Over at the Digital Education blog, my colleague Mike Bock penned an item on new educational video start-up Knowmia. Mike culled the details on the company from around the Web—it's a site that allows teachers to upload their own video lessons, and uses search engine tactics and personal preferences to filter out the best ones. There's also a tool for teachers to create their own video lessons using those posted on the site. If we're using the annoying but time-honored tech media tradition of describing companies in terms of other companies, it's like a combination of Khan Academy, Netflix, and Pinterest.
But it's not an easy task to take on Khan Academy, the uber-popular repository of video lessons from founder Sal Khan, even if there are some vocal naysayers. (Also, Khan Academy videos are among those aggregated for on Knowmia.) What's notable about Knowmia, though, are the resources at its disposal to take on Khan. The founder and CEO Ariel Braunstein is a co-founder of Pure Digital, the company that brought you pocket-sized digital cameras, was purchased by Cisco for $590 million, and then surprisingly discontinued two years later. So Knowmia should have some money behind it, or at least more than the standard lean start-up.
It will also have some serious start-up know-how. Knowmia is participating in Y Combinator, the renowned start-up incubator. (Incubators are highly competitive programs typically run by technology industry luminaries who offer accepted companies access to investors, knowledge on how to run and develop a company, and seed investment, in exchange for a stake in the company.) Y Combinator is run by start-up guru Paul Graham, and helped launch companies like social sharing site Reddit, cloud storage company Dropbox, and digital document tool Scribd.
Y Combinator forms the basis for Imagine K12, one of the only start-up incubators specifically for K-12 education companies. I recently spent some time in Palo Alto with Imagine K-12's founders and its current cohort of companies (you can expect a larger piece in the coming weeks). Everyone there viewed Y Combinator as the gold standard of the technology start-up scene, so perhaps Khan Academy should take note.