Michał Borkowski: The Best Learning Experience is in the Community (Episode 18)

Podcast Details:

Guest: Michał Borkowski

Date Added: 9th Sep 2015

Length: 57 min


Project Kazimierz presents Michal Borkowski, with Richard Lucas and Sam Cook. On today’s episode of Project Kazimierz, Richard and Sam talk with Michal Borkowski, co-founder of Brainly. Michal explains the importance of building, growing, and nurturing a community. Richard and Michal break down the competition within the networking platforms. Finally, Sam and Michal look into education and the need for personalization within the system.

Mentions and links:
Table of contents:
Michal’s Background
      • 00:47Sam provides an overview of the episode
      • 02:02 Richard gives a brief bio on Michal
      • 03:32 Michal introduces himself and Brainly
Educational Ambitions of Brainly
      • 04:18 Explaining Brainly’s atypical global strategy
      • 05:40 Addressing homework first
      • 07:06 Personalizing the educational experience
      • 09:00 Objections and opinions from educators
      • 10:37 Building volunteer motivation
      • 12:23 Using Brainly to advance employment and education
The Development of Brainly
      • 14:23 The pathway to Brainly
      • 17:03 Jumping into the idea
      • 19:01 Organizing by language
      • 21:09 Keeping the database catalogued
      • 23:46 Combining community with information
Where Brainly Sits Amongst the Ranks
      • 24:46 Judging the competitive landscape
      • 28:00 Balancing three markets
      • 29:10 The psychology of efficiency
The Future of Brainly
    • 30:08 Monetization and the journey
    • 33:27 Modeling after improvements
    • 36:03 Sponsored educational content
Smart Investing
    • 37:18 Investments in the company
    • 39:10 Current funding needs
    • 42:28 Looking to invest today


sam cook:
Hello again Project Kazimierz listeners, my name is Sam Cook – the founder of Project Kazimierz, here with co-founder, Richard Lucas, how are you Richard?
richard lucas:
I’m very well, north of Italy in a little village called Gamalero, good morning everyone – or good evening, wherever you are listening. Whatever time.
Richard, thank you for providing us a little bit of jealousy for being in northern Italy right now. So, actually in my historical context of innovation in Europe that’s probably the birthplace for me of a modern era of innovation last 800 years, so it must be cool to be there, in the birthplace of the reinessance.
Mhm, certainly.
So Richard – today we have a very special guest, every guest is special but we’ve been looking for this interview for a while with the founder of brainly.com – which is one of the biggest success stories in the Polish startup scene in Krakow, in Poland and in general and Richard, I’m gonna let you do a bit more detailed introduction of Michał Borowski.
Borkowski. I thing I’ve come across Michał when he was giving a talk on one of our startup community events, probably 3 or 4 years ago, I think it was a Hive event. And I remember working while these guys have got a great vision. We don’t know each other that well, but Brainly is certainly one of the most visible startups from Poland and particularly attracting large investment rounds, of almost 10 million dollars. Having incredible traffic on their websites – they’re not all on brainly.com domain, the major homeworld site for Poland i think is zadane.pl but I think what’s important to underline is a) the big vision – this is a company from Poland that is definitely out there as one of the leading social networks in the world, and as far as I know you’re going for growth rather than monetisation which I was thinking is a great deal of guts and very tolerant shareholders. I think it would probably be better if Michał introduces himself as I said although he’s well known and successful – he has contributed to events and I know people who work for the company, I think he knows so much more about brainly than I do. Perhaps Michał, could you introduce yourself to the Project Kazimierz listeners around the world?
Yes, Thank you Richard. It’s a pleasure to be here. So U;m Michał, the CEO and co-founder of Brainly which is the worlds biggest social learning network and it works pretty much like a Q&A platform, where students get stuck with school assignments and there’s a huge community of students helping each other. We reached more than 40 million monthly users from pretty much all around the world. Our biggest markets are Russia, Indonesia, Poland Turkey, Brasil and then we have Latin America and the US market.
