NY Startup Interview: John Lee, Co-founder/CTO, School Yourself

The following is an interview of John Lee, Co-founder/CTO, School Yourself.

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What Is Your Company

“Students are not engaged by boring, static textbooks, which can often cost upwards of $100. At School Yourself, we’re reinventing the textbook by creating the world’s most immersive and interactive books in math and science for middle and high school students, and making it affordable for everyone. We’d love to connect with investors and educators who are interested in the future of STEM education.”

What is School Yourself?

We’re developing brand new ways to interact with textbooks by recreating the ideal 1-on-1 tutoring experience in digital form. Our approach to solving this problem is two-fold: we’re making content that doesn’t bore you by providing a unique hands-on experience for even the most abstract subjects like calculus, and then looking at the tons of data you generate from using our interactive book to help you out on the topics you’re struggling with. Our content keeps our users engaged and goes way beyond what a printed book or an hour-long blackboard lecture can provide.

What were you doing before?

I was an engineer at Google for about 4 years working on various projects related to big data, mostly in search and automated question answering. Prior to that I was doing computer vision research at MIT for my M.Eng, where I got my undergrad degrees in CS and physics and also met the people I’d eventually start School Yourself with. So far, everyone on the team has known each other since our early college days.

Why does the world need your product? Why now?

Many students give up on math and science before reaching more advanced coursework, but in today’s world there’s a tremendous demand for these skills and not enough to people who are qualified to take these jobs.

Education is the only major industry that hasn’t really been touched by the remarkable advances in technology over the past decade. The printing press was a great advance in technology… in the 15th century. Six hundred years later, we’re still stuck trying to learn difficult math and science subjects from boring, static documents.

What keeps you motivated?

There’s a dire need in the world for more engineers and scientists. I’ve seen too many students giving up before even really trying because they felt that the basic math and science subjects were too hard for them, or they lacked the motivation to learn because it was so dry and boring. I’ve been there. At School Yourself, we’re making the products that we wish we had when we first had to learn this stuff in high school and college.

 

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