Archive for 'Building eduFire'

World-class UI/UX skills? Wanna come help us change the world?

Posted on 31. Oct, 2008 by reg.

Hey all. We have an amazing opportunity here at eduFire for the right person. We’re looking for a world-class talent to join our small but growing team. I’ve listed the job description below. If this is you, we’d *love* to hear from you. If this *isn’t* you please feel free to spread to anyone who you think it might be a fit for. We’d be much obliged!

We’re incredibly excited about the future for eduFire and this person will have an opportunity to make a *huge* impact!!

-Jon

Lead UI/User Experience Designer at eduFire.com

“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” -William Butler Yeats

Do you want to change the world by making learning fun for students and empowering teachers around the world?

Are you fanatical about delivering world-class user experiences?

Would you like to join a small team where you’ll be the lead interface and user experience designer, working with two talented and experienced Rails developers and a customer-focused CEO?

You…

-Think in terms of tasks and users when designing applications
-Possess solid CSS skills and the ability to produce interfaces that are fast and work consistently across browsers
-Have a portfolio online of web *apps* that you’ve developed
-Aren’t scared off by code or the occasional controller
-Prefer to design in HTML rather than Photoshop (though you’re comfortable with Photoshop and Illustrator)
-Have experience using web analytics software to gather data that improves the user experience
-Are passionate about shipping products that delight customers and enjoy watching people use your product and learning from the experience (even when it’s painful)
-Live in the Bay Area or are willing to relocate

Oh, and you’re looking forward to having a massive impact on the direction of the product and the look and feel of the site.

Us…

-A small team of experienced professionals focused on doing one thing: Revolutionizing Education
-Recently funded by a top tier VC (take that economy!)
-Employ the “Getting Real” philosophy and engage in test-driven development and paired programming
-Looking to hire a lead UI/UX designer who can work closely with our CEO and two developers to continue to build a simple product that our passionate community can use to teach and learn
-Results-driven, we move fast and we don’t waste time with pointless meetings

Last but not least we have fun, love flexibility and enjoy working on a revenue-generating product that already has a lot of raving fans (check out http://edufire.com/forums and see what people are saying about us in real-time).

If you like how this sounds, please take a few minutes and read our blog (http://blog.edufire.com) and manifesto (http://tinyurl.com/5dhgqx) and spend some time on our site. If this resonates with you drop a line with ”eduFire Lead Designer” in the subject line to jobs at edufire dot com.  Please send us URLs of your work!

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eduFire now on Twitter

Posted on 09. Sep, 2008 by reg.

Yes, I know. It took us long enough. :)

eduFire now has its own Twitter account. This blog is a great way to stay in touch and for me to expound at length on all sorts of stuff (not entirely sure whether that’s a good or bad thing!). But we’re excited to use Twitter to communicate with our audience as well. It’s great for posting quick updates and news. If you’re on Twitter feel free to follow us at the link below (and we’ll probably follow you back!). Thanks!

eduFire on Twitter

(And if you’re like “What’s this Twitter stuff about?” you can check out the video on their homepage which should help to explain it.)

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The Fire is spreading: The latest addition to eduFire

Posted on 05. Sep, 2008 by reg.

You’re probably noticing a few new changes to eduFire today. We’ve dropped “Language” from our tagline so now it simply reads “Live Video Learning” and made some changes to our homepage. All of these reflect the fact that while eduFire will always be a language learning site, it is our intention (and has been since our start) to make eduFire more than just a language learning site.

So it’s with great excitement today that we announce our next vertical: test preparation. Test prep is an industry I’m very familiar with. Like many of you I’ve taken a bunch of tests in my day (PSAT, SAT, ACT, LSAT, GMAT, CMA, CFA Level One and probably a bunch of others I’m forgetting). In addition, I spent a couple of years working for Kaplan and even launched a very basic GMAT prep site back in 2000.

Test prep was always a natural fit for the eduFire model. Companies like Kaplan, Princeton Review and other smaller tutoring companies tend to charge their students a lot and not pay their tutors a lot, at least relatively speaking (e.g., when I worked for Kaplan I was paid $20/hour while my students were billed $100/hour). In addition, web-based tutoring works very well because many people who are studying for exams have very busy schedules and love the convenience of being able to study from home rather than having to drive to a tutoring center.

