In 2012, Parul Gupta was working at IBM Research and one of the projects she was working on required machine learning. With a fulltime job and a two-year-old child, it was difficult for him to step outside and learn the new curriculum.
She did a few courses on online learning platforms such as Coursera and Udacity, where she completed one of Coursera founder Andrew Ng’s early MOOC (Large-Scale Open Online Courses), which is well known in the field of machine learning. This experience made him think about how powerful the e-learning space is.
Parul told BusinessKhabar,
“Despite being stuck in traffic, the opportunity to learn from the best experts in the world made me realize that education should be more open and accessible to those who want to learn regardless of their living circumstances. I wanted to make it my life’s work. “
Meanwhile, Wharton School graduate Gautam Tambe, who worked with edtech company InMobi, was following the MOOC movement in the US. Gautam and Parul Common met through friends and started discussing ideas and spent a lot of time with users to understand their online learning behaviors and learning needs.
The pair debuted their first prototype in July 2013 with a few interns.
Springboard was initially started as Sliderool, an aggregator for online courses, but then developed as a mentorship-leading learning platform, focused on job outcomes.
Sliderule was incorporated in the US as the co-founders were trying to build it for the global market. It was presented with the aim of collecting data about all online courses and comparing and selecting it to learners.
At the time, the Wharton professor emailed Sliderule, his entire online class of nearly 40,000 students, the day he launched it.
“We were already looking at introducing mentors for learners and engaging with employers when it was chosen by Microsoft Accelerator,” says Parul. By the end of 2014, we started mentoring as a core part of our curated learning programs. ”
In the first six months with the aggregator model, it saw about 50 users a day, which increased to a few hundred and then reached about a few thousand users in a month. But according to its claim when it launched its curated learning path, it was a top hit chart on Hacker News. It got 20,000 users in a single day, causing the server to crash.
The team kept talking to their users about how each version is working and what their pen-points are. This team was developing and adapting its model, which is 1: 1 mentor-directed online learning, based on its feedback until the current model arrived.
Shortly after Springboard increased seed funding, it shifted its headquarters from Bengaluru to San Francisco. Investors backing the startup were then LinkedIn co-founder Alan Blue and The Princeton Review founder John Katzman.
Sliderool was relaunched as a springboard in December 2015 after focusing on the current mentor-directed model of online education. In March 2019, it opened a dedicated Indian office with a focus on the Indian market.
Today, it includes Naveen Tiwari, founder and CEO of InMobi, Professor Karthik Hosnagar of Wharton School, leading venture capital firms Telstra Ventures, Vulcan Capital, SJF Ventures, Costano Ventures, Pearson Ventures, Reach Capital, International Finance Corporation (IFC), 500 Startups, Blue Fog Capital and Learn Capital are associated as investors.
Focus on students
So far, Springboard claims to have served around 20,000 students in more than 100 countries around the world through its paid courses, and many millions of students through its free resources. It claims that many graduates have worked with companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn and Boeing.
Springboard has coached corporate teams at Visa, Gusto and The North Face.
“Entrepreneurship is definitely one of the most challenging and fulfilling things I have done in my life. The mission and impact we see every day is that as an organization we are able to make our mark in that world and to make an impact is truly satisfying and humbling. “