Ok, and in terms of the vision – obviously problems with homework is a very specific pinpoint in any students, any school pupils life. Do you want to be like category killer for that particular problem, or do you have ambitions to move to sort of wider educational space in terms of ways the company evolving?
I believe that the homework space is awesome, because we catch students attention at the very right moment, so when they get stuck they will need help, they are looking for more education, pretty much. But at the end Brainly is about demutradising daxes through personalised learning globally – so for us homework is just the beginning – we want to expand to all of the other areas that are focus on providing personalised learning, so you can imagine. As every student is pretty much different, have different needs and we believe that the best way to create the best learning experience is a community that we have at Brainly.
That’s very interesting, because I’m as Sam knows because he was involved in TEDxKazimierz project and I’ve been involved in TEDx movements in different cities in Poland, and went to couple of TED conferences – someone set ??kaan academy, so one video plus learning modules, so one to many. When you say personalised, that basically idea is peer-to-peer, one-to-one as opposed as one set of content addressing you know – ten or a hundred, or a million users. Is that what you mean by personalised?
When we think about personalisation, it’s based on two pillars – the first pillar is knowledge base that Brainly is creating – right now we have our own 22 millions unanswered questions, Brainly that way reviewed by our moderators, so you can imagine machine learning that will be based on what users are looking for, what they are interested in, where they help, where they ask for help, and on the basis of that you can suggest what is the right question for them that can help them to develop their strenghts, but to also help them in areas they find really difficult and on the other hand Brainly is about community – so if you face a problem where you need help from a person, then you can go ask a question or engage with the community. So if we think about personalisation, we both think about these illars. So how we can create a knowledge base that is inspiring for students to dig deeper and to look for more interesting topics, but it’s also about how they can interact with another members of the community to develop their strong sides.
That’s very interesting way, sort of like helpdesk methodology, where you see a lot of wuestions in the same area, becomes obvious which areas students are finding challenging, you get a sort of. How about your relationship with the world of pedagogics, teacher training and teachers, because your obviously one people helping another with their homework or her homework, it’s a sensitive area, some teachers might call it cheating, or not right – on the other hand you’re doing something that with right attitude from teachers could be extremely valuable to a teacher. Have you ran into objections in different countries about what you are doing, or do you find that overtime teachers are coming to fact that this is actually what motivates students and they wanna learn rather then – what happens when they don’t do their homework, they just wanna copy someone.
For me it’s very personal, because I really care about the opinion of the teachers from my highschool and the opinion is positive, and I love that. And when you look globally, because at that scale you should look – globally – we have 700 volunteer moderators who take care of the knowledge posted, and some big part of them are teachers, who want to help us improve the learning experience on Brainly. So like we see a lot of positive feedback to what we are doing.
Yes, I was wondering whether the moderators were just motivated students or they were sometimes teachers and makes sense to me that it’s both, sometimes it’s highly motivated student… and talking about motivation, getting your volunteer community members to contribute to the project out of commitment to it – what are their motivations to get involved? Is it status, is it feeling useful or the key is to get a volunteer at the time to help with the project?
So our moderators, they go through typical user path – so the most common journey is they come to Brainly to ask a question, then they find that they can interact with each other, answer questions, they can develop their skills, and they start interacting with the community, and they keep growing in the rankings that you see on brainly.com and sometimes they try to apply for being a moderator, sometimes we ask them to join the group, but basically they go through this journey from asking question, helping others, and then they try to participate more and more. There are some interesting markets like Turkey, when we have 10 000 people on our waiting list to become a moderator, so we see that this combination of helping others plus the status that they receive at brainly plus the access to some functionalities before the community receives that – this is very attractive for them.
