This Dutch founder left Silicon Valley to found a flourishing ed-tech startup in the Netherlands

This Dutch founder left Silicon Valley to found a flourishing ed-tech startup in the Netherlands

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Knowingo learned the hard way that learning isn’t simple. The Dutch ed-tech started out developing virtual training software but was shocked by the knowledge gap when the actual training started. Therefore, they developed a gaming app that helps employees learn and remember everything they need to know. Founder Loren Roosendaal tells us about the pivot of Knowingo during Capital Fest, his interesting career in Silicon Valley and the recent accomplishments of his flourishing startup.

Knowingo the learning platform

“Learning isn’t efficient, at least, not how it’s organized nowadays. It takes an employee about 54 hours a year, but he only remembers 40% of what he has been taught. This is causing companies thousands of euros in damages and lost productivity, per employee, per year”, Roosendaal states.

Learn with a trivia game

Knowingo aims to solve that problem by letting employees learn with all the ease and fun of a trivia game, in just a few minutes a day. “They divide this time between their work and private time, basically because they like it so much. In a recent customer case we saw productivity improvements of up to 17% and a 33% increase in customer satisfaction. We make sure that employees remember what has been learned, see it as a continuous certification.”

Serious about gaming

As interesting as this solution may sound, the journey that led to Knowingo is at least as interesting.Roosendaal started his “career” as a game developer, a skill he taught himself, at age 11. He connected different game development communities, so they could develop a World War 2 adaptation of a Command & Conquer game called Blitzkrieg and a Dragonball-Z version of Half Life. One might say his hobby got a little out of hand, as by the time he graduated high school millions of people had played something he worked on.

Kaos War

After he worked for several game studios during his BSc and designed and taught a minor in game development to his own year, he co-founded a company in Silicon Valley to develop a Massively Multiplayer Online game called  Kaos War. Together with Damon Grow and Jon McCoy, Roosendaal quickly turned Kaos War into a media darling with a massive development team.Kaos War was regarded as the Next Big Thing in the industry. The game’s development was actually followed by a reality show (called Creating Kaos) which featured legendary game designer John Romero and Astro wanted to buy the licensing rights to launch branded hardware, before the game was even playable – a hype, much?

Hype

Worried that the hype was causing things to be pushed forward too quickly and was giving rise to bad decisions, Roosendaal left the company about a year after co-founding it. Just one month after Jon McCoy had decided to do the same. Roosendaal’s concerns became reality a year after he left, when CEO Damon Grow presented the game during TechCrunch50, it became clear the game was rushed out too fast and wasn’t ready for this public appearances. Dropping to just a few frames per second and suffering crashes on the main stage, the resulting media fallout eventually lead to the cancellation of Kaos War. Quite a story right?

Virtual training

From this adventure, it wasn’t a huge step for Roosendaal to launch a company that used gaming technology to solve actual problems. That’s why he launched IC3D-Media, that provided B2B solutions. The company grew, bootstrapped, to a business of 45 FTE. Along the way, he started a daughter company that built a virtual training solution called InterACT. FD stated it was a golden idea, the company won an Accenture Innovation Award and several other awards. But the biggest accomplishment of InterACT, was discovering a bigger problem than a lack of proper training tools.

Mission

“The mission of InterACT was to prepare every employee for every situation, so they’ll act appropriately. It taught the Dutch military how to talk with the tribes of Mali, helped rescue workers save lives in disaster areas and much more. However, that training alone didn’t prepare employees properly for the different situations that might occur. It turned out most of the trainees didn’t remember the most basic theory they were taught during classes or learned from books or e-learning, so the training didn’t make sense at all”, Roosendaal states.

It’s first and foremost important, he discovered, to educate employees appropriately. The rest is history: in Q4 2015 they launched a prototype, in Q3 2016 they targeted the enterprise market and nowadays Knowingo serves Akzo Nobel, Vodafone Ziggo, Post NL, Reed Elsevier and many others. Over the course of two “friends and family” rounds, the startup raised 1.7 million euro in funding, mostly from seasoned entrepreneurs and executives.

Learning by playing

Why does this type of game-like learning makes sense? Well, Loren explains that in this Ted Talk. “Gaming is actually a learning experience. Because you’re developing a new skill, you’re enjoying the game. If you weren’t learning and improving the game would not be fun. However, learning is only fun when it works. That’s why we distilled the principles of gaming and applied them to a scalable learning solution. That’s the basic thought behind Knowingo.”

Four basic principles

“There are four basic principles concerning learning. Not everyone has the same capabilities, nor the same motivation, nor the same retention, nor the same attention span. That’s why every learning experience has to be adjusted to the individual. Therefore, our system uses AI, so it gets smarter by analyzing the results of every user. It learns what you know, what you forgot and how you can be motivated by the four learning principles.”

Use the app on the toilet

Roosendaal sees some funny trends in the data of Knowingo. The Netherlands is still a very conservative country when it comes to gender. Women use the learning app after dinnertime, men tend to use the app when it’s time to get dinner ready – so probably aren’t cooking. And sixty percent of the users use the app on the toilet, our surveys show.”

Job of a colleague

Another interesting outcome: about 20 percent of the employees should have the job of one of their colleagues. “Employers often want to cross train colleague A for the job of colleague B, to keep their workforce flexible. In the process, we discovered that some of the people being cross-trained were a far better match for the job their colleague was doing.” 

Ambitions

The next step for Knowingo would be to scale internationally. The adventure starts overseas; Knowingo plans to open an office in the US in the coming six months. “We never had a pilot that didn’t succeed. We always achieved our targets. That track record, and the huge potential of this market makes us look forward to a bright future”, Roosendaal states.

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