When I think which company to talk with next for EDUKWEST, there is always a couple of criteria I apply. My criteria, as you might you after more than four years of interviewing, include to get a startup early on in their life cycle, the impact this startup might make in 6 to 12 months from now, and portraying entrepreneurs to me is definitely about sharing a good story.
The story of OpenClassrooms is definitely one of the most interesting ones I have heard in a long time, and it shows how far a dedicated team can make it with passion and hard work.
As many of you will know, I have extensively written, interviewed and presented on innovation in Higher Education in general and MOOCs in particular.
Over the past months what I’ve become particularly interested in are the initiatives and startups in this space that do not come from the U.S., and Veduca is certainly one of the most interesting startups in the entire space right now.
Being in the midst of securing a second round of funding for the company, I had the chance to interview Carlos Souza, co-founder and CEO of Veduca on what has happened in the past two years since launch, and what sets them apart from other competitors in this increasingly crowded vertical of online education.
Just before the summer break I had the chance for a great conversation with Matthew Burr, co-founder and CEO of Nomadic Learning.
Nomadic describes itself as Next Generation Learning for Next Generation Leaders and they’re focused on the corporate learning space and help organizations connect, engage and prepare leaders for a rapidly changing world.
Nomadic is not the first startup the team has founded, Matthew successfully sold his former education startup in China.
Therefore, there are lots of takeaways, lessons and things to consider for all up and coming startup founders in edtech in this interview. Most notably, we focus on mobile and social learning and how to deliver content that’s engaging for next generation leaders.
After more than three years of edublogging, vlogging and interviewing I’m happy to share that EDUKWEST made it to its 100th episode!
It’s without a doubt an achievement for the site itself as you, the audience, see the value in our work. I will admit that I am also a little proud of myself that I have had the endurance to continue doing the interview series when it’s definitely a challenge to figure out how to make it viable for the team but to keep it ad free and free of charge for our users.
I made it to 99 EDUKWEST interviews and thought it would be fun to have an education investor on the show for this repdigit episode!
No sooner said than done I invited Matthias Ick, Managing Director of Macmillan Digital Education whom I’ve had some rather interesting talks with at different occasions over the past couple of months.
Macmillan might still be best known to many of us working in education as one of the big traditional publishing houses with products like onestopenglish for instance. But as we all know, it’s probably wise to look for other opportunities and extend the spectrum of activities and spread into other verticals.
Notably interesting for my work with EDUKWEST are their investment arms, Digital Education as a startup incubator and Macmillan New Ventures for later stage and bigger investments as the name suggests.
GEMS Education is a private education company that runs GEMS K12 schools all over the world several of which in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Subject of our talk is the upcoming Education and Skills Forum that will take place in Dubai from March 15-17.
To me, Dubai and the whole region seems to establish itself as a hotspot for educational conferences, fairs and trade shows around e-learning.
In episode 96 of EDUKWEST my guest is Farbood Nivi, founder of test prep company Grockit and now founder of Learnist.
Having worked as a teacher for a decade, Farbood explains why the field of social learning has always fascinated him and how he built his companies around the huge amounts of knowledge freely available on the Internet and the different aspects of social learning as centerpieces.
With Grockit generating constant revenue and it being a finished product, Farbood has concentrated on building Learnist over roughly the past two years. Some have described Learnist is described as the Pinterest of education by some, so we speak about the fascinating and aspects and possibilities Farb saw for education when he first experienced Pinterest.
Content on Learnist comes from various different sources, Wikipedia, YouTube videos, ShowMe’s just to name a few. You can also watch my interview with ShowMe founder and CEO San Kim if you’re interested in learning more about the product or if you search on EDUKWEST you’ll find various articles on how to integrate ShowMe into your teaching and learning.
Adoption of the product by learners happened quickly, Farb shares that some 10% of users are also creators which is rather significant.
Last December we saw a $20 million investment led by Discovery Communications which led me to explore the role Grockist and primarily Learnist might play in Discovery’s overall strategy. I covered the announcement back in December and already expressed some ideas on why I think it’s a particularly interesting investment.
Looking at what Farb himself will be up to in 2013, he states to always follow the principle of killing two (or several) birds with one stone. As you might now he’s been quite active in Startup Weekend EDU and looking at him constantly being pitched by entrepreneurs, I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to see more in field of mentoring and maybe investing in edtech companies if we add to the picture that he’s also the founder and executive director at Socratic Labs, an educational technology accelerator out of NYC.
The problem in the space right now is that there has been such an effort to turn the teacher into an entrepreneur. I think the effort should have been put in getting these teacher entrepreneurs to partner with business entrepreneurs.
And not because they are incapable of any aspect of the business but there is too much work to do and that an educator entrepreneur should probably be focused on the product and learning aspect of the organization and the partner should be focused on the business aspect of it and the whole organization is more likely to succeed I think in this way. Kind of this founder dating style. I’d like to see a lot more of that.
Although I often cover startups from the U.S. here on EDUKWEST I would say that over the past three years or so I have had some regular exchange with startups from China (and have worked with some of them), most of which are located in the boom town of Shanghai.
It has certainly been an interesting time on my personal learning path to see, hear and experience about how education startups are built and grow over there, and what possibilities particularly the language learning space offers to founders.
That said, I didn’t really meet with a company that offered some innovative and compelling education technology solution. In the western world we often have the perception (often rightfully so) that the Chinese would still concentrate on imitation rather than creation of something really new (I avoid harsher words that might come to mind).
On this account, I’m happy to finally have the chance and interview a technology startup from Shanghai called VastCast.
VastCast started as a project of the e-learning lab at Jiao Tong University, Shanghai and is based on the experiences and potential the university has seen in e-learning over the past 10 years.
In our interview VastCast CEO Carsten Ullrich shares some insights on what differentiates their technology from some of the other (established) players in the field of video conferencing and webcasting. Together we explore further the role VastCast can potentially take in higher education on the one hand and educational conferences, seminars or even for lifelong learners on the other hand.
Due to the requirements in China in terms of how students and people in general consume media, it was interesting to hear that VastCast unlike everybody else created their mobile applications for Android and iOS first and only then headed for a web application.
VastCast’s technology focuses on being a lightweight and easy-to-use solution for people in education. The team has now spun out VastCast as a startup and have found first customers independent from Jiao Tong University. Close ties with the university remain as the software is being used by the Online College of Jiao Tong University, a distant university with more than 35,000 students.
If you are intrigued and think that VastCast might be an interesting option to add to extend your teaching and find a wider audience, you find all relevant information as well as the pricing on their website or contact Carsten Ullrich personally.
It’s almost time for the holidays but not quite yet.
For one of the last EDUKWEST interviews of this year, I invited Abran Maldonado to talk about his edtech startup NuSkool and to share his philosophy on how to integrate lessons centered around topics like pop culture and music in a rigorous curriculum.
Coming from the Hip Hop generation, Abran who is a Gates Millenium Scholar and currently half way though his PhD is most interested in the synergies of music and its socio-political impact on children’s lives and how teachers and integrate such elements in their lessons to get students’ attention through topics they’re interested in.
NuSkool is a subscription-based service that identifies the teachable moments in pop culture and creates lessons around these so that they’re usable in a classroom setting.
Besides watching this EDUKWEST interview, I have also covered NuSkool in a recent article for Fractus Learning in which I talk more about how to use the lessons in class and also mention some of the questions or concerns some people might have.