This is very interesting, for anyone listening who’s maybe thinking of applying for a job later, just a sort of thing that as an employer I would notice on someone’s CV (or the resume, depending if you’re american or european) if you put things like ‘you’re Brainly educational moderator’ or maybe a TEDx volunteer on your CV. That looks very good, I think there’s a community of developers calles Slashdot and people put their Slashdot ranking which is rated by fellow programmers for how helpful you are on their forums. People use their Slashdot score on their CV as a more important criteria than the degree grade in university, because you know, this sort of, the kind of person who shows who you are is probably a person you want to have in your company, because someone is helpful, someone is thinking about other people.
So this is happening right now, we see users using Brainly as a part of their application process to the universities. So something that we believe in that at some point we happen, it’s like part of a decision that vision making process for universities to accept your application, it could be your Brainly profile. How you anwered the questions, how many people you helped. In some of the educational systems the activity is outside the school or extremely important and Brainly is in that space, help students to build their credibility outside of school.
It was released yesterday.
Was it, really? You’re kidding me. Well, for me – this is my unfortunately first visit to your site because I’m so busy working on my own, but yeah, that’s very interesting – I’d like to dig a little bit in your pathway to this point – everyone likes a good success story, but what was it like to this point? As a co-founder I know it wasn’t easy.
So, it also started when I was on my second year of my studies, and before Brainly I was engaged in a lot of projects – that was pretty much quora, but without Quora. That made me excited a lot about knowledge sharing, because when you think about how powerful it is that people put into the online knowledge base a piece of content that is pretty much knowledge, and then thousands of people can use that, that’s just simpler than people talking knowledge to other people and make sure that everyone has the same access. And on the basis of that thing but also my experience at my high school we figured out it would be awesome if you can go, ask a question, get started, when you have an exam tomorrow and receive live help, but what is more interesting is like how can you then leverage on the knowledge these people are now creating to make sure you can deliver a faster value to all the other users of the same community. And that’s how Brainly was created, so it was a combination of my high school and my pretty much conclusions why it was happening during high school, but also on the previous ventures that I was engaged with.
So you’re co-founder, what was the story behind you and your founder deciding how to do this, did you ever imagine that you’d be sitting here with venture capital backing investment and reaching the global audience?
No, the idea was at first just simple base about polish educational system, I met Łukasz and Tomek and that was amazing, because we had a discussion for one hour about the idea, and then we said „ok, let’s do that togheter” i was pretty much amazed how fast that happened. Before Brainly Łukasz and Tomek – we were working together on some projects and that’s how we met and decided that we want to be business partners, but something I believe is very interesting in our trio, was that each one of us had very different skills. So Tomek was this brilliant engineer, Łukasz, was the guy who has the time for sales, for talking about what we are doing, and I was trying to put the knowledge about how we are going to put the product together, strategy, development, vision. So I think that at the beginning the team was very strong, because we haven’t had all the competences, but we had the crucial competences that we needed for our start. And I believe it’s one of the biggest mistakes if you are trying to look for people that are too similar to you – you should try to find people who are different but in a positive way.
And at what point did you – the site right now is in English, did you make it originally in English or in Polish when you were starting in a Polish market?
No, it was in polish. So Brainly is organised in a way, that we have local services, in Poland we have zadane.pl, in Russia it;s Znania… at some point we saw that it’s getting global, not only local or multi-local, we decided to create one brand and that’s Brainly.
And did the people from the local brands they jumped into Brainly to participate in english speaking forms, or is that something that you know – especially in Eastern Europe we have most people do speak english by virtue of education system and also a small number of people in many of these language groups, that need english to operate in the global market. Do you see that happening?
We see that happening in the group of moderators, when we launch a new market because we need the time to build the community when we start on the new markets. So these guys are amazing and want simply to help, and that’s how you can see the moving between the local versions. When you think about all the audience, educational system is based on your national language – so then they tend to stick to their local platform this is the base for them. Something I find interesting is how we can leverage on the language learning on Brainly. So at some point we want to create this connection between the local versions, and student in Poland would be able to ask a question in english and receive an answer from a student from the United States. And we believe that once all the local version will be big enough that we cal also add some additional network effect in our current product.
