As the edtech sector grows, so too do the companies at the heart of revolutionizing education. Several of these edtech startups find their footing in incubators, like Imagine K12, SIIIA Education Division, and others.
At Boundless, we know how important it is to have support from both the education and tech communities to get your ideas off and running, which is why we’re pleased to introduce “Get Schooled on EdTech,” an interview series with the best and brightest minds in education technology.
First up: Kirill Kireyev, Founder and CEO of instaGrok, a “next-generation search engine for learners.”
What is InstaGrok? What inspired you to start the project?
instaGrok is an innovative research tool for learning about any topic in a personalized and interactive way. It is particularly designed to simplify the process of self-directed learning and exploration, which can often be challenging due to overwhelming amount of available information and not knowing which questions to ask. instaGrok facilitates the learning process by not only retrieving educational materials on any topic, but automatically identifying important concepts, key facts and relationships, organizing materials by difficulty, and even generating review questions.
As an avid learner myself, I am inspired by the wealth of knowledge available on the Web and the possibilities it creates of putting learning at anyone’s fingertips. Furthermore, the ability to learn on-demand and navigate/synthesize information are crucial 21st century skills. And while existing tools like Google and Wikipedia can be useful in this process, they are not designed primarily for learning. So I became fascinated with the question of what a truly powerful technology for learning would look like. And I realized that what is needed besides content are intelligent algorithms to help identify important information combined with an interactive interface to facilitate exploration.
What led you to apply to ImagineK12?
As a first-time entrepreneur, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. In addition, the education market brings its own set of challenges. In addition, education startups are almost inherently social entrepreneurship projects, motivated more by social impact rather than a profit motive. So I was excited to find out that there is an incubator for education startups, that can not only teach you skills and connect you with people, but understand and foster the social mission.
How did instaGrok evolve during your time in the incubator?
The product evolved significantly from merely being a search engine with educational content, to a powerful school product—a student’s’ research tool with a innovative interface and tracking and assessment functionality for teachers.
Quick pause… you should follow us on twitter for more edtech insights.
If you had to give one piece of advice to entrepreneurs thinking of applying to an edtech incubator, what would it be?
Edtech incubators are incredibly valuable—not just for the mentoring they provide, but because they help you understand the educational landscape and market, and connect you with important people in education (teachers, students, administrators, thought leaders, etc).
What was the most important lesson you learned during your time at ImagineK12?
You will get lots of feedback and ideas in the program, but ultimately it is up to you to make the key decision, determine the direction of your product, and make the right magic happen.
If you were to start your own edtech incubator—what would you do differently?
I would get school teachers and administrators more strongly engaged with the entrepreneurs during the course of the program, helping them refine the products and articulate the value proposition. I would also design a stronger process of helping develop distribution channels, and helping the products become integrated in educational institutions.
What new technology or trend in education are you most excited about?
Technology that turns topics and content that is personally relevant to students (e.g. Facebook friends and posts, location and context) into educational opportunities, enabling learning that is more personally meaningful and more closely aligned with real-life tasks students have to solve.
Are you an edtech insider who would like to be featured in our series? Email support [at] boundless [dot] com.