I’ll be saying a lot more about this space in the future. For now, this is only a “soft launch” in the sense that we’re working to make sure everything goes well with our initial group of tutors before promoting the service more heavily. In the meantime, I wanted to answer a few questions that might be on your mind about this direction:

#1 – Why did you decide to expand into test prep?

In short, because you asked us to. A while back we asked the community what they most wanted to see here on eduFire and the most common response we’ve gotten since then is that people wanted to see eduFire expand into other areas besides languages. Certainly it’s something that we’ve discussed doing since the very beginning and to hear you ask for it provided the proper confirmation for us that it was the best direction to go.

#2 – Does this mean you won’t focus as much attention on language learning anymore?

Most definitely not. If anything, we feel that offering additional subjects on eduFire makes our language learning offering even more compelling. For starters, we expect test prep teachers to bring us all sorts of good ideas that we can implement on the site and share with language teachers (and vice versa of course). In addition, many tutors are qualified to teach both languages and test prep here (especially when it comes to tests that are language-focused like the TOEFL). Finally, many people who will here about eduFire for test prep may also be interested in language instruction or vice versa. In short, we think expanding will make eduFire much better for our language tutors and students!

#3 – Are there other areas that you’re planning to expand into?

Yes, but we’re going to hold off on launching them (and announcing them) for a while so we can give the proper attention to languages and test prep. There have been many requests for other subjects but we feel it’s important to take one step at a time. In the meantime, you’re welcome to mention in your profile other subjects that you want to teach. As we see critical mass forming in a certain area that will make it more likely that we’ll expand our services in that direction. Again, it’s about what you as a community want to see!

#4 – How do I sign up as a test prep teacher?

If you haven’t signed up for eduFire yet, then that’s your first step. Once you’ve signed up as a tutor you can add both languages and exams to your profile. If you already have an account here then it’s as simple as going in to edit your profile. As much as possible try to stick with the naming conventions we’re using on the site (e.g., acronyms for exams) so that you get grouped in with other teachers properly. The system is set up to help you with this by auto-completing when you start typing in a subject.

#5 – What are the differences/benefits of prepping for a test on eduFire versus going to Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc.?

As a person who has logged thousands of hours in the classroom and previously taught and tutored for Kaplan I think I can speak pretty well to some of the differences and benefits. First, let’s start with a couple of differences:

Structure/Uniformity – Your tutoring session may not be as structured or uniform as a session at a major test prep provider. At most test prep companies instructors are controlled (sometimes tightly) as to what they can teach. At eduFire what you’ll find is a number of teachers who have many years experience teaching (some at Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc.) and who each bring their unique style to our site.

Virtual Tutoring – Virtual tutoring is certainly different than face-to-face tutoring. You’ll be interacting with your teacher via a webcam, VoIP, screensharing, etc. It might take a little bit of time to adjust to but the reports from people who learn this way are highly positive. The trade-off is that you won’t need to commute to your tutoring session, have more flexible times for learning and can take advantage of some cool technology that most traditional teachers don’t use.

Community-Based Filtering – At eduFire we don’t “hire” teachers. Instead teachers sign up and are vetted based on the quality of the sessions they conduct here and other information. This system has worked remarkably well for languages but it is an important difference to note as it means that it’s important to “research” your tutor before signing up for a session. We give tutors the ability to list credentials, have prior students write testimonials, post a welcome video, etc. to make this process easy.

Now for a few benefits of online tutoring:

Convenience – You simply can’t beat the convenience of online tutoring. Many people commute long distances to go to tutoring centers, especially those who don’t live in large cities. In addition, it can often be difficult to find tutors at certain hours because typically when you most want a tutor is when everyone in your hometown wants one too. At eduFire you can find tutors from around the world so you can get a tutor at virtually any hour of the day. And the best part? You never have to leave your home.

Choice – When you go to a tutoring company you’re typically given either no choice of who your tutor will be or the option to select from a small number of choices. At eduFire, you have a lot more choice already and that will only grow with time. You’ve now opened up your learning options from people in your hometown to people anywhere in the world. This is huge!

Transparency – Try this. Go into Kaplan and ask them for the evaluation forms from every student who’s been taught by the tutor you’re considering. Also, ask them to give you the chance to contact all these students. You’ll get an interesting response… At eduFire we make the feedback given by students available to you. What’s even better is that you have the opportunity to reach out to these people and ask them about a tutor you are considering. Simply put, transparency breeds a better-quality experience.

