Entrepreneur

Curious opens box on lifelong learning with $7.5M to support teachers online

If you’ve ever wanted to learn basic salsa dancing or wondered how to build a backyard garden pagoda, Curious can satisfy your, well, curiosity.

Curious opened the digital doors on its marketplace for lifelong learning today to connect teachers and students interested in continuing education. The site contains more than 500 short, interactive, video-based lessons ranging from beer brewing to conversational French.

curious1Founder Justin Kitch previously founded Homestead which was acquired by Intuit in 2008. During an interview with VentureBeat, he said education has always been one of his passions. He studied ed-tech in school and considered becoming a professor before he went the startup route. He took time off after the acquisition and realized the weak state of online learning while searching for a guitar teacher. Despite the fact that there were great teachers out there, they didn’t necessarily have the resources or tech-savvy to market themselves online. Kitch built Curious to provide these teachers with the tools to distribute, share, and monetize their lessons.

“I created this platform to help teachers become entrepreneurs,” he said. “Great teachers often have no clue how to sell their lessons online and right now there is no place for them to do it. I want to lift up the state of the art of the industry and give teachers the scaffolding they need to focus on creating great lessons.”

The online education space is a crowded one but Kitch said Curious is different because it focuses explicitly on lifelong learning. Sites like Khan Academy, Coursera and Udacity are bringing the world of higher education online and Lynda.com is geared towards people looking to bolster their professional skill set. Curious is not about academic learning. Instead it focuses on education that enhances your lifestyle and interests. If you want an introduction to Roman history or master computer programming, Curious is not for you. Those people looking to improve their scrapbooking skills or make perfect pesto may find something to their liking.

Kitch said that right now, most lessons of this sort happen on YouTube and teachers struggle to reach a large audience and make money off their work. For teachers, Curious offers a Lesson Builder that helps teachers create compelling, “bite-size” lessons, group them together into series, and add related materials. Teachers can adopt their own teaching style and use the platform to build their unique brand and gather a following. Students benefit from well-produced, accessible lessons that align with their interests.

During his research, Kitch found that learners respond best when they can tune in whenever the want, when the videos are short, and when the teachers have a strong screen presence. He set out to recruit 100 of the best teachers he could find across YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and offline and word quickly spread through word of mouth. Teachers are required to fill out a short application and send a sample video, and once they join, can use Curious has a place to build a legitimate business. Teachers use the platform free of charge and Curious takes a 30 percent cut of what they make.

The company has raised $7.5 million to date led by Redpoint Ventures and is based in Menlo Park, California.

Photo Credit: Curious


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