The former high school maths and science teacher presented interactive workbooks for the iPad alongside 14 other startups; he hoped to land $300,000 in financing.
He and his cofounder bootstrapped Easel without much success. The next two years, Kim tells us, were a series of pivots. Last summer, they finally created something that showed promise.
ShowMe is a simple iPad app that acts like a teacher’s whiteboard. It’s a blank white screen with a few colours for drawing and built-in audio.
If you want to create a quick lesson, like teaching someone how to solve X+4 =7, create a title, press play, draw, and talk. When you’re finished, the lesson will automatically be uploaded to ShowMe’s site, which students can peruse.
Although images can be placed on the white board, videos can not be embedded. Teachers can’t record videos of themselves either.
That’s on purpose. Kim wants ShowMe to be a content site and says videos distract both the educator and the listener. The listener becomes focused on what the educator looks like, and the educator spends too much time worrying about his or her appearance.
ShowMe has been growing quickly. Since last summer, 1.5 million whiteboard lessons have been added to ShowMe. They cover everything from 15-minute calculus classes to 30 second music tutorials. Kim also raised $1 million from SV Angel, Betaworks, Lerer Ventures and others.
Kim says its users are adding about 500,000 lessons every month. While he wouldn’t tell us how many users the site has, he said no one teacher is producing the majority of the lessons. “No one is making 1,000 or anything like that,” says Kim. He neglected to say how often the videos are being streamed.
Kim attributes the growth to the app’s usability and its adoption in the teaching community. “School teachers are the majority of our users; we’ve grown because those teachers push it out to other teachers,” he says. They’re using it for everything from tutoring sessions to class assignments.
There are a lot of education startups, but Kim thinks his product is different than ones like Khan Academy. “Those are top down. There’s one governing body that determines the curriculum. We have many teachers teaching different topics because everyone learns differently.”
Here’s a little kid teaching how to read music notes on a staff via ShowMe: