Kauffman Labs Venture Showcase: ‘Lifelong Learning’ presentations
We're onto our last category of the day at the Kauffman Labs Venture Showcase, "Lifelong Learning," which features five companies.
The panelists for this category are:
- Wil Agatstien – Executive Director Center for Entrepreneurship University of California, Davis; Advisory Group Member, Kauffman Labs Education Ventures Program
- Virginia Edwards – President Editorial Projects in Education, Editor-in-Chief of Education Week
- Jay Watkins – Managing Director, De Novo Ventures
- Darrell Kong – Director of Venture Capital Services, Fenwick & West LLP
Mike Periu and Sanjib Kalita of EcoFin Media. Photo by Danny Schreiber.
Per the Kauffman Labs website, "EcoFin Media's mission is to empower consumers to make wise financial decisions by offering culturally relevant, practical, and interactive financial literacy programs. Our vision is to be the leading provider of financial literacy content across all media in English and Spanish in the United States. Content created by EcoFin Media reaches millions of customers through the web, television, and print. Our company targets consumers directly through our own educational platforms like DINEROyCREDITO.com (Money and Credit), and we also work with leading brands like American Express, Sears, and the Life Foundation to develop customized financial literacy content."
Some highlights from Periu and Kalita's presentation:
- Mission is to decode the dream for the "New America," which they see as the Hispanic population of the U.S. – over 50 million people make up this population, or 1 out of every 6 people
- "We create really interesting, engaging financials education content, the stuff people use to learn about money, and then we blast that out across the web."
- How: Potential users hear about it through a media channel, they visit website and find multimedia, and then view videos to learn new financial lessons – "They take control of their financial future."
- Value proposition to three groups: consumers, financial marketers, media
Alexandre Scialom of The Coursebook. Photo by Danny Schreiber.
Per the Kauffman Labs site, “The Coursebook is the "Yelp of lifelong-learning," making it easy to discover courses and compare user reviews and ratings for all continuing-education classes. The Coursebook personalizes learning by intelligently connecting learners to high-quality in-person and online educational resources based on their needs and aspirations. The Coursebook is an open and transparent educational marketplace currently listing more than 2,000 open-enrollment classes from the San Francisco bay area and has thousands of monthly page views.” Some highlights from Scialom's presentation:
- “Learning doesn’t stop after senior year,” Scialom said, and The Coursebook aims to facilitate that continued learning by serving as “Yelp for lifelong learning.”
- Scialom indentified three categories of learners: 1.) The circumstantial learner, who says “Guide me”; 2.) The driven learner, who says, “Feed me”; 3.) The curious learner, who says, “Inspire me.” The Coursebook, he said, caters to all three.
- There’s no shortage of educational content available. But many people struggle to sift through to the glut of content to find what’s right for them. There are many learning options available – classes, events, books, online video, etc. — but 63 percent of survey respondents said it’s difficult finding learning sources.
- Scialom pointed out that “discoverability” has been solved in other markets – by companies like Amazon and Yelp, among others — and The Coursebook aims to solve that for the lifelong learning market by serving as the middle man. On one side, there are 90 million adult learners spending $160 billion on continuing education. On the other side, there are 30,000 educational institutions spending $3 billion in marketing. Coursebook strives to bring those groups together.
- Scialom walked through a demonstration of the site’s functionality. One sample search produced results that were varied — ranging from a free TED video to the Education Ventures Program — and robust — including ratings, descriptions, reviews.
- The Coursebook also features a mobile application, called “The Learning Companion” that takes all the same content available on the web and makes it easy to consume on a mobile phone. That combination of options, Scialom said, should help achieve his vision for The Coursebook: “to become the leading brand for lifelong learning.”
Bhargav Sri Prakash of Friends Learn. Photo by Danny Schreiber.
Per the Kauffman Labs website, "FriendsLearn was founded by Bhargav Sri Prakash to deliver rich educational content through the social platform. The company is focused on maximizing learning impact through compelling 3D real-time games that allow users to play with each other, while learning from shared experiences."
- Tagline is "Wickedly educational social games"
- The gamer generation brings into play a new way to learn: gaming. Today, the global educational games market is a $2.8 billion market and growing each year
- FriendsLearn is an educational gaming studio creating a pipeline of a new genre of fun, compelling 3D games
- This company grew out of another company, Vmerse, a game that takes a student and puts him or her on a university in order to check out campus and get a better understanding of what it has to offer while incentivizing the player with rewards.
