Out of the Box Education with Outschool

Outschool is a startup based in San Francisco that helps independent learners find small-group classes offered outside of regular school. They’ve grown fast amongst the homeschooling community and other families looking to supplement their school curriculum. I sat down with Amir Nathoo, co-founder of Outschool, to learn more.

Please explain how Outschool works.

Outschool helps parents find and book great small-group classes for their kids. Most of the classes take place online over video-conference, so kids get to interact with the teacher and each other, and they can join the class from their own home. We have the broadest range of live online classes for kids so you’re very likely to find something that engages and inspires your learner.

The classes offered include: core academics, supplementary activities, one-offs, short exploratory courses and semester-long courses. Most are uniquely crafted for Outschool so you won’t be able to find them elsewhere. You get to choose the topic, teacher, and timing with no long-term commitments, so the learning experience is personalized for your family.

Teachers also love it because they get to teach on their terms - they get to craft the curriculum and only teach the topics they are passionate about. They get to work with engaged learners since the kids have chosen to be at the class rather than it be mandatory. Using Outschool, they can supplement their income and do the work from home.

What inspired you to start your company?

I’ve been thinking about how technology could be applied to improve education for a long time - both my parents were teachers and I’ve been involved with technology for my whole career. I learned about the homeschooling community through a friend in early 2015, and the way they were customizing their kids’ education inspired me. I wanted to empower more families to choose the best learning path for their kids, by offering a broader choice of teachers and topics than school allows today. We started out with in-person activities, then grew to offer more online classes: they're convenient for parents, great for teaching and learning, and popular.

How did you meet your 2 cofounders and decide to collaborate on this exciting venture together?

In early 2015, I had left Square and was experimenting with offering classes to the homeschooling community. Things seemed to be taking off and I blogged about the ideas behind Outschool.

Mikhail Seregine read that post and reached out since he was also working on new projects in education having recently left Google. He had previously worked at Amazon on Mechanical Turk, then founded a startup and joined another early-stage company that was acquired by Google. It quickly became clear that we had similar motivations and ideas on applying technology in education.

At the same time I was talking about Outschool with my friend Nicholas Grandy. I first met him in 2008 when we were both starting companies funded by the same investor. He went on to be the first employee at Airbnb and then product manager at Clever, which is an ed-tech startup. So he has a wealth of experience with marketplaces and education.

We came together as a team in summer 2015.

Tell me about some of the courses you find exciting?

We have hundreds available that are great, it’s difficult to choose!

A lot of parents and kids really love our classes on everyday science / technology topics like What really is electricity? and How does a car ... GO?

We also have a great selection of social studies classes such as:

Those are some of the ones that appeal to me. But we have such a broad range and everyone’s preferences are different. I’d encourage your readers to take a look at our full list at: outschool.com/listings

I see how this is great for a homeschooler but what about a kid who adheres to traditional school hours? Is Outschool a good resource for them too?

Absolutely. We offer many classes on weekends, after school hours and during school holidays. You can set your preferences on our website so you’re only notified about classes scheduled then. Most families use Outschool to supplement their existing curriculums rather than as a replacement.

What can we expect next from Outschool?

We’ve recently opened up Outschool to be available throughout the US so we’re growing quickly, adding thousands of parents each month. This is great for Bay Area parents since the more families that use our service, the broader the range of topics we’re able to offer from more teachers. We’re close to 1,000 different classes offered and expect to be able to grow that 10x over the next year.

If you have a teacher you’d like to recommend, or are looking for a type of class we don’t already offer, get in touch with us at support@outschool.com

Amir Nathoo is a start-up veteran. He previously worked at Square and was CEO and co-founder of Trigger.io. To learn more about Outschool visit them with this link to see a curated list of free trial classes for your kids: http://bit.ly/2jiuA7n Connect with Amir on Twitter at @OutschoolerFacebook, and Pinterest.