We’ve been wondering what Seattle area entrepreneur Bryan Starbuck has been building over the past few months, first encountering the stealthy unnamed education startup last fall. A former Microsoft developer who sold the online recruiting company TalentSpring last year to Talent Technology, Starbuck today took the wraps off his new company, Empower.me.
Designed to make learning fun for 5th to 12th graders, Empower.me’s service helps kids improve homework and grades; prepare for SATs and ACTs; learn personal finance; and get connected with a possible career.
But here’s the real kicker: Kids can earn money from their parents for doing well. For each learning video they watch and multiple choice quiz that follows, kids can earn $3 to $5 from their parents. Parents can cap the amount a kid can receive for the videos, say at $1o per week.
“We are fairly unique because we allow teens to unlock a bit of extra spending money from their parents after they achieve strong learning goals,” said Starbuck, adding that the site has about 3,500 learning videos and more than 500 multiple choice tests. The service also supports Khan Academy and TED conference videos.
We’ve seen a lot of activity in the online education arena in recent months, most recently the investment of $10 million by Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt and others in Washington, D.C.-based EverFi earlier this week.
Starbuck said that about 90 percent of online education companies focus on elementary-aged students. EverFi, for example, focuses on 4th to 6th graders, mostly in the financial education realm, though it does have additional programs in alcohol abuse education and social media for those in high school and college.
“We have nearly complete coverage of school — math, biology, sciences, chemistry, history, physics, art history, etc.,” says Starbuck. “We also cover life skills and a big world outside of academics.”
Starbuck notes that parents today have challenges not seen before, namely the intense usage of mobile devices. Teenagers on average spend 31 hours per week online, which equates to about 124 hours per month.
“After teens finish school and homework, they often go directly to “Friends, fun and entertainment” — meaning Facebook, YouTube, games, etc.” he said.
Kids who utilize Empower.me, he said, can use the power of the Internet to find out about everything from Wall Street to black holes to the economic crisis in Europe.