Featured Startup Pitch: MentorMob—Crowdsourcing online education and learning through ‘Learning Playlists’

By Editor October 31, 2011


Company: MentorMob

Website: www.mentormob.com

Founders: Vince Leung and Kris Chinosorn

Headquarters: Chicago

Year Founded: 2010

Twitter: @MentorMob

Brief Company Description: MentorMob simplifies learning any topic by organizing content from anywhere on the web into a step-by-step format called a Learning Playlist.

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Vince_Leung-MentorMobBy Vince Leung, co-founder and CTO

Product Overview

MentorMob, founded in 2010, seeks to achieve nothing less than a revolution in the way human knowledge is transferred by turning the power of crowdsourcing loose on the learning process. Its website at www.mentormob.com is a free, community-powered repository of information on any skill, hobby or subject in which the community wishes to engage—a resource that is accessible anytime, anywhere. MentorMob seeks to bring the sense of discovery, fun, and “addictiveness” back into learning while making it extremely easy. The potential for MentorMob to impact individuals, companies, organizations and society in general is significant.

MentorMob’s learning modules are called Learning Playlists that users can view at their own pace without registering for an account. Any registered user can create new playlists or add to, comment on, or re-order the steps in existing Playlists. Presently, content in each Playlist comes from the web in the form of articles, videos, slides and other media forms.

Like Wikipedia, Playlists are collaborative—they reflect the combined wisdom of volunteer contributors, with the best ways of learning rising to the top. It is estimated that the crowdsourced nature of MentorMob will result in a three-fold increase in learning power for users. Now in private beta, MentorMob expects to go into its full release in early Q4 of this year.

Founders’ Story

Kris and I met at the University of Illinois in Champaign. I graduated with a Computer Engineering degree while Kris graduated with a Biology degree. After graduation we both moved to California for work—I as a firmware engineer at HP and Kris in real estate in the SF Bay Area. At that time Kris became connected with the “PayPal Mafia,” a group of serial entrepreneurs who founded PayPal and went on to found notable companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Yelp.  Kris and I saw the rising trend in turning to the Internet to learn everything but realized the disorganized nature of learning any topic, such as how to play guitar, online. We decided to build a platform that would remove the wasted time and frustration of searching for the information to learn online, and thus was born MentorMob. The concept is simple, harness the existing information around the web by organizing it into a step-by-step format called a Learning Playlist. To make the platform scalable, it is open to anyone to create, edit, and improve these Learning Playlists, similar to how Wikipedia operates.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

-Promoting Learning Playlists in highly sought-after verticals by online users.

-Community Management.

-SaaS (software as a service) offering will broaden MentorMob’s brand and platform into institutional learning such as schools and corporations.

-Allowing anyone who wants to showcase a playlist on their website with MentorMob’s unique Learning Playlist widget, which can be embedded just like a YouTube video.

How We Differentiate from the Competition

Unlike traditional online gateways to learning such as search engines and bulletin boards, MentorMob content is presented in a structured and ordered fashion. Learning Playlists, the basic MentorMob learning unit, contain elements that are viewed sequentially to learn the desired skill. Playlists are edited by the community and therefore collaborative.

The vast majority of structured learning resources on the Internet is formal in nature and offered by schools and private learning companies. MentorMob, while less formal, is flexible enough to support any kind of topic, from “How to play a guitar” to “How to identify and contain common blood pathogens.”

Adding to MentorMob’s appeal, Playlists can be taken off the site and embedded into any third-party website as a widget to complement or showcase the site’s product and service offerings.

Business Model

Despite its free use philosophy, MentorMob is uniquely positioned to support two strong sources of revenue. First is advertising: because of the sequential nature of MentorMob learning, it’s possible to target users by their education level. Guitar manufacturers, for example, can advertise products to novices that would be of less interest to accomplished musicians at higher levels of learning.

A second source, now in an early stage of development, is the use of MentorMob as an institutional, B2B, or internal company training tool using the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Organizational learning in the form of private Playlists can be developed by customers for virtually any kind of training.

Current Needs

MentorMob is looking for experienced developers and business development folks. We are currently in the process of fundraising and open to new introductions.

MentorMob – www.mentormob.com