Cost – We don’t feel that this is the main selling point of online tutoring but the fact of the matter is, it is cheaper. Why is this? The main reason is that we’re not building in a huge spread between what we charge a student and what we pay a tutor (this usually varies from 2x to 10x at tutoring companies). Instead, we simply collect a small fee (15%) which allows teachers to charge less while still pocketing more money. Win-win for you and your tutor!

As you can see, we’re really excited about this new direction. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and please feel free to participate in our forums as there will be a lot of conversations about eduFire Test Prep there. Thanks again for supporting us. It means an incredible amount!

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Are you “insane” enough?

Posted on 25. Apr, 2008 by jon.

crazyBack when we were hatching the plans for eduFire I talked to more than a few people who were sure it wouldn’t work. One person (a successful guy who I respect) told me “Dude, you really think that will happen? I’d *never* invest in that.”

Then we went out and built what we said we were going to build and while we’re far from ultra-successful yet, people are using it and the feedback we’re receiving from tutors and students is overwhelmingly positive.

Now when I talk to most people their consensus is “that’s a pretty good idea.”

Which makes me wonder…are we missing something?

I think when a good percentage of people tell you you are insane (assuming of course, that you’re not *actually* insane) then it probably means you are indeed on to something.

I’m sure people told Ev he was insane when he was fooling around with Twitter (or Blogger for that matter).

I’m sure some people thought Stewart and Caterina were insane when they shifted from a video game to a photo sharing tool.

And I know a bunch of people told Pierre that he was insane…

“Don’t let people who you may respect and who you believe know what they’re talking about, don’t let them tell you it can’t be done, because often they will tell you it can’t be done, and it’s just because they don’t have the courage to try.”
-Pierre Omidyar

So I guess the question is when you’ve told your plans to someone recently have at least a few of them looked at you like you were insane? Or perhaps actually vocalized that opinion?

If not, maybe revising those plans is in order.

:)

Have a great weekend everybody!

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eduFire.com: The First 30 Days

Posted on 06. Apr, 2008 by jon.

eduFireHey all. It’s been a while since I’ve posted (which means we’ve been busy) but I wanted to drop everyone a line as we’ve been live for about 30 days now (plus or minus a few…no one is counting…). Here’s an update on what went down in the first month since the official launch of eduFire:

#1 – Lots of sessions with our tutors! An open marketplace for in-browser real-time learning hasn’t existed before. When you’re doing something new it can often be slooooooow going at first. After all, you get a lot of questions, hesitant people, etc. We had no idea what to expect and have been pleasantly surprised at what’s transpired. Some of the most surprising things were a few international sessions (we’re not really set up for that but it’s been cool to see people doing video chat across the pond!), how excited teachers are getting about the proposition of learning from home and the relatively small number of technical complaints we’ve had. Things haven’t been perfect and it will take some time to nail the user experience but what we’ve seen so far has been very encouraging.

If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend you to head on over to eduFire and sign up for a session with one of our tutors. You’ll literally be making history by being one of the first people ever to learn in real-time over the Web. It’s a blast and a great way to help support the tutors who have been so passionate (and patient!) during these first few weeks of getting off the ground. (In fact, the most common request we get from tutors is “Send me more students!!!” :))

#2 – Over 400 tutors signed up. For me the most fun part of the first 30 days has been getting to know our tutors. We have an amazing community already forming and that’s evident in several places on the site, most notably in our community forums which have almost 600 posts so far. Some of the most active tutors have been Spring, Patrice, Candy, Marco, Angeles…oh boy, I better stop there. I know I’m already leaving a lot of people out! Anyway, I’ve talked/emailed/eduFired with almost all of these people personally and it’s been a total pleasure. I’m so excited to watch this community grow!

#3 – Flashcards! One of my favorite developments of the last 30 days is the launch of flashcards. You can think of flashcards as a fun and easy way to practice your vocabulary in between eduFire lessons. Flashcards are totally free and what I really like is that you can challenge your friends and go for the top score in any language or individual set (e.g., just try and knock Carrie off in Spanish flashcards…I dare ya!). Flashcards just launched a few days ago so it’s too early to predict how popular they’ll get but the early indications are good (the most common word used in response to flashcards so far? “Addictive”).

