Thousands are using the Curipod platform
NHH graduate Jens Aarre Seip wants to lower the threshold for asking questions during lectures. Now, the start-up has secured agreements with 11 Norwegian educational institutions, including NHH.
‘We like to call ourselves a curiosity platform. We are a platform for teachers and students, whose goal is to encourage student learning and engagement. It should be easy to ask questions, help each other and navigate. We’re like a ‘reverse Kahoot’,’ says NHH graduate and entrepreneur Jens Aarre Seip (27) from Bærum.
Together with Eirik Hernes Berre and Frikk Fossan, Seip has started the learning technology company Curipod, formerly known as Snapmentor. It has been part of the accelerator programme under StartupLab in Oslo since November.
The start-up has agreements with 11 major Norwegian educational institutions, including NTNU, the University of Tromsø and BI Norwegian Business School, as well as NHH. There are also a number of upper secondary schools among their customers, and they are making efforts to land several international agreements. They are in contact with educational institutions in Denmark, Finland and Iceland, among others, according to Seip.
‘Creates engagement here and now’
Seven bachelor’s courses at NHH are set to use Curipod this autumn. Almost 100 bachelor’s students have tested the tool over the past year, and the feedback has been good. Professor Kjetil Bjorvatn at the Department of Economics used Curipod last semester on the microeconomics (SAM2) course.
‘The feedback from both the students and student assistants has been good, and I intend to continue using it on my SAM2 course. Students often find it daunting to ask a question out loud in front of everyone, but this is no longer a problem with Curipod. Students also often wonder about the same thing, and having the answers to questions that have already been asked is both useful and saves time,’ says the NHH professor.
Seip says that it was actually Bjorvatn who inspired them to develop ‘direct Q&A’, a service where the students submit questions during a teaching situation and get answers at once. Before this, they had a 24/7 service where students could ask questions when it suited them. Both services enable students to ask questions anonymously.
‘Bjorvatn told us that he missed questions and discussions in the classroom, so we thought: “why not have a direct Q&A?”. This ensures all the students are active and creates engagement in the here and now.'
‘Learning should be sociable and fun’
Seip graduated from NHH last year with a degree in economics and business administration, where he took the master’s degree specialisation Business Analytics. NHH established the master’s degree specialisation in order to meet the increasing demand for economists with analytical and technological skills. He also has a CEMS Master’s degree in international management. Many people may find it hard to believe that Seip actually dropped out of upper secondary education:
‘I dropped out during the second year of upper secondary school because I had no motivation. Rediscovering the motivation for learning was a complex process, but the year I spent at Valdres Folk High School, where I really discovered that learning could be fun and meaningful, was important in that context. We’ve also taken into account that learning should be sociable, fun and meaningful in the development of Curipod.'
Seip met Eirik Hernes Berre at NHH, and it was here their business dream was born. They quickly became friends and often studied together. The third founder, Frikk Fossan, is a childhood friend of Seip and has studied interaction design at the University of Oslo.
‘We often got stuck doing difficult assignments, and we were all frustrated by there being no academic help available there and then. I think many people can identify with that, as it can be difficult to find good study groups when you’re a new student. We decided to do something about the problem, and therefore started our own company,’ says Seip. The company was established in November 2019.
Ditched the business model
Pupils at lower and upper secondary school were Curipod’s initial target group. The start-up offered a service whereby pupils could get help with homework and school assignments for a fee of NOK 35 each time.
However, Curipod ditched this business model in January last year, and went from a B2C model (sales to private customers) to focusing on higher educational institutions.
‘We tried first with external mentors, but the schools reported back that they didn’t need these resources, but rather our software. That was a very useful lesson for us. We also saw that selling software has more global potential. We now focus on higher education and upper secondary schools, but most of our users come from higher education.'
Income more than doubled
The coronavirus pandemic meant that Norwegian educational institutions had to quickly adapt. Digital lectures and digital exams became a reality. That did not however mean that it was easy for the founders at the start of the pandemic:
‘The schools were naturally most interested in gaining control of the situation and handling critical issues, like helping exchange students and holding exams. Many of them thus didn’t have time to test our service. This has luckily changed, and we now have many new customers. We are also seeing that digital skills and satisfaction with using digital tools have increased among lecturers, even among those who were initially critical. Our turnover has more than tripled from January to September this year.'
The founders also secured NOK 2 million in funding from StartupLab and Sagene Tech Ventures. They have also received grants of NOK 1.5 million from Innovation Norway and the Skattefunn tax relief scheme.