• Andrea Eastman-Mullins

Entrepreneurship, Psychology, and Game Boys (Meet Thomas Conrad)

Thomas Conrad, West End Learning’s most recent intern, is currently a senior at Wake Forest University. His college experience has been unpredictable, but he hopes his senior year will allow him more freedom and fun. He says, “I’ve only had one normal year so far.”

Like many drawn to entrepreneurship, Thomas has a multi-disciplinary background. He aims to use his understanding of psychology—his major—in his future work as an entrepreneur. “I wanted the ability to craft my own degree. It’s allowed me to make the best of my undergraduate education.” His minor courses of study—economics and entrepreneurship—inform his current and future work. While taking classes in negotiations, industrial and organizational psychology, research methods, statistics, and econometrics, Thomas realized how the fields were related. “Psychology is what drives economics. Economics is how people make their buying decisions.”


His internship experience started with Winston Starts last summer. “Winston Starts founders can talk to the director about any projects they have, and so I gladly hopped on Andrea’s project last summer.” His tasks required him to collect syllabi and other open course materials related to entrepreneurship. After that experience, Thomas interviewed to intern for West End Learning this year.

Thomas gained two takeaways from these internships. First, he’s refined his research skills for the academic and incubator projects West End Learning is developing, “which also helps Winston Starts. I had to learn how to find information.” Secondly, he’s learned more about customer discovery. “I’ve learned how to ask non-leading questions. It’s very important to make sure your idea is validated by your potential customers, without you telling them what you want them to tell you.”

Interviewing founders forced Thomas out of his comfort zone, but he loves being part of a community of entrepreneurs at Winston Starts. “Before Winston Starts, I didn’t really know or think of there being a space where founders could all get together and talk about their own challenges, so that’s very exciting. Anytime I’m in the office, Betsy, the Director, and Bob, the President, are always talking with founders, founders are collaborating with each other. I think it’s a great environment to go in there and see all that’s happening.”

Thomas’ next steps will include finishing his coursework at Wake Forest and joining Launch Greensboro, which is a program that provides a platform for small local businesses. “I’m excited to see what that brings,” Thomas says. “I’ll be around other founders in a collaborative space, which I think would be really exciting.”

Thomas has already established his own startup, Vetro Gaming, which enhances the retro video gaming experience through merging late eighties and nineties Game Boy consoles with modern technology. “The first few versions are twenty and thirty years elapsed,” Thomas says. “That’s an eternity for technology.”

The stay-at-home orders sparked by the COVID outbreak changed people’s habits, and many were interested in revisiting video games they enjoyed years ago. Thomas’ startup aims to bridge the technology gap and make Game Boys more playable today.

He has developed a kit that can be installed into a Game Boy console. Thomas currently sells modified Game Boys in which he has personally installed the kit, but is researching to find out if there’s a market for a modding service (for which customers would mail their consoles to him, and he’d make the modification, then mail it back to them).

In the meantime, he has lots of studying and networking to do. We wish Thomas all the best in his future endeavors, and thank him for his contributions to West End Learning.


 

We enjoy working with college students who are interested in completing short projects to gain experience. Contact us at andrea@westendlearning.com if you are interested in future openings.


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