Sramana Mitra: I’d like to double-click down on some of these use cases and examples. Why don’t we pick three or four different scenarios, which are really interesting ways in which your customers and users are using the products.
Katya Andresen: I’ll give you a couple of relevant examples. We have a product coming out in about a week or two, which we did in partnership with a startup in Palo Alto called Kindoma. It’s an app that accesses your family graph. Again, it’s this idea of great digital content to read and share, and at the same time allowing family members to interact around that content with the child safely online. This is the one I referenced before. It’s called Story Bug and it allows me, in real time with video, to read a book together. We can take turns in turning the pages. I can help her read words and I can read to her. That’s an example of how we’re trying to allow a family to collaborate around a content in a way that helps the child learn.
We also have ambitions to do this globally and to promote this kind of experience across borders in an educational context. We have created with the Smithsonian a curriculum that teaches children how to understand their own cultures. It teaches them how to be a junior folklorist. The reason the Smithsonian was interested in doing it is every year at the National Mall here at Washington DC, they celebrate culture and call attention to folklore from different nations around the world. This year, they focused on China and Kenya.
It’s an event that’s at a National Mall. If you can’t go to the event, you don’t really get to experience it. What they wanted to do was open that up globally by inviting kids from around the world to be curators themselves and to capture their own cultures. They were a really interesting partner to work with. We created a curriculum with them that teaches kids how to go out, find a tradition bearer in their community, how to interview, and ask them questions. They captured everything from traditional opera singing in China, to making a sari with handlooms in India, to making pasta in Italy. They interviewed people who are, in their community, standing for these traditions, and then captured them on video.
What was really amazing about that experience was the quality of the video that came from places like China and India. It’s like going on a virtual field trip. It’s pretty amazing. This is, again, one of the tenets that we have about content. We want to put our great quality content, but we also want to encourage kids and learners around the world to create their own content, and allow people to interact around that. We think that’s one of the promises of technology and one of the great ways we can learn and understand each other. Those are a couple of recent examples of things we’ve been doing.
Sramana Mitra: In the example that you just provided where you have this cross-cultural content coming in, who pays for what in this model?
Katya Andresen: That was a Smithsonian-sponsored experience. It was free. But we have other products. We do have a virtual cultural exchange program in China where we have schools paying the subscription fee to offer this program. We match a classroom in China with classrooms in other countries to do a cultural exchange and also engage in English language learning practice.
Sramana Mitra: When you have this school in China subscribing to this program, to get the other schools to participate, do all of them have to subscribe to this kind of network?
Katya Andresen: They’re all part of our global community, which is our network of learners around the world. We’ve been at this for a number of years. We posted a free network at ePals.com where classrooms can find each other. We’re quite easily able to match a classroom in China with a classroom somewhere else in the world based on the community that we’ve built over the years.
Sramana Mitra: The problem with the Internet is everybody wants everything for free. You gave us an example where Smithsonian sponsors something so that everybody gets to use it for free. Then, you’re talking about schools in China who are participating in a community exchange kind of program, how does that get monetized?
Katya Andresen: The schools in China are paying for it.
Sramana Mitra: What about the rest of the community?
Katya Andresen: In the case of the last pilot, we had some schools that were participating for free and some that were paying.
Sramana Mitra: But isn’t that an unfair scenario? You’re asking some to pay and others are free-riding on that?
Katya Andresen: No, they’re not free-riding. We built this entire curriculum for China. One component is they can communicate with another classroom. Let me get back to the business model.