Dot-com veteran Justin Kitch takes wraps off new startup, Curious

Back in the dot-com era, Justin Kitch launched a startup called Homestead, which gave online novices simple tools to build websites. Homestead ended up hosting millions of those sites, and Intuit bought the company a few years ago for a tidy $170 million.

After a year off with a newborn daughter and another as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Redpoint Ventures and Benchmark Capital, Kitch on Wednesday is launching his latest startup, an online learning community called Curious. Let’s say you’re a guitar teacher, or a feng shui master, or a fly fisherman; you can use Curious to create videos (or upload videos you’ve already made on YouTube), and people who are interested in that topic can pay to watch.

Curious founders John Tokash, Justin Kitch and Thai Bui

Terribly curious: co-founders John Tokash, Justin Kitch and Thai Bui

Curious comes out of beta Wednesday with more than 500 lessons on everything from how to code Java to how to survive in the wilderness. The videos are curated, meaning Kitch and his team of about 10 people have been tracking down “experts” in various fields and choosing the ones they believe are the best of the best. About half the content on the site is free, although if you want to progress through a teacher’s entire curriculum, you usually have to pay at some point; the average video costs between $1 and $5, and the interesting thing is that the teachers keep 70 percent of that money.

“If a teacher wants to teach something to people around the world and get paid a few dollars,” Kitch said, “that technology really doesn’t exist.”

Speaking of money, Curious launches today touting $7 million in new funding from Redpoint, TribeHR founder Jesse Rodgers Jesse Rogers of Altamont Capital and ex-Intuit CEO Bill Campbell. “Justin is a stellar entrepreneur,” Redpoint’s Tim Haley, who backed Homestead in 1999, told me. “He blends deep understanding of technology, good consumer product vision and a real talent for hiring great people and building a powerful company culture.

“He is really one of the best startup CEOs I have met.”

However, Kitch is far from the only CEO in this space. Aside from Mountain View’s nonprofit Khan Academy, which has gotten mad love from Bill Gates and others, you’ve got Silicon Valley startups Knowmia and Udemy, both trying to build businesses around Kitch’s notion of crowdsourced, online education.

Udemy, in particular, seems very similar to Curious, in that it’s a platform for people of all stripes to create and share content and get paid for it. Knowmia, on the other hand, is focused on academic learning. (Still another branch of this tree are companies like edX and Coursera, which put classroom content from top universities online.)

Kitch thinks there’s plenty of opportunity to go around. “The off-line educational market is $900 billion, and online is only $2 billion,” he said. “We’re rooting for all these online solutions to be successful.”


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