Ok so I’m looking here for a website and this looks a lot like the other website called Google, where it’s a very clear call action, which is just a seachbox. And I have to ask you, who’s powering the search on your site how do you organize your information? Google’s mission is to organize world’s information, and your very clear call to action is question everything – answer everything, which is, ask a question for a school subject. What do you use to organize this massive database in multiple languages?
So, we partner with a French startup which is called Algolia, these guys are incredible.
So they’re doing your search?
Like, Algolia is a SaaS company, so on the basis of their technology we build some of our algorithms, that are clustered to get very specific about our product. And this is really awesome in Agolia that they let you do that tweaks to the algorithm that they provide to make sure that you can adjust the search functionality to what you are doing. But Brainly’s search is something different that you think when you compare it to Google: when you compare search at Brainly, we think about how fast can we deliver it to our end users. So at the beginning it was all about asking question and receiving an answer, and usually you will receive the answer on Brainly in ten minutes. It’s fast, but what’s faster. Faster is to search.
So this is in a Google – like you type in searches, the question is actually sent to the user base and then they answer it?
So it’s two behaviours – basically we want to deliver as fast as possible. So the whole flow is organized in a way, that if we had that question, you can find it and read through the content, but if it’s not there there is just one click to pause that question. So it’s just mixed functionality of searching and asking a question. It’s not about asking, it’s about getting an answer and we are all the time trying to decrease tha time you are looking for it.
And then the other similarity that I’m seeing here is you have a community of, you said 10 million users?
No, it’s 40 million users.
We are doing what we are doing, I focus on that so I don’t think about that options.
So you haven’t been approached yet by any of the bigger companies about your user base or your methodology?
We are approached by some of the bigger companies, not the ones that you have specified, but we receive acquision offers quite frequently.
Ok, so Richard – I’m gonna open it up to you here, cos I just took the floor for a little while looking at the business model. What strikes you Richard about this as an investor, you’re much more experienced investor than I, and what do you see that’s attractive to this about international investors, I don’t know what your exact funding strategy is througout the course of this – but RIchard, what business questions do you have?
I think the comment I have is there’s clear, not exactly winner takes all, but there’s a very strong network effect, the more people involved, the better quality of the answers, the faster the answers, so I think it’s a highly defensible, providable team of Brainly and I know few people you work with, and in the organisation providing this high-quality community management, high quality support, high- quality moderationkeeping up standards, . It might be hard to somebody to come and get better because part of quality is existing community – presumably that’s the important part of Brainly, the Brainly story, right? That was a question, Michał.
Sorry, I just switched the sound settings, so you might have…
You know, Richards’ question Michał was about – it’s really hard after Facebook took off for anyone to challenge you guys, because the network effect in a first to market on it. But when you see your competitive landscape as a competition you can come out of nowhere just like you guys did, and also potential partnership and people who were making acquisition offers. How do you see yourselves has grown through this?
So, first of all we cut out our competitive advantages – so I think that Richard explained the network effect pretty well, the bigger the network, it gets more users, bigger knowledge base, and that’s how it’s growing. You can also add quality to that, so you have a multiplier of the defensibility of Brainly. When we looked at competition – we need to divide competiton in two areas, so – the first ones are social networks, so you can think about the company as like, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Messenger… in a big part Facebook. When you look at the other space it’s education and you can find companies like CHEG in the US or Socratic but also you can find a lot of local competition. So when we think about what’s the educational part, we don’t have a local comptetion, I think that we are unique when you look at the educational space, but there is a lot of local competition and we face that every day. Globally we think about facebook, snapchat as kind of competitors, because we compete for time but they compete for time that is not educational.
So you really strike two markets. You have a little bit of search going on, you have a social network community and then you have education, with Facebook obviously there’s no sense competing with them as social network, you’re not trying to – you’re just trying to have an educational social learning experience, which you’ve mastered arguably more than Facebook campaign, because this platform is not build specifically.
