About Us

Every child has a genius. Every child deserves to thrive. At Thrively, we are guided by those two core beliefs. With a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work, we're helping kids reach their potential. We're helping parents understand their children better. We're helping teachers connect with their students on a more personal level. If you are passionate about adolescent development and inspired to use your strengths to make a difference, join Thrively today.

Our Team

We are a team of parents, technologists, educators, entrepreneurs and adolescent development specialists who are passionate about helping every child thrive.

  • Girish Venkat

    Founder & Chief Executive Officer

    Girish is a lifelong entrepreneur who has spent his career building innovative technology, including as the founding Chief Architect of Stamps.com. Girish’s relationship with his son, Rohit was the spark that started Thrively. Girish struggled, like many parents do, to find the right enrichment activities to spark a genuine passion in Rohit. Helping Rohit find his passion became Girish’s and through countless hours of speaking with experts in child psychology, reading books from Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” to Jenifer Fox’s “Your Child’s Strengths,” and applying his entrepreneurial mindset to Rohit’s fledgling interests, Thrively was born.

  • Shankar Rao

    President & Chief Operating Officer

    “Information and knowledge is the only currency that does not devalue” – a mantra, that got coded into my genes early in my life. As parents, my wife Anu and I have tried to provide our two daughters, Aarti and Anisha, a whole child learning experience by augmenting the curriculum at school. It was over a decade long struggle of juggling schedules to ensure that their minds were full of inquiry and grit to pursue their passion. That education is a continuum – an edict, stayed with me as I successfully grew and turned around businesses. My passion now has come a full circle as I help build out Thrively. The journey continues with people today for folks yet to come.

  • Joe Erpelding

    Senior Vice President, Education

    Growing up in a large family (one of 10 kids - yep you read correctly) with brothers and sisters who finished college in two years, a Navy Officer, Engineers, full ride scholarships, and valedictorians, I had to discover my own way forward. I learned about learning by being curious. In my high school years, I recall a conversation where family friends were wondering if I was going to go to college. I realized at that moment that I am motivated by challenge. You can imagine, I was not much into doing "school" or being schooled in the typical manner. School for me was impersonal, routine and disconnected from my strengths and interests. I would run home after school and spend hours in my backyard canyon creating forts, designing go karts and taking things apart. Learning . . . I would come to realize - It's Personal! Now I get the opportunity to help make Thrively the learning playground for other curious designers looking to Elevate Humanity.

  • Jane Patterson, EdD

    Senior Vice President, Customer Success

    I am a first-generation college graduate. Reared by self-educated intellectuals and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” entrepreneurs, I have learned that intrinsic motivation is the key to personal fulfillment. What motivates us? What inspires us? What piques our curiosity? What moves us? I attribute my success in life to my mother and my 4th and 5th-grade teacher, Gene Howard. Mr. Howard knew that social-emotional growth underpinned current and future success. He encouraged me, saw the best in me, and was the person I could rely upon in turbulent times. Gene Howard would be proud—but not surprised—that a girl from challenging circumstances earned her undergraduate degree and doctorate from UCLA and joined Thrively to spread this message: Every child enters the world full of promise and brings their intrinsic strengths to the conversation. I join Thrively with gratitude and a clear vision of what is possible for our young people and for our collective future.

  • Gina Thackrey

    Director of Innovation and Deeper Learning

    In 2014, Gina created an award-winning K-6 STEM program that engaged students to explore rigorous content and build 21st Century skills through project-based learning. She served the California Department of Education and helped draft the state’s first set of K-12 CS standards. Gina worked on the Hewlett Packard/Microsoft/Digital Promise Global Learning Studios Project, an international collaboration for the establishment of educational technology best practices. As a leader in educational innovation, Gina has been a featured presenter at National, educational, science, and technology conferences, Maker Ed podcasts, webinars, and livestreams. In her commitment to provide equitable access, Gina has worked with industry partners such as Qualcomm and YMCA to create engaging and empowering learning experiences that allow students to explore the world of work in authentic and meaningful ways. Through her work with Thrively, Gina is excited to continue building rich opportunities for students to develop deep passion and utilize their strengths to become successful, productive, and empathetic global citizens.

  • Jeanette Simenson

    Senior Director, Program Management

    I am a mother, educator, and technology innovator, and consultant. My first passion is volleyball which thanks to a teacher, exposed me to the sport and paved the way to success in college and professionally. Playing volleyball changed the trajectory of my life and helped me to develop my strengths of self-confidence, social awareness, discipline, and persistence. I also believe in the power of stories to help us empathize with others which led me to a career in the film industry at 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles, CA. I bring these two passions to my work in education, where I taught for 15 years in elementary and middle schools in Chicago, IL and Denver, CO. It is through a strengths-based approach we can empower all students to find their passion while nurturing their unique talents and interests. I believe that through education we can truly impact positive change in our society, as educators, if we cultivate the environment, we will create opportunities for all students.

  • Jeff McConaghy Ed.D

    Jeff enjoyed a rich first career as an English teacher, outdoor trip leader, and administrator at five different independent schools over 20 years. Through his doctoral research and firsthand experience working to found multiple schools in the Los Angeles area, Jeff has had the unique opportunity to become expert in the starting of schools and the promotion of NextGen educational approaches. Now, Jeff seeks to make an even larger impact as he leads educational strategy, content, and implementation for Thrively's powerful strengths-based educational platform.

  • Jon Kraft


    Jon is the father of 3 children, ages 6 to 13, and has been active in the community working with kids as a youth sports coach for more than 30 years. He was also the founding CEO of Pandora, and he has spent much of his career as an entrepreneur developing recommendation engines around highly complex information sets.