Photo: Will Thwaites
Katie Hench's younger brother was diagnosed with autism at the age of 6. The diagnosis came late for how severe his characteristics were, but in rural Ohio where they grew up in the '90s, understanding of the disorder was limited. “I watched my parents struggle to find the right resources for him and struggle to help the school understand the needs that he had,” Hench says.
Parents and teachers struggle today, too, as the number of diagnoses of autistic children rises—1 of every 68 is diagnosed with some degree of autism. To help them, Hench took her expertise as a special-education teacher and applied it to a scalable pursuit: developing educational iPad apps for children with autism. Along with co-founders Christopher Flint and Lally Daley, Hench, 32, launched Infiniteach in 2013.
Though none of Infiniteach's founders knew how to write software, Hench's master's degree from the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business gave them the confidence they needed to dive into entrepreneurship. Using money from family and friends, they hired contract developers to do the initial coding. Since then, Infiniteach has garnered nearly 60,000 downloads of its first app, Skill Champ, which teaches 10 lessons, such as recognizing emotions and matching colors.
“We led with our passion,” says Hench, the startup's CEO.