Anyone who’s struggled with an academic subject knows how valuable tutoring and study groups can be. OpenStudy understands this need of students around the world and has rolled out a social learning network where students can both get their questions answered and offer answers to others. The venture is still very early in its life cycle, but it’s experiencing impressive growth through strategic partnerships and a burgeoning network effect, which has the potential to truly take off.
In appropriate fashion, this online social learning startup began as an academic research project, which was helmed by Ashwin Ram and Preetha Ram, a Georgia Tech Professor and Emory University dean, respectively. After starting the venture in 2007, Ashwin and Preetha have subsequently been joined by an impressive team of technical experience, serial entrepreneurship, and marketing expertise. Their growth has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Georgia Research Alliance.
The company currently touts over 20,000 registered users who are getting 85% of their questions answered with the average question receiving 4.5 contributory responses. They’ve achieved much of this early success through strategic academic partnerships with universities like MIT, Yale, Notre Dame, NYU, and UC Irvine. The partnership with MIT OpenCourseWare, a web-based publication of nearly all MIT course content, really paved the way for OpenStudy to show how useful their technology can be when integrated into other websites. When embedded into any website, the OpenStudy app offers real-time collaborative study to a host of users with academic questions and expertise to help others.
A new source of growth for the company is in partnering with older academic websites created by teachers years ago, which can receive a surprising amount of traffic from Google search. OpenStudy has on the horizon several new partnerships with both independent websites and academic institutions. As they continue to grow they are looking to test a subscription-based premium instruction revenue model (think tutoring and private study groups) as well as a revenue stream from certification of select online academic courses and content. As the company has already seen some impressive growth since the launch of their public beta last September, be on the lookout for big news from this startup in 2011.