#4 – A little buzz for eduFire. We’ve been keeping the site pretty low profile for now but mentions of the site are sneaking out here and there. Venture Hacks featured us (thanks Nivi!) and I noticed my buddy Dave over at TeachStreet wrote up a nice little post (kudos on the recent funding Dave!). Even got a quick mention in the LA Business Journal. More to come on that front as we start getting the word out now that we’re live.

Thanks to any of you who’ve supported us in getting here. Something big’s afoot I feel and what excites me most is not what that means for any of us here at eduFire but rather for the community of tutors and students we serve. Ultimately, we’re building eduFire for them in the hopes that education and learning can be more fun than it has ever been before and that we can help to create a future full of “entrepreneurial educators”, people getting paid to teach what they love.

I hope to see you on the site soon!

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What eating locally has to do with eduFire

Posted on 17. Jan, 2008 by jon.

Eating locallyEating local is all the rage these days as books like The 100-Mile Diet become increasingly popular. But eating local is only necessary because over the last few centuries (and especially the last couple of decades) it has become possible to have a meal composed of foods that have come to us from all around the planet. And while in some ways this can be a very good thing people are starting to realize that shipping foods thousands of miles has a cost as well.

So what the hell does this have to do with eduFire? :)

Well, when it comes to our education most people have been on a 100 Mile Diet, or rather a 10 Mile Diet, for their entire lives? Think about it…how many of your teachers growing up lived more than 10 miles from you? Chances are, for most of us, that answer is either zero or at most a small handful.

Why is that important? Well think about the food example…imagine if you grew up eating only foods produced within 10 miles of where you live. And then all of a sudden…you now could eat any food produced anywhere on the planet! How would that change things? The answer is obvious…it’d be a radical shift in how you view your food.

I feel the same is true for education. The fact that most people have learned most of the their lives from people in close proximity to them means that there’s a good chance that they’ve developed a somewhat limited set of perspectives. And there are certainly hundreds/thousands/millions of people that they could have learned from who weren’t available to them for purely geographical reasons.

We’re aiming to change that.

Imagine how different your childhood would have been if in the morning you would have had a physics lessons from rock star geophysicist in Germany, then learned Mandarin from someone in Shanghai in the afternoon, then wrapped up the evening with a lesson in South American history from someone living in Buenos Aires. How frickin’ cool would that be?

The technology to do this has only recently emerged. And I don’t think any of us (myself included) fully realize just how much it’s going to change things. Just like the dude at the start of the century couldn’t fathom eating golden pineapple from Hawaii and goji berries from Tibet I don’t we can fully fathom just how much things are going to change in the upcoming years and decades.

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The best way to learn a language…for now

Posted on 12. Jan, 2008 by jon.

eduFireWe’re burning the midnight oil at eduFire these days getting ready for our upcoming launch. We brought in the first wave of testers over the last couple of weeks (thanks to all of you who helped!) and the feedback was great. You’ll be hearing more as we get closer to lifting the gates.

In the meantime, as a bit of a teaser we’ve launched a new language learning blog at blog.edufire.com. We’ve spent a ton of time scouring the net for the best resources you can use to learn the language of your choice. Stuff like One Semester Spanish Love Song, Learning French with Hugh Grant, How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour by Tim Ferriss and of course the infamous 10 Things to Say to Pick Up a Girl (which has been viewed 230k times on YouTube).

We’ll be adding 100s of additional articles, podcasts and videos in the coming weeks so if you have any suggestions for stuff we shouldn’t miss please post in the comments. We’re hoping to make the blog one of the best resources out there for learning languages which should nicely complement what we’ll be rolling out in a little bit. We’d love your feedback too so if there’s anything you think we can do to make it even more helpful to you please let us know.

Have a great weekend everyone!

P.S. If you’re on Facebook and learning Spanish you can install our “Learn Spanish @ eduFire” Facebook application by clicking the link below. It’ll update your Facebook profile with new posts to the blog and allow you to easily share great Spanish learning resources with your Facebook friends. We’ll be adding applications for our other languages shortly!

