Q&A with Justin Kitch, CEO of Curious
EdTEch Times had the opportunity to speak with Justin Kitch, CEO of Curious. Curious provides a platform for teachers and individuals to exchange and engage in lessons that uniquely interest them, e.g. yoga or wine tasting, for example.
Company at Glance:
Founders: Justin Kitch (CEO), Thai Bui, John Tokash
Category: Online Learning
Product stage: (early stage, beta, market) launched
LinkedIn company page: Curious.com
Company twitter: @curious
Founder twitter: @ceounplugged
ETT: How would you define the space your company works in?
JK: Curious is focused on the untapped segment of the online education market– online lifelong learning— currently a $55B market. Curious is not focused on K-12, higher ed or employee training. Instead, Curious moves beyond just the academic, to give people access to engaging lessons that are uniquely applicable to their lives, such as conversational french, wine tasting, yoga, integral solving, or jewelry making.
ETT: Why did you start a company, or build a product, in this space? What need or gap do you aim to address?
JK: Because learning online is stuck in the 1990’s. Passive video is not sufficient to master a new skill or learn something in depth. And there is no easy way for online teachers to make money so there is no incentive to make the content better. We started Curious to change those two things.
ETT: [if you have advisory board] Who is on your advisory board?
JK: Tim Haley, Redpoint Ventures, Bill Campbell and Craig Sherman, Meritech
ETT: Why will your product/service work?
JK: The good news is that we are already seeing it working! We came out of a beta period to launch in May with 100 teachers and 500 lessons. We already have well over 400 teachers and 3,000 lessons in our marketplace. The response has been very positive from teachers and consumers alike. Lessons have been taken almost a million times since we launched earlier this year.
ETT: What makes your approach to this issue different from what others are doing?
JK: Curious combines the entertaining, short format of sites like YouTube with serious, interactive learning features and the ability to interact with the real teacher.
We created Curious to provide great teachers of all kinds with a platform to showcase and market their teachable talents and earn money in the process. The focus is not solely on professional teachers but great teachers from all walks of life. Unlike some of the other edtech companies, Curious is not focused on courses or formal education.
ETT: Who are your core customers, and who are your users?
JK: As a marketplace, we have two sets of customers.
We work with hundreds of teachers who are passionate about sharing their skills. Our goal is to recognize and reward these teachers. We want to empower them to become entrepreneurs.
In addition, we cater to the lifelong learner. We encourage people to use their discretionary time to pursue any topic of interest to them — from wine tasting to gardening to pilates to how to train for a race. Curious makes learning a pleasure and opens up new ways to interact with lessons, teachers, and the larger Curious community.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
I started my first company called KartoffelSoft Inc., an educational software company which was based on my university honors thesis, a programming language for children named FUNdeMENTAL. It is still used in classrooms and helps to teach basic problem and critical thinking skills to thousands of elementary and middle school students in more than 50 countries.
My next company, Homestead which I co-founded in 1998 was a natural extension of KartoffelSoft for us. Homestead grew to become the world’s largest small business platform. The opportunity to help small businesses create an online presence was the driving force behind Homestead.
Homestead was later acquired by Intuit where I served as the GM of Grow Your Business Division and the Chief Growth Officer until 2010.
In addition to working on my own companies, I really enjoy coaching entrepreneurs passionate about making a difference.
ETT: Please tell us more about your product stage and what we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your next milestones.
JK: While every stage of building a company is important, this period is particularly exciting.
We’re welcoming new teachers and new lessons onto the platform every single day. We’ve also opened up our platform to allow online teachers to build quality, video-based lessons by providing them with access to our Lesson Builder tool. We also offer a teachers lounge/resource center to also help them with the marketing and promotion steps.
Recognizing that our audience of lifelong learners want to learn at their own pace from anywhere at anytime, we’re focused on building a seamless mobile experience. We launched an iPad app in August and last week we just launched our first iPhone app.
What’s ahead…We’ll continue to grow the number of teachers and lessons and expand the breadth of content even further. We will roll out a universal mobile experience for both the iPad and the iPhone. And, we’ll focus on helping teachers realize success by allowing more interaction with students and providing teachers with monetization tools to charge for their lessons.
ETT: Where do you see the education technology market going in the next few years?
JK: Soon the internet will provide a better learning experience for skills like language, music, arts and crafts, sports and technology than most people in the world have access to in the “offline” world.
ETT: What keeps you up at night?
JK: My three year old daughter!
Justin, thank you from all of us at EdTech Times for your time and words of insight! Please do check out Curious at:
Yevgeny Ioffe, or as people call him, Yev, has been working in both the startup world and established companies. His career spans from joining Xplana Learning as it launched to Cengage Learning to MBS Direct when it acquired Xplana in 2009. Yevgeny brings to EdTech Times his passion for start-ups and technology, along with his interest in the ever evolving world of edtech. Yevgeny obtained his BSc and MA from Brandeis University and MBA from Boston College.