Customer communities are common today to service the tech-savvy, "social" customer. It's where they can share and interact with the brand and one other, learn about the brand's products and services, and the brand can facilitate peer-to-peer interaction and support. Today's tech-savvy, social students can now get similar support.
"Kids have helped each other with homework since forever. Why shouldn't they do so with the use of the newest technologies?" says Michał Borkowski, CEO and co-founder of Brainly, the free social homework help platform. "Kids will use technology to get help with their school problems-there's no doubt about that, and trying to stop them seems foolish. We decided to offer them the tools that guarantee educational and curriculum-tailored content. It was amazing to see how they actually started to enjoy connecting and working together on the homework problems."
The Kraków Poland-based educational startup takes what's best about traditional, offline student collaboration and brings it to the online space. The students who use Brainly-mainly 13- to 18-year-olds-share their personal brand. For instance, each user enjoys their own success learning and teaching others on Brainly. The most ambitious become moderators and gain more out of it from the points they earn, much like gamification (points, rankings, prizes) in many customer communities. Other similar qualities of Brainly compared to customer communities include Q&A, comments, profiles, and chat.
The seeds for Brainly were planted in 2009, and the social learning platform launched in 2012 following the successful performance of the concept in Europe. At the time, Brainly collaborated with Google Poland to reach out to students with a creative example of how the site works. "We organized Code: Girls 2012, a contest aimed to encourage middle and high school girls to try their hand at coding," Borkowski says. "They were supposed to write an application, and could get help from Google engineers with the use of Brainly. The winner not only created a great piece of software, but also won an internship at Google."
Brainly is organized by school subjects and grades, including elementary, middle, and high school. There are more than 300 moderators who volunteer to check the quality of the content, including experienced users such as parents, teachers, doctors, and subject specialists.
"We reach over 20 million unique users every month from all around the globe," says Borkowski, whose co-founders Tomasz Kraus (CTO) and Łukasz Haluch are his friends from Poland, and who together noticed a need for an online tool for sharing school knowledge. "We were all engaged in the education technology before Brainly. We had technology and business studies backgrounds and started to look for something to create of our own. Everything gained speed in 2012 when we got funding from Point Nine Capital and boosted international expansion. From that point, it's all been developing very quickly."
Not only is the platform gaining ground with its online user base, but it recently reached 1 million downloads of its mobile app. In addition, Brainly has added several language versions for different countries and cultures, including brainly.com (English), znanija.com (Russian), zadane.pl (Polish), misdeberes.es (Spanish), brainly.com.br (Portuguese), nosdevoirs.fr (French), eodev.com (Turkish), brainly.in (English for India), brainly.co.id (Indonesian), brainly.ro (Romanian), brainly.ph (English for Philippines), brainly-thailand.com (Thai), and Brainly.it (Italian).
"We are able to best adapt to the needs of students from different countries and their curriculum," says Jakub Piwnik, Brainly's country manager for the USA. "Brainly.com is an English version, which is dedicated for students from USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and more."
The biggest benefit of Brainly is "the fact that users are free to exchange their knowledge and skills with their peers no matter where they are, what kind of school they attend, or what's their background," Borkowski says. He also points out that as each community grows, the speed of interaction between users grows as well. In fact, the site boasts that users typically get answers to their questions within 10 minutes.
"For now, our main goal is to gain global awareness and reach as many students around the world as possible," Borkowski says. "This means developing our new language versions, including the English one. Within the next two years we expect to double the number of our users. WIth the scalable rollout model we have, this is quite achievable. Soon we hope to be the most recognizable educational website in the world."
Social Startups is a weekly Social Media Today column written by Shay Moser about the newest and most innovative social companies. Look for the next installment next Wednesday morning. Logos by Jesse Wells.