From The Trenches: Interview With Global Learning XPRIZE Finalist, Pubbly

An Interview With Global Learning XPRIZE Finalist, Pubbly

Recently, LA Startups had the opportunity to sit down with Josh Powe, the lead advisor for Pubbly, a division of Curriculum Concepts International (CCI), to discuss how the Pubbly team put to work its $1 million Global Learning XPRIZE award and what its plans are for the future.

What is Pubbly?

First a bit of background; Pubbly is a digital learning platform startup whose mission is to improve access to education through innovative technology solutions. The inspiration behind Pubbly is simple. The team recognized the global need for high-quality, engaging, digital content readily accessible to learners around the world.

We already know what you’re thinking – there is plenty of educational content readily available online for all age groups. However, most of it does not go beyond a digital page turn. Pubbly aims to take digital static content and recreate the experience you get when a parent or loved one is reading to a child e.g. sound effects, movement, colors and much more.

More importantly, Pubbly is doing its part to combat declining reading rates in K-12 students. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reports that children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or even drop out entirely.

It’s a no brainer, the need for interactive, well-curated educational digital content is real. Next up, we’ll get the inside scoop from Josh on what’s next for Pubbly and how you can help make a positive impact on the L.A. community.  

Tell us about your XPRIZE experience?

Working with the XPRIZE team was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It enabled us to engage with the L.A. tech community and allowed us access to some of the best and brightest minds in the intersection of technology and world problem-solving.

The funding we received helped us cover the cost of developing more than 3,000 educational activities that were deployed via a tablet device in remote areas of Tanzania. All activities were created in the local language of Swahili, and it helped our team demonstrate that well-designed interactive digital content can make a difference for children that never had an opportunity to attend school.

What is Pubbly currently focused on?

As an early-stage venture, we are currently hyper-focused on our official launch, which is planned for Q1 in 2020! Pubbly will be available via the web and will be compatible with desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. Users have the option to engage with Pubbly in two ways. Parents can purchase a subscription to the Pubbly platform for use with their own children.

Currently, we have all different types of books and content ready for consumption for ages four-plus. Second, publishers, school districts and other educational resource providers can work with us to draw from our growing library of content or even partner with our team to build out their own content using Pubbly design tools, which do not require prior knowledge of coding and/or programming. We are still working out price structure, but the company plans to offer both free and fee-based content solutions.  In addition, there will be a charitable aspect of Pubbly that will donate Pubbly subscriptions to children and/or organizations in need

What inspired the Kickstarter?

We launched our Kickstarter in an effort to pilot a series of graphic novels tailored for young learners who struggle with reading, including those that may have learning disabilities and those who are learning English as a second language. The initial group of 30 launch titles includes classics such as Don Quixote, Black Beauty The Count of Monte Cristo, Great Expectations and more, and includes selections across a variety of literary genres, from biographies to myths and legends. These titles have complex themes but are literary classics all young-adults should be able to read, most importantly, comprehend and discuss. 

The titles we chose were originally developed as a print series for L.A. and California schools by our parent company CCI. They have fewer words on the page, feature creative images and are presented in a way that aids incomprehension. The new digital format features professional voice overs and will give students an additional way to explore and discuss the content at their own pace. 

In addition, we are excited to announce that through Kickstarter, an anonymous donor has sponsored 50 classrooms in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Through this sponsorship, a pledge of $9,949 was made and will enable the roll-out of Pubbly in 50 classrooms across the district planned for March 2020. 

If you would like to sponsor a child, classroom, school or even a school district with a free year of access to the Pubbly graphic novel series, or simply support the Pubbly mission, check out its Kickstarter before it wraps up on December 14, 2019. 

We’ll be sure to keep you updated when Pubbly officially launches in 2020!

Founder, Editor-In-Chief // A native Angeleno. John studied engineering at UCLA; founded Schmoozd, an offline social tech networking event in LA with 30,000 subs; ran a startup accelerator (StartEngine). Worked for several major brands like Toyota, DIRECTV, Hitachi, ICANN, and Raytheon. A mentor at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) Entrepreneur School, Dr. David Choi. And advises a dozen local LA startups building amazing tech in various industries; and invested in some. // Let's Connect: john@lastartups.com

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