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Video-Content Startup Aims to Compete with Khan Academy

by guest blogger Mike Bock

Fans of Khan Academy take notice. Ariel Braunstein, co-creator of the Flip Video camcorders, announced the launch of Knowmia, an online tutoring service for K-12 students. Knowmia is a digital repository with more than 7,000 videos culled from the Internet by the site's moderators in subjects from microbiology to Mandarin Chinese.

The new site automatically searches through thousands of tutoring videos and recommends lessons based on the user's personal preferences, sort of like the music website Pandora. Braunstein told reporters he hopes the site will help parents cut down on the high cost of individual tutoring, but Knowmia will also provide resources for teachers, as GigaOM reported:

"In addition to the platform itself, the company has released the Knowmia Teach iPad app, which Braunstein described as an 'iMovie for teachers.' To help teachers illustrate concepts and demonstrate techniques in their videos (or even in class), the app lets teachers mark up a periodic table or manipulate a water molecule."

My colleague Jason Tomassini wrote about the business end of Knowmia. But it's important to note the site uses a 'freemium model' consisting of some free and some paid content, which Venturebeat explains:

"So their idea is to find the best online lessons—or have teachers create them—that students can view via an iPad video app... They are also creating curated mini-courses or lessons that drill on a particular subject. Most of the videos are available for free, but students can pay for the mini-lessons. Parents can also pay to track a child's progress."

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Knowmia was developed with the help of Y-Combinator, a startup incubator based in Silicon Valley. In the business world, the term "incubator" refers to an organization that provides young, promising companies with resources, training, and support to get started in exchange for a portion of the company's equity. In addition, donors who invest in those companies are typically given a stake in those businesses. This spring, my colleague Nirvi Shah wrote about the growing relationship between ed-tech startups and incubators.

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