Learn Spanish @ eduFire Facebook Application

P.P.S. Totally forgot to mention that Kareem made it dead simple to subscribe to the blog for the language you’re learning. Just go to http://blog.edufire.com/subscribe-to-a-language/ and put in your email address or click on the RSS link to add it to your feedreader. Then sit back and let the learning begin!

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Open-Sourcing the Start-up: Unaccredited Investors

Posted on 03. Dec, 2007 by jon.

One subject that often comes up in start-up financing is the issue of unaccredited investors. An unaccredited investor is someone who the government has deemed as possibly less sophisticated and therefore more in need of protection than a more sophisticated “accredited” investor. For a listing of the ways an investor qualifies as accredited you can check Rule 501 of Regulation D here. The two most likely qualifications are probably this one:

a natural person who has individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million at the time of the purchase;

and this one:

# a natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year; or

So what happens if you have someone who wants to invest who doesn’t fit any of the criteria for accreditation? Can they still invest? Some people have written that they can’t, or at least shouldn’t. For example, check out blog posts from Jeff Clavier and Brad Feld on the subject. Reading through these makes it seem pretty scary to take money from unaccredited investors. But it’s not necessarily always a terrible idea.

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A LAWYER. PLEASE USE THE FOLLOWING ONLY AS A LEAD-IN TO A CONVERSATION OVER COFFEE WITH YOUR ATTORNEY. THIS ISN’T LEGAL ADVICE.

OK, so what happens when your Uncle Bob wants to invest and you’d really like to have him invested in your company despite the fact he’s not a miliionaire? Well, first you have to be really, really careful. You definitely can’t exceed 35 Uncle Bob-type investors in your company. And if you want to be super-safe you really need to get a Private Placement Memo drafted and provide financial statements to these investors. However, the cost of that is often prohibitive which would again seem to exclude unaccredited investors from investing.

However, it’s not necessarily true that have a few unaccredited investors is an absolute no-no. Case law has generally held that so long as the number of unaccredited investors is kept reasonably low and there isn’t other general shadiness going on (e.g., fraudulent activity, etc.) then you probably aren’t in violation of securities laws. However, this is where it starts to get complex (and where you need to make that call to your lawyer). You see each state has its own laws on this so if you are receiving investment from multiple states then it’s possible that one of your unaccredited investments might be perfectly fine while another one might cause an issue (such as the investor having the right to ask for a refund of their investment). It also could be a problem to have a large number of unaccredited investors if you end up getting acquired.

At the end of the day, there are two things I’d emphasize. First, this is a complex topic that you definitely want to have good legal representation for. Second, while it is possible to take money from unaccredited investors you need to be careful when you do and should be well-aware of the risks involved.

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EduFire + Our first “press”

Posted on 28. Nov, 2007 by jon.

EduFireIt’s been a while since I’ve blogged as we’ve been heads down on getting a product to market but I wanted to offer a quick update.

First of all, we’ve got a brand new name. We’ll be launching next year as EduFire.com. This name was inspired by the Yeats quote “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” That quote does a great job of conveying our feeling about education. Education/learning isn’t about just memorizing facts and figures. Rather it’s about inspiring new ways of thinking and getting people to spread their wisdom with others and realize their genius. To the extent that we can help to enable that we’ve done our job. :)

As for an update, I was gonna write one but this interview we did recently with Brian Norgard (founder of Newroo which was acquired by Fox Interactive last year and eventually became MySpace News) sums it up pretty well. Check it out:

Startup Chat #2: EduFire

We’re launching privately to a select group of language tutors and students this month. If you’re interested in being a part of our beta drop me a line at jon @ edurev dot com.

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What we’re reading

Posted on 29. Aug, 2007 by jon.

A few selected articles that have come across our wire recently:

Microsoft’s Class Action – Very interesting look into the impact that technology can have on the classroom. It’s also interesting to see the movement of corporate America (in this case Microsoft) into public education and ponder what that means.

Does Easy Do It? Children, Games, and Learning – Want to see the future of education? Look at gaming. This article gives some hints as to why the way people learn in the future will look a lot more like the way people “play” today.

Diversity in Learning: A Vision for the New Millennium – Interesting to see how and why traditional education not only does not serve to increase diversity in learning but rather serves to squash it.

Come across more articles like these? Post them in the comments or e-mail them to jon @ edurev dot com. Thanks!

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