Born in the 80’s, I — the writer of this piece — had had a very hard time learning science subjects in school. I was below average at Physics and Biology, poor in Maths and very poor in Chemistry. Teachers had no idea either how to teach students through experiments, as Indian education system was not much developed then.
So, I had no option but to learn things by heart. I would learn by heart why a stone came down when it was thrown up in the air and how rain was formed (I still remember the day when my Physics teacher asked me to explain how rain was formed when I was in the 10th standard. I was literally sweating to vomit the answer I had painstakingly committed to memory the night before).
As a result, my grades went down as I graduated from lower classes to higher classes. And with no qualms, I must admit I am still poor at science.
But gone are those days. Nowadays, students are so fortunate that they have all kinds of cutting-edge technologies to aid learning. With e-learning, video-based learning and learning kits making ways to school, they have no reason to fail or under-perform academically.
That said, the presence of umpteen edtech startups in the market has not really solved the problems yet. It is high time new technologies took reign.
Here are two young entrepreneurs from India looking to bring that Paradigm Shift you are looking for. And their innovation has won them recognitions from some of industry’s top-notch people.
“After my first venture CheersMate.in, I wanted to work on something more impactful and had a keen interest to change the education sector. It has been a stagnant industry which needs to be disrupted. In Silicon Valley I first experienced virtual reality (VR) and during a hackathon, I was able to connect the dots between education and VR. There the idea to start off Paradigm Shift was born,” Co-founder and CEO Dhruv Washishth, who started the company along with Utkarsh Sinha a few months ago, tells me.
The startup uses VR and augmented reality (AR) technologies to make education a lot more interactive, engaging and fun. Paradigm Shift is working on an Android-based VR app which is a key component of its tool.
“You download the app on your phone, place the handset inside a Google Cardboard and start learning. Imagine learning Chemistry and Physics or even the planetary system by looking and interacting with the material rather than just reading from books,” he says.
Paradigm Shift was recently selected by noted venture capitalist Tim Draper as the best VR idea. It also won the overall championship at a competition at Draper University in San Francisco. The startup was also picked by Boost VC for its accelerator programme in Silicon Valley and received an undisclosed amount in pre-seed funding.
Washishth claims that his startup is already getting interests from different universities. “We have had interest from my alma mater Christ University in Bangalore to collaborate with us. We are also having discussions with AltSchool in San Francisco, Stanford University and University of Colorado. We plan to tie up with various institutions to take the product forward and make learning fun for students rather than something they dread.”
As of now, the learning content is prepared in-house. Going forward, the startup plans to rope in professors from noted universities to prepare the education content.
The company follows a subscription model, where it charges US$20 per student per year. Its initial target markets are the US and India.
According to Paradigm Shift, there is a huge scope for the product and that Indian educational institutions are willing to adopt it. “Not everyone knows about the possible applications of our product just yet, but there is a huge scope, especially with affordable hardware such as the Google cardboard being available,” Washishth notes.
Washishth has long been deeply involved with the startup ecosystem in India, spearheading new initiatives at The Indus Entrepreneurs, (TiE) Bangalore, launching AngelHack in India, and building Startup Festival, a leading startup event in Bangalore.
“On the personal front, I have varied interests. I have been very interested in the world of venture capital and have been studying about it and talking to very interesting people in the valley regarding it, especially in the Impact investing space,” he says.
His partner Sinha (CTO) is an alum of the Carnegie Mellon University and has a strong technology background. He has previously won the AngelHack hackathon in India and has presented at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.