Q&A with Thomas Ketchell, CEO and Co-founder of Hstry
Coming on the heels of our Hstry’s live tweeting event last week, we at EdTech Times were given the opportunity to speak with Thomas Ketchell, CEO and co-founder of Hstry. Hstry is a Boston-based edtech startup using social media to explore history interactively.
Company at Glance:
Founders: Thomas Ketchell & Steven Chiu
Founded: April 2013
Category: EdTech, K-12
Product stage: Beta
LinkedIn company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/hstry-org
Company twitter: http://www.twitter.com/HstryOrg
Founder twitter: @tomketch
Other social media: https://vimeo.com/86550356
ETT: How did you identify the problem you’re attempting to address? What was your process?
We came up with the idea of ‘tweeting history’ in December 2012. Our first event was to ‘live’ tweet the Great Smog of London from 1952 as if someone woke up on that cold December morning sixty years ago and started tweeting with their smartphone. We had a lot of success with that event and realized we could create a powerful educational tool. The problem we noticed was that there was a clear lack of attention drawn to social studies when it comes to educational technology – a lot of new products are centered around math and literacy.
ETT: How did you develop a solution to this particular problem?
After tweeting out the Great Smog, we took our initial idea of ‘live’ tweeting historical events to interactive historical timelines for education. We built our interactive web platform and began to conduct pilots across the UK and The Netherlands.
ETT: How would you describe the product/solution opportunity you’re presenting?
Hstry is a learning tool that enables teachers, students and historians to construct interactive historical timelines for the digital classroom. Teachers can choose from Hstry’s library of major historical events or students and teachers can work together to bring their favorite historical moments to life. Hstry adds excitement to the events of yesteryear, today, in a modern, social, format that students have no trouble understanding.
ETT: What makes your product/business model different from that of your competitors?
We are confident our product will succeed based on our pilot school results. We have had schools across Europe use Hstry including The Steve Jobs School in the Netherlands. They piloted Hstry for six weeks and were delighted with it. We noticed an improvement in kids being engaged with history and wanting to explore further. We are now in the process of opening up our platform and getting teachers to sign-up for our launch next month.
ETT: How would you define the market segment your company is in?
Our product at present is for the K-12 market.
ETT: What type of Higher Ed institutions are you targeting? 2-year institutions? 4-year institutions? Continuing education?
Currently we are purely focused on the K-12 market and getting our Hstry platform used in schools across the country. We have aspirations for the Higher Ed market but that will be later down the line when we open up the Hstry API.
ETT: What are the unique opportunities in the Higher Ed technology market, from your particular perspective?
As I’m fully entrenched in the K-12 market, it is difficult for me to speak with authority about the unique opportunities in the Higher Ed market but what I would say is that with the growing popularity of MOOCs, there is a clear demand to gain access to high quality education remotely. I would also say that our product is well-suited for the in depth study of history in higher education.
ETT: Where do you see the education technology market going in the next few years?
I’m happy to see more and more companies being created to tackle educational issues and providing solutions. I keep coming across plenty of buzz words in education and “big data” is one that sticks out. I actually think lots of EdTech startups will focus more on creating engaging games around learning. The widespread use of badges and leader-boards by startups in the space will keep growing.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
I would tell them to think again! In the education market, very few EdTech entrepreneurs have overnight success. It can take years for your product to be ready for classrooms and to actually be used by teachers and students. However, there is a clear digital revolution taking place in our classrooms and lots of potential new ideas will emerge in the next few years. It’s a difficult market to gain access to but if you succeed you can significantly improve the livelihoods of many students. I would also tell any budding EdTech entrepreneur that they should speak to their target audience as soon as possible. One last tip is to focus on getting investment from people that share your vision for building a product that will change education for good.
EdTech Times thanks Thomas Ketchell for his time and insights shared with us. We suggest you check out Hstry 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.