What is integrity? How do you find a missing gas valve in a system? How do you find instantaneous rate of change? Don’t ask me, ask Socratic. The e-learning company just raised a $6 million Series A from Shasta Ventures, Spark Capital, and the Omidyar Network and they are asking “What is the meaning of all this money?”
Founded two years ago by tech veterans Chris Pedregal and Shreyans Bhansali, the company allows students to ask questions. These questions are fairly detailed and there is obvious a bit of homework help going on here but generally the goal is to connect students, teachers, and mentors together in one happy Socratic dialectic. Questions like “What is DNA?” are answered by helpful experts who supply a one sentence answer and then expound on it over the course of the post.
It’s needless to say that the site is popular. About 500,000 users are asking millions of questions and one teacher, Ernest Z, has helped over a million students alone.
“When students turn to the internet for help, the sites that show up are usually unhelpful, unreliable, or hard to learn from,” said Bhansali. “The Socratic community, on the other hand, is built around the idea of learning and making learning accessible to all students. This means that content on Socratic is written so students can learn the underlying concepts and teach themselves what they need to learn.”
“We knew there were a ton of people in the world who cared deeply about students having access to free, high-quality educational content. And it was clear that there was tremendous student demand. But, when we looked online, we didn’t see a place where those people could come together as a community and collaboratively make that a reality,” said Bhansali.
The site’s initial goal was to bring the information posted by teachers around the world to a central location. It expanded into a Quora-like system soon after.
The site is humming along and after this raise will have a $7.5 million war chest. But we must ask, however, what defines success?
“Our dream is that using Socratic will be like having a great teacher sitting next to you all the time. This teacher will be your learning partner as you progress from elementary school to the day you stop learning (which is hopefully never),” said Bhansali.