KNOWRE is a B2B service for math education and gained a lot recognition over the past few years. Seoulspace was able to get an insightful interview with the vice president of Knowre, Kim SeoJoon.
1. Vice President(Co-Founder & CPO) Kim SeoJoon introduces KNOWRE.
KNOWRE is an AI education platform for math. Students go through a lot of hardships when it comes to learning math. There are a lot of education services nowadays, but rather than focusing on interactive learning, there are only a lot of video & audiovisual services.
Idea behind KNOWRE
“I’ve graduated from an Engineering College and also my co-founders are all originally engineers. We all majored in computer sciences. We had a lot of ideas for businesses that we wanted to do, but innovating education seemed like one of the most inspiring paths. Since math is one of the most important subjects, and because Koreans are good at math, we focused on a math learning service first.”
“There are many services and platforms similar to our service. However, the major problem is that students don’t learn as effectively and their skills or understanding don’t improve as fast as expected.”
“KNOWRE – an AI learning platform, that lets you solve equations interactively & gives you feedback on your learning process.”
“At first, textbooks were supposed to help students with understanding and learning math, but it is hard to do it by yourself. That is why we came up with the idea of an AI service that can help students with their individual problems like a private tutor. Our system walks students through all kinds of topics, step-by-step and evaluates their mathematical understanding. Topics that students lack will be explained again and practiced until they get the full grasp.”
2. The Company’s History – The Startup’s take off: From Educational Consulting to a Diagnostic Program & From a Private Institution to Content Creation
When the Founders and Co-founders met in 2008, they didn’t really have a concrete idea about their future business plans. They were concerned about whether to create digital content just for math learning or not, since it’s such a wide-ranged field. They didn’t have enough funds either. So the conclusion: start with a service that focuses on diagnosing student’s math skills. Students that struggle with math usually don’t know exactly where they are lacking. In math you need to understand every step of the process in order to solve the problem. One wrong step will lead you to the wrong solution which is why we created an exam that follows students along their solving process and evaluates their weak points. After taking the exam students will receive a report that lists all their struggles, like a medical check-up report.
However, just receiving an evaluation didn’t help students improve. They needed a treatment too, but the content was insufficient. So after being flooded by parent’s request to help their children they decided to open a private academy.
The first academy opened in 2008 and was so successful that the second followed in 2011. Instead of digital content, the team started with creating their own workbook. Nevertheless, students different skill levels started to show, which lead to a division of the classes due to the divergent level. Lecturers knew about these situations as well, but there are just too many students which make it inevitable to have students lag behind.
“In order to help each student individually, it would require to have 1-on-1 tutoring which leads to excessive costs. Students who can’t afford private tutoring will start struggling at some point and feel left behind, which would make them give up on even trying. After experiencing the inadequacy of private academies, we felt confident to built an AI system and create digital contents based on studies and data collected while running an educational institution.”
3. The reason for launching the service in the US first
“After selling our academic institutions, we started the IT Startup with 10 developers, but it didn’t seem to prosper since there was no income. We knew that the most important thing was to get investors and met up with all kinds of organizations. However we got rejected every time and realized that it would take us a long time to start off if we stayed in Korea. Focusing on Korea only, there might have been the possibility of not getting investors at all, let alone selling our service.”
“Given that it was hard to enter the korean market, we knew that American schools started computerizing their classrooms with computers and tablets which seemed like the best conditions for our business. That’s why we decided to start in America first. We created contents for American students and now have over 80 American schools using our service.”
4. Did you have any communication or cultural difficulties
“Originally we had 4 co-founders, but we tried to find a 5th who could help lead us through the American market, so we received recommendations from Angel Investors.
5. In September 2014 you were able to receive a total of 7.3Billion KRW funding from Softbank Ventures Korea and other companies, what were your objectives after you received the investment until now?
“We didn’t pull any sales until last year (2015) and focused on the development. We started sales this yet, but it wasn’t anything big. Since we’re still at a loss, we are trying to get more investigations.”
6. How does KNOWRE operate?
“Schools aren’t supposed to be a market to make money. However, when a software is well-used in schools, people find it to have more creditability.”
“In America the biggest offline Learning Center – Sylvan Learning Inc., has over 800 academic learning facilities for middle school students. We were able to establish an alliance and have Sylvan Learning institutions use our product. We also try to focus on private education institutions. Nationally we have around 750 middle school education centers, and starting next year we will also cooperate with elementary schools.”
7. We heard that before entering the Korean market you were trying to get into China too. How are you planning to expand?
“That’s true. We are going to partner up with some big Chinese education companies. We were able to receive an award from the American publishers’ association 3 times in a year for having one of the best supportive teaching materials. Having such a reference will be a big help for us to enter the Chinese market.”
8. From America to China to Korea – are there any further countries you would like to expand to?
“From pre-school to University, America to South East Asia – education is a wide field and also curriculum vary from country to country. The development process is always the same, almost like an Algorithm, that’s why over 50% of our employees are Developers. They are trying their best to digitalize every math problems in order to enter global education market.”
9. What would you advise upcoming Startups?
“It is important to be determined. To find a mission you stick to, until it is cleared.
I thought it would be great if more people could get better in math,
Because teachers alone couldn’t solve the problem by themselves, I wanted to approach it and try helping them. In order to keep my mission I put in a lot of time and effort coming up with a solution.”
10. What is KNOWRE’s future?
Knowledge is there to be delivered. KNOWRE strongly believes that their platform “is proof that good contents can help students learn.” That is why KNOWRE will not only stay a math education platform only, but slowly is trying to adapt other subjects too. “Getting the right education is a very important factor. Not only math, but also other subjects. Teachers are doing a very good job trying to help deliver knowledge to students, yet face a broad variety of problems by doing so. Private tutors are helpful for students, but not everyone can afford regular sessions with a private tutor. In order to help with these problems we will continuously work on our platform and create digital contents.”
Become a globally recognized education platform that will help students and teachers’ learn experience.
11. What are the Vice President’s future plans?
“Growing my company and creating a great products is probably my biggest goal. I hope that my product will be able to leave a footprint. I will continue putting all my effort into improving the service to its perfection.”