Given the growing popularity of startups, many young entrepreneurs are eager to innovate, looking to develop a product that revolutionizes an entire industry. One such industry is educational technology, or edTech. While there certainly have been no lack of competitors entering this field, one online study platform, Albert, believes they’ve stumbled upon a winning formula.
Co-founded by Will Yang, a 2014 Northwestern graduate, Albert aims to bridge the gap between learning and mastery, primarily through interactive content. They offer test-prep for a variety of subjects, including college math and science courses, Advanced Placement exams, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. I recently had the opportunity to interview Yang about Albert:
1.) We previously interviewed you about Albert back in June 2014, when it was still called Learnerator. What’s changed since then, other than the name?
At the start of 2015, we began rebuilding our entire site from the ground up. The reason for this was that our original code base was meant to just be a minimum viable product. It was unmaintainable, buggy and slow.
We made the decision to start from square one in order to create the sort of learning experience we envisioned our platform could become. Very few companies are tackling the component of deliberate practice and learning by doing. They’re either just content companies or data companies. We are tackling both of these components of education simultaneously by creating world-class content and powering it with our technology platform.
2.) What have you learned about the way education is handled since you created Albert?
We think there is a move towards being smarter about which software solutions are implemented in classrooms. In the early 2000s, schools would often just choose the first edTech solution that showed up at their front door. Now that there are so many edTech vendors to choose from, it has become more important than ever to A) actually solve a problem schools face and B) provide a consistent high-quality experience for every user.
Schools and districts recognize the plethora of solutions, but the question they’re asking now is which ones are going to be most impactful in improving our student outcomes.
This has led to an empowered institutional consumer that pays careful attention to how spending is playing out in reality. For us in growing the number of schools and districts we’re implemented in, it has meant continuing to provide an unparalleled customer experience in every aspect of our business, from our core product to our customer service.
3.) How does Albert differentiate itself from other test prep resources, and how did you decide to focus on this method of differentiation?
We view ourselves as more than test prep. The way we’re building our platform allows us the opportunity to pursue a lot of opportunities in the future for data-reporting, content-delivery, and student engagement. Today, our question engine powers question types including but not limited to multiple-choice, free-response, text highlighting, and two-part questions. This will only continue to grow, allowing us to create interactive content that many companies cannot replicate.
Our model for content creation is also unique. We work with hundreds of educators year-round in creating curriculum-aligned content from scratch. This means when we receive feedback on a particular question, we’re able to quickly incorporate that feedback and improve our product. Because we’ve written every question, we also have one of the most unique content libraries available for the subjects we cover.
4.) Do you have any advice for people looking to start their own company while still in school?
Have the courage to stray from convention and to stop thinking so linearly. Often times the best opportunities are in places you would have never thought to look. Be prepared to make sacrifices to truly see an idea through. Take advice with a grain of salt and don’t be afraid to prove people wrong. Read three books on any topic you’re interested in and you’ll know more than the majority of people on that topic.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. To find out more about Albert, visit www.Albert.io
(Image via edtechreview.in)