Yeah, but how we think about community is that we try to make learning fun, and when you think what kind of learning is fun, it’s the learning where you sit with a group of your friends and you’re trying to develop a solution together. Because you have those social interactions and education. So you are having fun but you also do a great job. So it’s the same as it was as a teamwork at your companies. We believe in this combination of education aspect and social that Brainly provides, because this way you have the best learning experience.
And presumably if someone sitting down to do the studying and homework and Facebook is pretty distracting, right? You know, there’s a sort of psychological step- when you’re sitting together with your school stuff you probably feel better firing up Brainly or one of your local language sites, because then you’re clearly working, when there’s anyone else on Facebook they might be working but it’s very easy to get distracted on Facebook environment.
Yes, right.
I know that, because I use facebook for communication about work sometimes, and some younger startups are using Facebook for communicating even with clients, but it’s very hard to focus and it’s also hard to let anyone else that you’re working if your boss sees you on Facebook or your empoyee sees you on Facebook. They might think “what the hell are you doing, you’re setting a bad example”
Richard, what questions do you have as an investor, cos I’m very interested with the monetisation and the eventual exit strategy here, everyone says “I’m gonna do this forever, I have passion about it” and you should, but at the end of the day what keeps the business alive is profits and delivering value to shareholders. What point are you at in your journey, and what are investors feeling about the path Richard, maybe you have a few insights and questions as experienced investor.
Yes, I think when Jakub Piwnik, your PR/Media Relations guy was setting this up, he came to me with “why you’ve got a mission of growing and being big” You got happy investors, you don’t have to worry about monetisation, but I was concerned about the potential impact of your volunteer spirit in the community once you start at some stage at your business model when you’re charging people whether it’s through advertising or content, so I’m just wondering whether you’re ready for it now, will you start making revenue for it.
So, right now our main focus is to scale internationally with the main focus on the US market. When you think about what os possible for us to achieve based on historical data plus our ambitions, it’s to bring Brainly to the level of 300-500 million monthly users that is pretty much the size of Twitter. This is the target we are focused on, how we can scale to such a large number of users, but also hwo to increase their engagement and this is the goal. So when you talk to investors it’s kind of like the recruitment process – you are trying but they are also trying, so this is verification on both sides, if you are alligned, when you think about investor is someone who believes in your strategy, someone wo can help you to improve it, but basically you want to go into the same direction. So between us and investors, there is a clear understanding that we need to focus on the local scale and how to turn brainly to the local worlds and make sure that we are winning the US market, the monetisation right now is not the focus because that could just simply distract us. I believe if you look at all of the social networks, it’s the same model – it’s one winner in the space and you should be focused on being that winner – you cannot distract on local maximum of earning some money, to show the traction you should be focused about bringing that to the winning position.
And it seems to me that does make sense – if you’ve got the leading social network of people wanting to help with your homework, this is the time when people are really paying attention, whether it’s through sales of school textbooks or whether it’s sales of online courses, or whether it’s through scholarships to Harvard – if you’ve got the position where significant proportion of the students in the world regardless goes to place of their homework, I think as investor this is the place where you would like to be. Presumably that’s the kind of conversation you would want to have with investor. Did you say 500 milion or 100 million? I didn’t hear.
It was between 300 and 500 million.
300. When you hit that target, you can say “Well, when we’ll be in that position there will be plenty of monetisation options, presumably”
Yes, and i think with that scale there are a lot. What I believe that the smart companies eleive it was how to put the monetisation into the model but without disctracting the users. So when we speak to companies like Facebook or Pinterest, we see they managed to build the model that is often improving the experience. Especially Pinterest – it’s an incredible company and promoted pins that advertisers pay for – this pins often have than average pins that Pinterest has. So then when you think about the value it’s a win-win situation. Or a win-win-win – because advertiser is winning, Pinterest is winning as a company, but users are also winning, because you just enhanced their experience. So you see that’s possible and there are companies that managed to do that, so we are not extremely worried about that, we look at the space, we analyse the models, we talk to companies that could be our acquisition targets, to make sure that we bring that skillsets to our organisation, but there’s no rush – this is not our focus right now.
and that’s very interesting – because as a long-term resident in Poland who is very happy to see polish success strories despite not being Polish by birth – more like Poland’s adopted me and I have adopted Poland – the fact you’re benchmarking behind global best practice is very optmistic, because I think the biggest mistake that some polish or Krakow or European companies make is they want to be the best in the country, or the best in town, but when you’re looking into what Pinterest are doing, your benchmarking is best in the world and there’s a right way to do it and there’s an investment that would make me happy.
