Q&A with Meir Lebi, CEO of Learni
EdTech Times this time sat down with Meir Lebi, CEO of Learni, a startup developing real-time lesson management tools for one-to-one type of classroom environment, focusing on the K-12 education market. Please read below Meir’s insights and thoughts.
Company at a Glance:
Founder: Dov Moran
Category: Teaching apps for one-to-one
Product stage: Commercial Beta
LinkedIn company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/learni
Company Twitter: @LearniEducation
ETT: What is the market segment your company is in?
Learni focuses on real-time lesson management in one-to-one environments, specifically targeting the K-12 segment. In response to what we perceive as a gap in the digital classroom market, we created our unique “Teaching Panel”. This has established an entirely new solution category, performing as a simple add-on that transforms any content format into an effective and easy-to-use teaching app.
ETT: Who are your core customers and how did you come across the problem you’re addressing and how did you define it – what was your process in identifying it?
Learni is a collaboration of education industry experts. Personally, I’ve garnered more than 20 years of experience in this industry; Learni is actually my 3rd start-up in the field. Over time we’ve observed the on-going conflict between teachers’ needs and publishers’ requirements. With the introduction of digital devices to students and schools, it became obvious that they are underutilized. Mostly they are not harnessed to bridge the growing gap between the in-class needs and what the traditional classroom learning materials are offering. This insight has been one of the key drivers sparking the development of our Teaching Panel.
We actually identified two separate problems; both are addressed by our Teaching Panel. On the one hand, teachers are striving to carry on educating in a device-based environment (1:1), while ensuring curriculum compliance. On the other hand, having listened to educational publishers it is clear that they need to maintain their position as learning solutions suppliers, particularly within the growing segment of device-based environments.
ETT: And how did you develop a solution to this particular problem and what was your process of arriving at it?
Throughout 2012 and 2013 we ran field trials in our home-base – Israel, with several thousand participants, benefiting from the full cooperation of practically all of the local educational publishers. The process included the full replacement of printed books in the classroom with digital content. The current version of the Teaching Panel is in-fact the implementation of our findings and insights from this two-year period and incorporates all of the teacher and publisher feedback gathered during the process.
ETT: What it is that you’re doing differently than your competitors? And do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?
In the eyes of the publisher, our offer is unique. We offer a barrier-free solution that transforms and enriches any content format – whether eBook or HTML5 – into a white label teaching app. Essentially we’ve significantly enhanced how their content is experienced inside the classroom.
In the eyes of the teacher, we’re practically the only solution that combines all of their mobile device management needs with publishers’ premium core curriculum content. Then taking even one step further, we offer the ability to enrich this content with interactive contextualized lesson activities all packaged in one simple and easy-to-use app.
Another area where we offer exclusive value is the real-time learning analytics field. Our Teaching Panel provides teachers with dashboards where they can track and identify struggling students and problematic questions in real-time. At the core of the teaching panel dashboard is our predictive learning analytics algorithm, which detects in actual time underperforming students, based on their personal pace and performance.
ETT: Please describe your product development strategy and product stage. What we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your potential next milestones?
Our product development strategy is simple; we focus on our users and their needs. We feel our innovative edge keeps us ahead of our competition and our market-based product road-map ensures we maintain this position. This strategy carries an ongoing commitment to operate a flexible and dynamic development process, while continuously collecting market feedback.
Our next milestones will focus both on enhancing the “content” and “delivery” experience in class. We’ll also be introducing “social” and “gamified” elements for both teachers and students. We believe that adding a gamified flavor to your solution is a crucial factor in enhancing students’ engagement.
ETT: Are you a disruptor, and why so? Do you believe you will remain as a disruptor in near foreseeable future or become a more mature company? Why is that so?
Definitely a disruptor, we’re bringing the core element of the educational process – classroom activity – into the 21st century. This involves bridging the gap that lies between technology and existing learning materials so that teachers and students can really enjoy the best of both worlds. Innovation is part of Learni’s DNA and since the educational arena is continuously evolving, I don’t see any other possibility than staying disruptive.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
My first startup in the education arena was a company called Q Multimedia Plc. (currently trading under ELL Technologies). The company developed a unique series of online language courses offering full compliance with the CEFR standard. Our innovative technology provided a rich media experience on narrow band Internet connections. I was one of the founding members and the CEO for 12 years. My focus was mainly on business development, sales and corporate funding and building global distribution channels, which with such advanced technology was a real challenge at that time.
Another major venture involved converting an existing technology product in the learning difficulties field into a language teaching tool. This was a great example of utilizing existing technological assets and redefining their purpose to create an entirely new solution and virgin market for the company. My main role was to develop the new product’s specification and establish the market channels to sell the product through. As a result of this project, the company created a lucrative new market and growth opportunity, simply by recycling its technological assets.
ETT: Did you or do you currently have a mentor who is/has been helping you through the startup stages of the company – who is that mentor?
Learni was founded by Dov Moran, the inventor of the Disc-On-Key, Mr. Moran is a true visionary and has guided Learni throughout our growth. Another board member, and a key-figure in our company, is Professor Yuli Tamir, a former Israeli minister of education and the pedagogic mentor behind our product strategy.
ETT: Where is education technology market going in the next few years?
In a nutshell I’d say that classrooms will become one-to-one, books will become interactive teaching apps, teachers will become mentors and the learning experience will become more and more personalized and customized to each student’s need. We believe LMS’s will stay around, but will shift their role towards SIS and marketplace for educational apps.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
Focus on the human interaction. It has been and always will be the core element of the educational process. Educational technological should aim to enhance the human/social interaction in the learning cycle, rather than replace it.
EdTech Times is grateful to Meir for his time to speak with us, and we encourage you to learn more about Learni 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.