What’s the number one best-selling education app for the iPad? Osman Rashid is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Kno, where he develops company strategy and products to make learning engaging, effective and social for students—and he has the answer. A serial entrepreneur, Osman started and held key positions at a number of companies (eBot, Inc., ATIO Corp, Chordiant and Chegg). As founding CEO of Chegg, an innovative textbook rental company that has saved college students more than $200 million dollars, Osman grew the company twenty-five fold since its launch and turned it into a scalable operation. Ernst & Young named Osman the 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year for the coveted Northern California region. Mike Maples, an early investor in Digg and Twitter, has said that Osman Rashid is a world-class entrepreneur with the courage to be non-consensus and the right Jedi moves to pull it all off. Some believe Osman has super human abilities and on a number of occasions has taken a flight to China for a one-hour meeting, followed by flying back immediately and then upon arrival coming directly to the office for a 14-hour work day. Here we talked with him to find out what he knows about the best-selling Kno, and how it addresses his concerns about the current state of education. From lessons learned as a janitor to cleaning up in the education marketplace, Osman tells an interesting story.
Victor: Why did you create Kno?
Osman: At Kno, we are on a mission to make learning more engaging, cost-effective, and fun. We believe that new education approaches combined with mobile and social technologies can help produce a breakthrough in learning outcomes. By changing the way students learn, we can improve test results and, more importantly, how much students truly know.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Victor: What is it? Who created it?
Osman: Kno is the #1 selling education iPad application. It was founded by myself and Dr. Habib in May 2009. The company has received funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital, Goldman Sachs, Advanced Publications, FLOODGATE, First Round Capital, Ron Conway, Silicon Valley Bank, SV Angels and TriplePoint Capital and is based in Santa Clara, California. Kno is an education software company which makes applications to enable students to access, read and interact with digital textbooks. We offer over 60 interactive features such as highlighting, note-taking, bookmarking, 3D and instructional videos to enhance the way students learn and retain information from textbooks. Kno offers over 100K digital textbooks at a 30-50 percent savings from the list price of physical textbooks.
Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Osman: When Kno launched in June 2010 it was originally an education tablet and software. As other tablets entered the market Kno determined it was smarter to focus on the software and allow other manufacturers to make the hardware. In June 2011, Kno partnered with Intel to jointly develop an education tablet reference design for third-party hardware manufacturers.
Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
Osman: Kno is available at www.kno.com.
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Osman: The Kno Textbooks for iPad, Facebook and the web application are free. Digital Textbooks sold at Kno.com vary in price, based on the publisher, but typically cost between 30-50 percent off list price of a physical book.
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?
Osman: Below are videos demonstrating some of the features recently launched for the Kno Textbooks for iPad application:
3-D Objects: http://www.kno.com/features#mod=features&act=kno3d
Smart Links (instructional videos from Khan Academy): http://www.kno.com/features#mod=features&act=smartLinks
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?
Osman: Kno currently addresses the higher education market. Its products are for college students.
Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?
Osman: Innovation in education has never happened at this rate before and for the first time the right technologies like Tablets, Social, Digital Content, Software Development Kits and Innovative spirt are coming together. Software is starting to take over the learning experience and allowing students to embrace deep technology that is simplifying how they learn.
Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating Kno?
Osman: My first job at college (actually my first ever job) was one that I didn’t want to do—be a janitor at the student union’s depressing basement level! Cleaning toilets was not part of the dream… I went into clean the urinal the first two times and almost threw up and came out of the restroom. I convinced myself that I could handle it the third time and went in and did it. That day I knew that I understood what the real force of will power can be—and I could make things happen once I put my mind to it.
Victor: How does Kno address some of your concerns about education?
Osman: Education needs to come to the 21st century. Kno is helping redefine how a student will learn in this digital environment and has the attitude of developing products based on the philosophy of rapid incremental change. These rapid incremental changes will continue to push the educational technology envelope, while letting students embrace change without risking their grades. We believe our approach is the right way to migrate the student towards digital learning without completely changing their behaviors today.
Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?
Osman: The future of education is bright. Innovation will continue at an explosive rate and the textbook (which is simply a body of knowledge) will continue to remain the anchor point in education and will be key to the future of learning in education technology. More innovation in education will happen directly with the students when compared with the institutions.
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Kno?
Osman: Kno believes in the notion of rapid incremental change, especially when it comes to education. Students tend not to embrace technology in the classroom if it could potentially adversely impact their grade. What Kno does is help the student feel comfortable with new technology so that they can transition from yesterday to the future by taking incremental steps.
Victor: What makes you say that?
Osman: We are successfully enhancing the learning experience of students at more than 2,000 U.S. universities and have the #1 selling education app on the Apple App Store today.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com