Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business. Aims To Revolutionize Learning Through Crowdsourcing

It’s undeniable how the Internet has revolutionized education, especially with the use of online video learning through sites such as Khan Academy. But while there is plenty of great educational material out there on the Web, the problem is locating it; in fact, it is said that about 66-percent of time spent learning online is wasted simply looking for the right Internet sources. But Chicago-based startup MentorMob ( wants to change that – the free, community-based collaborative service aims to aggregate and organize the best online educational content on any topic, so it’s easier to find.

“The Internet is the first place most people turn to find information and learn virtually anything, but there’s no sense of organization — you have to stumble through, often running into dead ends along the way,” says Kris Chinosorn, who started MentorMob with fellow University of Illinois graduate and co-founder Vince Leung. “At MentorMob, our community members sort through all the content, choose the best snippets and lace them together into a step-by-step course. With MentorMob, you spend more time learning and less time searching.”

Founded in 2010, MentorMob essentially curates and aggregates content such as YouTube videos, Wikipedia and articles into intuitive, how-to courses or what they call “learning playlists”. This makes it easy to find and learn a new skill, hobby or technique, say, salsa dancing, golf or a new language. These playlists can even be embedded into any website through a widget, enabling any site to share relevant material to enhance existing content.  And through its Wikipedia-like crowdsourcing platform – each topical category, known as a Mob, is maintained by subject matter experts known as Mentors – the playlists continually gets improved upon. Which means you’ll be learning continually, as well.

Learning From Others

Chinosorn, a prolific “hobby collector”, and Leung, an engineer, became friends at the University of Illinois and both worked on several startups prior to starting MentorMob. One day Leung was sharing  his experience and time in – an online community where travelers connect with local volunteers who are willing to offer free accommodations – with Chinosorn. Chinosorn then asked him, “If there are people willing to let a ‘stranger’ stay in their home for free, why wouldn’t more experienced people be willing to teach less experienced people how to do something they love to do for free?” That would become the basis for MentorMob.

Today, the site’s founders were driven by Malcolm Gladwell’s premise that it takes 10,000 hours of learning to become an expert in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success” and looks towards sparking “a revolution in the way human knowledge is transferred by turning the power of crowdsourcing loose on the learning process”.

Its business model is focused around two sources of revenue – advertising, as well as potentially the use of the service as an institutional, B2B, or internal company training tool using the Software as a Service (SaaS) model for organizational learning (which is in an early stage of development).

MentorMob is bootstrapped and has 12 employees.  The company is currently seeking first-round venture capital and institutional funding.

Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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