- Vmerse recently won a contract from the U.S. Department of State's EducationUSA to develop a social 3D game that engages millions of international students who are interested in studying in the United States.
- An example of a game on FriendsLearn puts the user in the Supreme Court to learn about how it operates
- Distribution channels: Corporate and Consumer, with the latter including the FriendsLearn website as well as Facebook, mobile apps and more
- Inspiration comes from Prakash's trips back to India in which he's seeing a strong connection to the world through the computer
- Have $200,000 of personal money invested (bootstrapped) and are currently looking for capital to triple size of development team
Igor Khayet of K2 Interview. Photo by Danny Schreiber.
Per the Kauffman Labs site, My Resume Shop, the umbrella under which K2 interview was developed, “is a career services organization that provides resume development, cover letter, and interview preparation services for students and young professionals. The company works directly with individuals and partners with national organizations and career centers. Our vision is to be the leading provider of career services for Generation Y. The company currently is expanding into the area of online interactive interview preparation with the website K2Interview.” Some highlights from Khayet's presentation:
- He painted the picture of the challenge that awaits college graduates. “3.2 million students graduate every single year from colleges and universities having great skills and experiences,” he said, “but simply don’t know how to go through the interview process.”
- There are plenty of tools that attempt to solve the problems those students face, but Khayet said There are thousands of books on the subject, but “the problem is that content in these books is static.” There are other websites, like glassdoor.com, but “the problem is that it’s not curated in any way.” Khayet said K2 Interview combines the authority of books with the dynamic capabilities of the web. “K2 Interview is the dynamic alternative,” he said. “It is a simple, easy-to-use interface, it’s interactive … it’s content that’s constantly evolving .”
- Khayet gave a demonstration of the website. He began by entering a job sector (finance) and then following through to a sub-sector. From there, he illustrated how students can access hundreds of potential interview questions and utilize a chat feature, which allows users to talk to other people taking same interview set.
- Suggested answers are given to interview questions and curated by experts. Khayet said 30 experts in various industries are already on board to serve as curators of those industries on the site.
- Khayet touted three qualities that K2 Interview shares with other successful tech startups that make his company a potential winner: 1.) It’s simple, enabling users to search in a way that he compared to Google; 2.) It taps experts for opinions, which he compared to Wikipedia; 3.) It relies on community, in a way that he compared to Facebook.
- Khayet presented four potential sources of revenue: 1.) Premium content. The site is free for users, but company-specific questions carry charges; 2.) Advertising, which Khayet said would be strong given the niche audiences potential advertisers could appeal to in specific sections on the site; 3.) Products and services. Khayet said the site can provide lead generation for products and services; 4.) Job boards.
Alzo Slade and Mia Villanueva of Simple Smartie. Photo by Danny Schreiber.
Per the Kauffman Labs website, "At Simple Smartie we make it easier to understand complex things using animated cartoons. Focusing on the areas of health and social issues, we have a team of dedicated researchers, smart and witty writers, and professional animators that create characters of anything, engage the limitless creativity of visual metaphors, use pop culture analogies, and make jokes (corny and funny) to explain important things people want and need to know. We teach and entertain in a way that makes understanding complex things less of a burden. Our content is created in various languages recognizing many issues know no boundaries. In addition we are also building a user-generated platform allowing people to create animations themselves to share with each other. Sometimes the world can be a bit complicated. We do our part to make it a little easier to understand by making it simple … smartie."
- Shade opened up by asking "Why the world is so complicated?" He then says, "We make it easier for you to understand your world through animated cartoons, we explain things you don't know and give perspective on things you do and do it all under 5 minutes."
- Research shows that people find topics in and social issues complex
- Shade asked: Why cartoons? Over 65% are visual learners, and because it's timeless – "Scooby-Doo is still Scooby-Doo!"
- At its root, Simple Smartie is a content creation company that's looking at distribution channels of syndication, its own website and user-created content, among others
- They ask: What about scale? It takes $15,000 to make one episode and they project each will bring in $85,000 in revenue. They also predict that as the library grows so too will there revenue. Additionally, they look to syndication deals to increase their revenue.
- After showing a short preview clip, Shade closed with: "And that's how we simplify your world."