Darye Henry

Darye Henry

AfterSchool HQ
  • Founded
  • Invested

Entrepreneurs were reaching out asking me to build things for them, so that put me on that path of entrepreneurship

I’m an entrepreneur and like technology, but giving back and helping others are also really important to me. My mom started an after-school organization and I was chairman of the board starting in 2006. I was always asking, how can we use technology to make things better? The program was difficult to manage, so in 2010, I started building different software like check-in/check-out and volunteer management. AfterSchool HQ started out of that spirit. 

The goal is to help youth program providers streamline operations while tracking more data. It can be very difficult for youth program founders. You worry if the lights are going to be on next year and if you’ll get the funding you need to run. Though we had a few initial customers, our big lift was from working with the Indianapolis Public Schools Athletics Program in 2018. 

I was introduced to entrepreneurship in third grade at a camp where I worked at a candy store. In grade school, I worked at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis through a youth employment program, and in middle school, I did an engineering program at IUPUI and learned coding. All those things impacted who I am and what I’m doing today. After-school programs make a difference in kids’ lives. If we help these organizations get funded and stay away from burnout, more kids can be reached, and more people get to grow up and do cool things. 

Also in third grade, I found out that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I had the same birthday. That was pretty cool. He was a big example to me. His willingness to fight for justice and his ability to sacrifice for others really stuck out to me. A second influence was rappers and hip-hop artists. The first rap I heard was around 1987. It was just so different from everything back then. I used to listen on the bus with my Walkman and headphones. In high school, I started buying studio and music equipment, creating albums and selling music. 

I didn’t realize I could just be an entrepreneur after college, so I pursued a career in software development after graduating from Purdue University. It was right after 9/11 and the stock market crash, so all those jobs they told you that you could get weren’t really available. But that timing led me to work for a startup. Entrepreneurs were reaching out asking me to build things for them, so that put me on that path of entrepreneurship

I’m not risk averse, so pursuing something and believing it will work — that typical entrepreneur mindset — comes naturally. But early on, sometimes I was overconfident and didn’t understand all of the steps involved that I had to learn. It’s good that I went for it because I had to learn one way or another. Going through the failures and identifying why the failures happened shaped me in a lot of ways. 

Another important lesson came when I burnt out. I was doing everything myself early in my career and got sick from overworking myself to the point where I physically couldn’t work for three months. I had to hire other people and rely on them to execute. It was a big lesson in how to transfer information to someone else, ensure quality and trust other people. It’s all a part of the growing process. 

For AfterSchool HQ, one of our most important milestones as a company was when we hit product market fit. Our messaging is getting across to customers. They understand it immediately. We have the right feature set and they’re ready to buy. All those things have happened over the last year, made possible in part by our last round of funding. We raised $3M that closed in April of 2023. Things just seem to be getting better and better as we progress. 

Elevate provided the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for us really early in the process of building AfterSchool HQ. Having those conversations allowed us to get into the right mindset to understand how to shape the startup to be something that was investable. The funding meant a lot as well. They were in our first seed round and that definitely made a difference.