Thank you.
And also the monetisation idea, the idea you have sponsored motivational content, you know – maybe someone like Stanford or best schools in the world could be interested in having some of the scholarship students contributing into being best moderators, maybe they’ll establish their brand by being the most helpful or whatever – so in a way that it could be visible to your community or stuff like that – so it could be quite a lot of lessons there I think.
Michał, who are your investors and how many investments have you been through? And how many more do you need to conquer the world as education.
So first part of the question: We raised on AngelRounds… well, I forgot what it was. It was before 2012. In 2012 we raised our sales through SeedRounds, it was half million dollars, and we raised our services in October last year, and that was 9 million dollars. And that’s everything that we raised. So of course at the beginning it was good strat, me, Tomek and Łukasz we put in some money and made sure that we can start. So that’s the fundraising history of Brainly. When you look at the future, you will know that we want to raise more but what’s next it’s not defined right now. It’s the same as an exit strategy. I’ve never received that quesiton from investors – about like, “what is your exit strategy, because this is not the most important thing for us to talk about right now. Maybe that will happen to a serious CEO.
You never heard the question or answered the question or did they never asked it?
I’ve never heard that question. I don’t know, maybe they ask that question between each other, but I see that they just know that stuff. If they are able to understand the model, they can define the exit strategy. I think this should be the knowledge that is brought by the investors to the company.
So if someone listening to this in SIlicon Valley from one of the big founds, think they should discuss investment strategy – sorry – exit strategy because that would annoy you.
I think this might be different between the market segments – maybe that question makes sense in e-commerce or in SaaS businesses. In the social space I’ve never heard it.
And if someone listens to it – it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be around – how long does you current funding last and at what stage will it be by the end of 2016? Will you be needing another round or have you got longer than that?
Sorry, I won’t answer that
The investors probably don’t want to answer that question.
Ok, but I’ll rephrase that – if someone’s listening I think there’s a great possibility to get involved and – are you looking for – obviously you are looking for not just money, but some kind of value – are you looking for more people with tons of traffic or more people with like educational industry if you have a priority who do you select, would you prefer technology, or people or know-how or traffic? Because all are interesting, but presumably what the priority is for you?
So when I personally look at investors, it’s a combination of couple of factors – the first one is undestanding of the strategy and if you want to go the same direction, second factor is how they can be helpful in recruitment processes. So John is ours lead ?arunned investor – they did an amazing job. I don’t know if they know that, but when we look at their process of closing the deal with us, it was an inspiration for the whole recruitment process of Brainly. So we built on top of that our process they always challenge us to get the best candidates and to focus on hiring a lot, and I think this has incredible value on the best investors that they have the network of people, who could be interested but they can also refer to you as best in that area and help you to make sure about the time you join your company. And I think they started to do the most important, so you have the network of their connections, other funds, interesting people, like CEO coaches and eveything that is important to be done in the background to make sure your company is successful. So when I think about it I would say these are the most important things.
Ok, and if someone with deep pockets would give you high valuation is listening, should they just get in touch with you, is it still worht it or what would be the process if someone wanted to try to put some money into the company?
I love to meet, so if someone is listening, I’m happy to receive an e-mail and I’m sure we can connect.
Fly to Cracow and come visit this beatiful city and stop by Richard and I too, maybe put a little Hive53 together for you? Let you speak?
Be careful, because Sam always wants his 3% introduction fee. I’m joking.
I’m making a ton of money up on this right now.
