Kara Swisher

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Former Homestead Founder Returns to SV Curious — And With $7.5 Million in Funding

Curious_Logo-feature

Justin Kitch — the founder and CEO of Web 1.0’s Homestead small-business site that was sold to Intuit in 2007 — is returning with Curious, a lifelong learning startup aimed at connecting teachers and students on “subjects as varied as salsa dancing, integral solving, pipe soldering, jewelry making and knife sharpening.”

A little eclectic, perhaps, but the new company has raised $7.5 million from Redpoint Ventures, as well as prominent individual investors such as Bill Campbell.

That amount is a lot, but is part of a new rush to fund a range of educational startups of all kinds. Most recently, Lynda.com raised $103 million in January for its popular software, creative and business video courses. Other high-profile and well-funded MOOC — massive online open course — providers include Udacity and Coursera.

Curious will offer short-format video-based interactive lessons, noting that it currently has about 500 of them collected from a private beta phase, with 100 teachers and 10,000 learners in 140 countries.

In a post on the new effort, Kitch wrote: “To be clear, the earth would still be rotating on its axis without our launch today. But it would be without one little new idea that just might turn into something big.”

Here’s the official press release:

CURIOUS LAUNCHES NEW MARKETPLACE TO TEACH OR LEARN ANYTHING ONLINE

Platform Designed for Lifelong Learning Gives Teachers Tools to Easily Build, Market and Monetize Content

Already More than 500 Interactive Video-Based Lessons on Everything from Brewing Beer and Creating Excel Spreadsheets to Learning Conversational French

May 1, 2013 — Menlo Park, CA – Curious.com, Inc., today unveiled a new marketplace for lifelong learning where students and teachers can connect around subjects as varied as salsa dancing, integral solving, pipe soldering, jewelry making and knife sharpening. The company debuts as the home to hundreds of short, engaging video-based lessons for consumers interested in learning about anything, anytime. Founded by former Homestead CEO and founder and Intuit executive, Justin Kitch, Curious also provides teachers with the tools to market, share and monetize their lessons as well as interact with their students. The company has received $7.5 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures, individual investors Bill Campbell and Jessie Rogers, and a personal investment from Mr. Kitch.

“No matter what you want to learn, there is a great teacher somewhere in the world who could teach you. However, those teachers often don’t have the tools or the marketing expertise to teach online. The internet hasn’t caught up to them yet, which means that people trying to learn on the web are too often stuck wading through piles of low quality content and are then underwhelmed with the static way content is delivered,” said Mr. Kitch. “We believe online learning needs to be more fun and digestible for the lifelong learner in all of us, and easier and more lucrative for the world’s best teachers. Curious was designed from the ground up with those two objectives in mind.”

Curious Turns Passionate Teachers into Entrepreneurs with Free, Easy-to-Use Tools

With Curious, teachers don’t have to take out loans, deplete their savings or put their professional lives on hold trying to start a web business from scratch. At no cost, Curious offers teachers the Curious Lesson Builder which allows them to build, publish and market informative, entertaining lessons to attract followers and turn their passion into profits by earning supplemental income. Curious also links related lessons, tracks how many views a lesson has received and enables learners to submit projects and create “Curious Cards” to share their achievements and interact with teachers. Teachers can work with students on a highly personal level to answer questions, review projects and provide feedback.

“With Curious, we’re able to reach a whole new audience — and on a much bigger scale,” said Curious teacher Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil. “The Curious Lesson Builder makes presenting our videos easy. Curious takes care of everything else, and we can focus on what we do best, teaching. Now that we’ve connected with Curious, we’re taking our business to a whole new level.”

“I was once asked at a job interview what inspired me as a teacher and I said it was helping people to achieve something they previously thought beyond their ability,” added Curious teacher Guy Badger. “Curious helps show people that they really can accomplish more than they realize and, with the right teacher, learning can not only be fun, but can develop confidence and might just assist someone in landing that dream job.”

Bite-Size Lessons Optimizes Anytime, Anywhere Learning

Through the Curious Lesson Player, Curious allows learners to engage on their own time. Whether they have 10 minutes or several hours, they can watch short-format videos and interact with teachers and the Curious community through a host of multimedia features to discover something new, improve a skill, or follow a passion. No scheduling means students can take lessons at their convenience, stop lessons whenever they want, post questions as they arise, and share projects in-process or upon completion. Curious currently houses more than 500 lessons, adding more each day. Thanks to overwhelming interest during its private beta phase, the Curious community is already comprised of more than 100 professional teachers and over 10,000 learners from 140 countries who share perspectives, knowledge, and experiences at launch.

Curious includes free lessons as well as lessons that cost a few dollars. The company has introduced its micropayment system, Curious Coins, to make it easy for learners to securely purchase premium lessons whenever they want without repeatedly using their credit cards for nominal transactions. To celebrate its launch, Curious will offer new learners $20 of free Coins. Because most premium lessons cost only a dollar or two, learners have ample opportunity to explore all that Curious has to offer.

Founders Reunite and Secure Funding, This Time to Transform Online Learning

Curious rejoins the leaders of Homestead, which became the world’s largest small business website platform before being acquired by Intuit. Mr. Kitch, Thai Bui, (Homestead co-founder and CTO; Curious CTO), and John Tokash (Homestead Director of software development; Curious co-founder and Head of Engineering) applied their key learnings from growing Homestead, helping businesses quickly and easily build excellent, user-friendly websites, to Curious. The Curious founders have since directed their vision, energy and talents to develop an unparalleled interface and learning community that teachers and students will embrace. Similar to Homestead, Curious revolves around empowering the “little guy” with all the tools and marketplace presence of larger competitors to bring the best content to the largest audience.

“Justin, Thai and John wanted to create a home for learning where consumers make every second matter,” said Redpoint Ventures general partner and lead investor, Tim Haley. “As industry veterans, these guys know how to build compelling consumer products and services. Curious already offers a wide-range of outstanding content, an array of expert teachers from around the world, and a highly engaged user community — all from its beta period. The result is that anyone who comes to Curious on Day One will find compelling lessons on the topics they want and they’ll fall in love.”

To start teaching and learning now, please visit www.curious.com.


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