and spell, and the name connotes excellence no matter which language you speak, which culture you identify with, or which country you call home. It also resonates strongly with our client partners in higher education. Just based on those characteristics, we knew we had a strong basis for our new brand.
We named our actual product “Leo” because Leonardo was the ultimate big-picture thinker who noted that “everything is connected to everything else.” That’s not only a perfect description of our software platform, but also of our 360-degree approach to problem solving. Leo is built to provide the big picture of the educational enterprise, supported by all the details that make up that big picture for every stakeholder — students, faculty, staff, and leadership. And that’s why our tagline is “The genius is in the details.”
We began redesigning our user interface in the year prior to rebranding, because we understood that a new brand would carry with it an expectation that the look and feel of the software had also changed. Rather than go out with a new name and then deliver the surrounding improvements, we felt that it made more sense to visibly improve the product first and also build out the professional services capability of our team. Then we’d be in the best position to launch this new identity that we believe is truly worthy of the clients we serve and that conveys the promise of what it means to partner with us.
We interviewed many of our clients as we developed our new brand strategy. As our “pioneer partners,” their input and insights were a key part of the process. The need for this evolution seemed clear to them, as most were already enjoying the improvements of the new UI. It was so fun to hear how quickly they started calling the product “Leo” — the fact that they adapted to the new name so easily was another indicator that we had hit on brand gold!
Our amazing team, led by our Executive Director of Product Matt Fitzpatrick and our Chief Academic Officer Dr. Alexis Rossi, kept the whole thing moving along like a charm. And everyone on our team stayed focused on maintaining our excellent client service tradition leading up to the brand launch. We also did a lot of client education to make sure they felt comfortable with the idea of the brand change and what it would mean for them logistically. It sometimes felt like we were living in two different worlds, especially as the launch drew closer – but having a clear set of objectives and key results around the transition really helped. As did keeping our sense of humor!
First, remember that a brand is much more than just a name and a logo. It’s essential to take the time upfront to develop a solid positioning and strategy that can support not just the launch of your new brand, but your company’s sustained growth for the foreseeable future. It’s worth investing in a professional who specializes in branding (which is different than “marketing”) to help you get this foundation right. I engaged a wonderful branding agency, Engine Brandmakers in Durham, to help us develop the positioning on which we could build and sustain DaVinci Education for the long term. The Engine team helped us do the homework to really understand our capabilities, our clients, our competitors, how the market perceived our product, how we can stand apart, where we can win, and how all that had to come together to shape a strong, singular brand identity. It was a wonderfully collaborative process, and by the end we knew that with DaVinci Education, we had created a brand that can live and grow for a very long time. It’s accurate but also aspirational — which is just the balance we wanted to strike as we set foot on this new path.
While our focus today is on the health sciences, the benefits of the Leo platform are really universal across higher education. Supporting accreditation needs; making the curriculum available to all stakeholders in flexible, relevant ways; delivering efficiencies and insights that can drive improved outcomes for students, faculty, and the institution itself — these are value propositions that resonate strongly in any academic environment.
As a company that’s grown organically to almost $2M in annual recurring revenue, I’m especially proud of how we’ve continued to respond to client needs by solving them within a solid business framework that really works for higher education. Colleges and universities are being asked to run more like businesses every year, but that’s not typically the way these institutions think of themselves. We believe DaVinci Education is unique in our ability to help balance those institutional business needs with the real-world educational needs of faculty and students. Going forward, we plan to make a big impact across the higher education landscape in some pretty significant ways. So keep your eyes on Leo!
I find great people with passion, intellectual curiosity, and a deep desire to succeed. Once they’ve earned my trust, and the trust of the team, I give them plenty of latitude and just get out of their way.
CEO & Cofounder
Company HQ: Durham, NC
Number of Employees: 16
Year Founded: 2011
Software description: DaVinci Education provides an enterprise software platform (“Leo”) for health sciences education that helps make accreditation reporting faster, easier, and more accurate; streamlines curriculum management to increase efficiencies; and enhances measurement of teaching and learning.
Verticals: Healthcare education
Customers include: Duke, Yale, Penn State, Wake Forest, State University of New York, Oklahoma State University
Honors/Awards: Allison was named “CEO/Founder of the Year” in 2018 for the American Underground in Durham, one of Google’s North American Tech Hubs for Entrepreneurs.