You mentioned a CEO coaching and obviously the company is quite big – perhaps you can tell us how many employees does it have, running a large organisation is quite a challenge compared to a smaller organisation. Which bits of running Brainly do you like the most and which bits are the biggest challenge? And are you happy doing it for a longhaul? Do you see a certain stage where you might bring in some Harvard MBA or some more experienced big company guy to help you scale up to a bigger level?
So this is a question of my personality?
So this is part of the discussion during every of our board meeting, where we discuss how Adam and Paweł can help the development and I have…a coach that is very experienced CEO of one of the publicly listed companies in the US and he helps me to put some framework of thinking, what are the best practices, how they solved all the problems in the past, because investors are awesome, but they have a very specific perspective. So we want someone who is able to help you with work that’s [interference] because he went through it in the past, so it’s the best setup.
So you want to setup Brainly to entrepreneurs where you can have more publicly listed CEOs, where you can contribute online.
I think my personal thing was always to maintain a limited number of relationships, because I’m an introvert, also a person who contributes a lot to relationships, that’s why I believe that this focus with one person to make sure that you improve and that your company can improve, that is a huge benefit and I think that introduction was done by Adam from general catalyst and that was one of the most important decisions of this year.
And in terms of what you like and don’t like about the job, you don’t have to answe this but it really is a diffierent story to run a huge company than a small start-up, you’re way beyond the small start-up stage, and I wonder which working days made you feel great „it’s gonna be a great day, because I enjoyed it” and which day do you find the most challenging?
I think everything is great…
Wait a minute – you’re not Polish anymore, what’s going on, Michał?
For me there are, like, very challenging days when you need to make like, hard decisions, but hard that means difficult to me like: what is the next step, what should be the direction, how to make sure that the team is alligned… but this is like a positive change, it’s not like a bad challenge. So there are a lot of difficulties, there is a lot pressure for sure for the market in general, for the investors, for the team, and as a CEO you need to know how to manage that, but this is something that I love so I’m happy to face that.
I’m very delighted to hear that, because different people challenge – that’s also very good news for your investors and your co-founders. Obviously – presumably Brainly is already quite a valuable company, so on paper you’re wealthy – do you see yourself like retiring to a desert island at some stage and just living a life of luxury or would you be happy working as hard as you’re working in 10 or 20 years from now? It can be great just to, you know, CEO of Facebook seems to be very happy doing what he does, he’s not retiring even though he obviously could in a nanosecond. Do you see this is your life solution for the rest of your working life? Or, how long have you’ve got?
It’s a very existential question there.
I like asking such questions
So I really love what Ela Madej is doing, understanding of the balance in your life, so for me running your startup is about years, it’s not about the next weeks. So you need to keep you balance. For me it’s hard – especially that I run the fundraising process. It’s very challenging, it’s hard, you need to be well prepared for that, but keeping your balance is extremely important. When I think about me personally, you can find the founders of the company, like Mark Zuckerberg, they are very attached to their company and things how they run the company, over the time. So they build new ideas, but they focus at that one thing. And when you have the examples of other founders, like the founder of Uber – he created some companies in the past, pretty successful, invested tens of dollars, millions of dollars, at some point he created Uber, so he was extremely successful in the past, and every company was better executed and he could achieve more, so I think this is a learning process. For me personally it was always important to make a difference, to improve something, so this is a big thing for me. It’s not about the exit, it’s about how big influence the product has on the community of students globally. And if that influence is visible, if we visit a positive feedback from students in first place, but also from educational environment or not. And this is the thing that is the most important. To make sure that is your passion and that other things we follow.
That’s alright, ok. Thank you for that. I’m quite curious – do you see yourself leveraging your position you’re gonna have, I supposed you’re delivering your strategy in getting up to the 300-500 million users. Would you jump into other educational markets, or do you think it’s better to just focus on this one core problem of homework – because clearly there are choices. But what is best – focus on one thing or to spread into other areas, for example like educational content or teaching, or online courses and stuff like that?
We think about personalised learning, that is fun and everything related to that which is in our area of interest. And that’s how we define the direction right now where we want to be in a couple of years. So if we think about education it’s not only homework, it’s everyting connected to personalise learning.
