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Archive for May, 2012

HOW IT ALL STARTED

So how did we get into this? How did we end up going from giving compliance training solutions for hospitals and healthcare organizations across the US to creating a K12 Math and English training program?

Well it all started one Sunday. Vatsal – The CEO of our parent company and I were discussing about education in our hometown Louisville, KY and in general across the US. His sons Yash and Rohan were excellent students. A graders. They were very good in Math and English and to get a bit more ahead in class they subscribed to a correspondence course called Math Wizard. This company used to send a few booklets for practice on Math and English – once a month. Both Yash and Rohan used to sit down every day for about an hour and solve problems on Math and write answers for English. Vatsal then needed to check the answers, score them, fill the scorecard, put it in an envelope and send it back and then wait. After about 2-3 months he would get a response from Math Wizard how Yash and Rohan are doing and that was again not a comparison with all the students and where they stood, just their individual result and a simple 2 line email or feedback (which was pretty obvious). Till they got the result for the 1st worksheets they were already on the 4th so no chance to go back and correct their errors or improve. This system sucked. The questions were not great as well.

We started discussing if there are better options out there. And we asked Chetan – our Managing Director. His daughters Priya and Pooja were enrolled in Kumon program in Evansville, IN, about 2 hour drive from Louisville, KY. I talked with both Priya and Pooja separately about Kumon but the feedback was same. BORING. Kumon asks to do the same worksheet sometimes as many as 6 times. The problems are simple ones so the student gets bored, really bored. In fact there is an anti-Kumon club as well started by a few kids.

http://www.wix.com/antikumonclub/anti-kumon-club

I found a few other interesting articles about them

http://www.mathsinsider.com/about-kumon-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

http://www.mathsinsider.com/the-kumon-interviews/

http://www.math-problem-solving.com/kumon_advantages_disadvantages.html#Disadvantages

So all 3 of us started thinking, isn’t there any other better alternative to learn Math and English. Surely someone must have thought of something interesting and we thought to discuss the same thing in about 2 weeks’ time having researched if there are better options.

All of us started looking for other options and talking to people.

Most of the people we talked to knew only of Kumon, Sylvan or private tutors (the latter two being very expensive $ 50+ per hour). Huntington was another option but again it was more tutoring at their center and on topics that the student was weak on, nothing to enhance the skills and master them.

Online – for Math the only things that we kept finding were Khan Academy and iXL. We put all 4 kids on both of them as our little testing. They enjoyed for the first 10 minutes or so. Rohan got excited as he got a badge on Khan but then he was bored here too. The practice in Khan academy and iXL was not adaptive and challenging enough for him. Yash being a smart kid solved all the problems thrown by these software and started waiting for more challenging problems but he was given similar type of problems over and over again. This frustrated him. The same thing happened with Priya.

So all 3 of us (Vatsal, Chetan and I) started wondering that there is definitely a gap. A solution to help elementary and middle school student learn, understand and then practice Math and English was illusive today.

All the online and brick and mortar companies had more holes than plugs. If the practice was good, teaching suffered. If teaching was decent, the practice was not challenging or adaptive.

We decided to jump in and create a software that teaches Math and English – that allows the students to practice and challenge them as they progress. This has to be both online and should be printable. Tutoring thrown in should work as well.

We all started putting ideas together and put a feature list talking with Yash – 12, Rohan -7 Priya -14, Pooja -13 and my 8 year old nephew – Arjav – a bit of gaming freak. We got a lot of gamification ideas for the software from him.

And that’s how it all started.

Let’s start

Hey, am starting of here with a simple introduction and hopefully many more questions and observations to come in the next few weeks. To tell you my story- completed my computer engineering and started working with TCS (one of the largest IT companies in India – $ 7bn annual revenue). Worked 3 years as a Java Programmer and SAP developer to realize that I needed to do more. More on on my own. More to understand problems and solve them, more on sales and marketing, on entrepreneurship. Hence resigned from TCS and started putting together a business plan on e-learning as it fascinated me and that was something that was introduced to me by my elder cousin who was working on Medical Transcription. We co-founded emPower – A start-up to help hospitals and small practices with online compliance training. We toiled hard to get the product in place, sales and marketing done on a really tight budget. Although we did a decent job, and tried to solve a real problem but I guess the timings were not right. Our primary market the healthcare practices were only looking to merge with the more established hospitals who already had the systems in place. We had to start looking for more burning issues. One thing that was on my mind was helping students aged 4-14 in Math and English as some of them get lost in the plethora of tools out there ready to teach them through videos etc.  We had to do our due diligence, understand the problem more deeply and then begin the journey once again… How did it go? More in the next post. Thanks Hardik