KIMO: Personalizing Education
Rens ter Weijde is the co-founder & CEO, KIMO, a Dutch AI venture focused on personalized education. In addition, Rens is also a non-executive board member in other companies. He holds a degree in psychology, business, and Artificial Intelligence. An avid fan of climbing, surfing, and kitesurfing, this passionate entrepreneur is a multi-tasker and believes in bolstering revolutionary achievements in the field of education through technology.
He spoke on array of topics on the edtech front. Excerpts from the interview:
Conception of KIMO
Says Rens that three main reasons led to the conception of KIMO. Firstly, there was a nagging worry about the speed of transformation, as many of us walk around feeling we should ‘learn more’. Secondly, people study anytime, anywhere, mostly with short content instead of MOOCs (e.g., articles, podcasts, videos). “They do this for 5 hours per week (~26x more time per year than companies allocate) and spend 0,24 EUR per hour (~208x times less than companies allocate, assuming 50 EUR/hour).” Thirdly, people often search for immediately relevant insights for work and/or out of curiosity, not the entire courses. “Even when they enter courses, most people scroll through, watch at 2X speed, and Google a lot on the side. This led us to the launch of KIMO, a personalized education portal.”
Strategizing Edtech market
“COVID-19 definitely impacted the market and woke up many investors to the digital opportunities ahead but many of the needed transformations were clear before COVID-19 as well. For us, nothing changed except that companies became more aware of the need and the space got busier.”
AI for creating digital learning content
Noting that personalized learning is the future in converting online learning more effective and engaging, Rens observes that in practice, this means that the learning platform should understand your context as a user, and what your preferences are. “Behind the scenes, it means that you need enough items to recommend, in different lengths, formats, price points etc. So, this smart content recommendation system – which might also take desired jobs into account in the future – is what we mean here.”
A Passionate Leader
“Personally, I’m 200% passionate about building the next frontier in education. Role model the needed change.” Adding that he is a staunch believer that the education market needs changes in many ways, Rens cites an example, high quality education is often costly and (still) doesn’t scale well enough, online learning materials are often one-size-fits-all and not engaging at all, and there’s not enough guidance for people with doubts and questions. With KIMO, we aim to build that next frontier. The mission to be the thought leader here, nothing less. I wouldn’t be interested otherwise.”
Says Rens jokingly that one of his clients changed my name from ‘Rens’ to ‘Relentless’. “It was a joke but jokes often have meaning. I have a long history in martial arts, so realized then that I probably bring some of that mindset to the table. So, in short: discipline, energy, and an ability to learn new things very quickly. It comes at a cost though, I’m impatient and can get frustrated when others don’t show the same mindset.”
This technology enthusiast points out that his main takeaway is often that it isn’t about you, it’s about who you work for. You simply can’t let your personal fears interfere with your mission and impact. I’m not saying ignore your feelings, but I do think the right focus is outside your home door. Focus on the impact you are making and realize your fears will also stop your impact from happening if you let them control you.”
Three main trends for the year 2022: firstly, 2022 is obviously the year of mixed reality and the metaverse. This will bring many educational opportunities, such as new types of engagement on online learning events in 3D virtual worlds. Secondly, I see companies experimenting with ancient pricing models. For example, where books had a price per book – with lots of legal justifications for the model – now the first subscription models are appearing all around. Online education is also in flux, as prices for online courses can have a 500X difference (compare ex: Harvard with Udemy). Thirdly, AI and big data will make personalized education a reality for the first firms. The last one is where our focus is.
The Success Mantra
Rens asks young entrepreneurs to build a business where they can focus on impact. “Don’t settle for less.” He suggests them to have a purpose along with profit. “The game is simply more fun and relevant that way. It’s easier to stay motivated, easier to get funding, and easier to shape the right ecosystem around your organization.”