Maybe you should keep in touch with Sam then, because this is digital- teaching people how to monetize education and courses in his other business, the Triathlon Research – there’s podcast, then there’s content and events, and certainly I see this is way down the line, we’re interviewing the british comedian who uses podcasts to gather audience for his comedy shows. And obvioulsy education about comedy is fun. It’s more a niche. We’re like in entertainment, education as entertainment, and I think people are flooded with more and more choices on how to spend their time – not only the choices, but how to develop them. Is such a big input in the area – I don’t think you can possibly retire.
I think the sea of education is pretty vast in terms of scope, revenue opportunities and most importantly problems to be solved. I think education is one of the last industries that started the great disruption the technology is introducing to the modern world, and it’s about time. And I think there’s a lot more to go – if you look at colleges that have been around – Jagiellonian is 650 years, and Harvard – by far the most stable lucrative business model is the university system and education, and I think they need to probably be disrupted with this movement that is taking some of the other industries by storm and I’m very excited to see what the future holds for the education.
It took you time to sum up that we’re clearly moving to the end of our time, but Michał – could you challenge some of our listeners, maybe some people for whom – they can log into Brainly, start asking questions. But for people who aren’t particularly connected to this world – can you challenge them why it makes sense to get involved? what would be your challenge to the listener who’s not necessarily someone who is not going to need Brainly today, this week or this month?
I want to challenge how we make a promise: When you put an answer together and you click this answer button – this is one of the best feelings during your day. So you should try it and see how awesome it is to help others.
Well I’ve actually created an account while I was waiting for you guys to get here. I’ve done Yahoo Answers and occasionally Quora, so I do agree that somehow being helpful is one of the best deals you can have in life, because at the end of the day you always have to look in the mirror. And think „what did I do today” and any act you do today that was helpful to anyone is one of things that make you little bit happier than anyone. So I’d like to say that’s a very strong recommendation. So if any of our listeners decide to do that, please post a comment on our website or facebook, give us a feedback that you have done that, because at least Michał, you’re shareholders will know that you spent some time contributing to the Brainly cause this morning.
Richard, I think I’ll take this one home and thank you RIchard for joining us all the way from Italy, I know it was tough work this morning, getting up, going for swim and enjoying your time in the countryside, back from Poland it’s still great weather here in August in 2015, but I think this is a really – I’ve certainly learned a lot just – it’s so evident, that’s what I love so much about it, it’s a great website you can see what’s going on there. I didn’t have to ask Michał about all the observations I had to make about this. Because this is clear and I think their goal of disrupting education is amazing – not disrupting but improving the experience, because there are obviously not trying to put schools out of business but helping them. And it’s awesome to see that business starting in Poland, and mastering the different languages quickly, then going to eastern Europe then going to United States, I think it’s a great business strategy and I learned a lot – and finally relating to Michał’s challenge – the dirty little secret I used to say about teaching was „the teacher gets to learn the most” and while it does feel great to help others, you really at the end of the day from – if you can explain something, you truly understand it. And I think that’s one of the hidden secrets of Brainly, how smart you get tutoring other people, and benefits and all the other things we see. Time I spent teaching for 3 years at the military academy at Westpoint in the United States was definitely the best point of my military proffesional career, because the opportunity of talking to people… Having the privilege of doing that, Brainly is a very low-entry way of doing it, there are picky and great people are doing it. I think it’s great doing it without changing the actual profession, while doing it and going in the teaching world. Highly reccomend doing that, learning and jsut feeling of civic pride and helping the next generation. Thank you Michał for joining us, Richard, thank you as always, and finally thank you Project Kazimierz listener for investing more of your precious time in understanding startup scene in Europe, the hub of innovation that I believe is set up in Poland and its’s gonna provide major future for central and all of Europe in terms of startup community and the future of the really european market in terms of contribution to the age of technology. Thank you again and will see you next time.

Share this podcast with your friends:

Join The Conversation: