Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Just out of stealth mode, GetSet is already helping thousands of college students stay in school

Carlin Sack
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Karan Goel has always dealt with a curse (or a blessing): he is obsessed with solving big problems in education. After he sold his first edtech company, PrepMe, partially to Blackboard in July 2011 and partially to Hobsons in February 2012, he vowed to take a break from edtech and travel the world with his wife for a year. Three months into their trip, Goel found himself participating in - and winning - a Startup Weekend EDU in India. So much for an edtech break.
Now, thanks to some Techcrunch coverage, the secret is out that Goel is at it again: he is building another new edtech company called GetSet with his PrepMe partner-in-crime Eric Bjerstedt as VP of Product.
GetSet started in late 2012 when Goel and Bjerstedt reunited (after Goel graduated from Chicago’s Starter League) and set out to solve a problem without a particular solution in mind. The co-founders wanted to solve the problem of rising college dropout rates (despite increased spending on this problem by universities).
While in a self-funded stealth mode, the two brought on UX Lead Danielle Chutinthranond and “started trying things, hacking it together and just putting it out there.” They knew they wanted to take a non-academic approach to the dropout problem (since only 13 percent of students drop out due to failing), but during “the first few months, the experiments didn’t go all that well,” Goel said of random pilots with students. But around mid-2013, things started looking up: they learned that when the product was inherently social, it was well-received by students.
“So then we said, ‘Let’s try to create a product that students actually want to use,’” Goel said. “It should be completely non-academic and should create growth mindsets so that people can overcome challenges.”
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So here’s what they came up with: the current GetSet product allows students to connect with other students who have similar goals or have faced similar problems. By finding another (often older) student to help with a social, personal, or academic problem, supportive campus communities are formed, ultimately leading to lower dropout rates.
GetSet even has a leading social psychologist, Dr. Steven Nakisher, and a psychology professor, Dr. Robert Feldman, on board to advise the team on the science behind making students successful. Despite the psychologists backing GetSet, Goel stresses that “we are not a counseling product, we are a peer-to-peer mentoring product” for students facing problems that might cause them to drop out.
This product was validated by over 50 user tests Chutinthranond did with students from Chicago colleges like DePaul and Columbia College in early 2014 (she actually watched and analyzed all these students individually). Now, the user pool is getting substantially bigger with GetSet’s launch with over 10,000 freshmen at Arizona State University this week and with another large school in Southern California next week.
They have many more schools waiting in the wings to sign up (all are eager to solve their dropout problem, it’s just a matter of getting through the red tape). As more and more schools sign on, the GetSet product will evolve even more quickly as the 9-person team is “going to be learning a lot from the students.”
The GetSet team itself will be expanding right here in Chicago on the dev, product and data science sides. As the team grows and the product morphs, Goel and Bjerstedt are just glad to be back in the edtech game working on their own venture again.
“I want to work on the biggest problem in education,” Goel said. “People ask me, ‘Why don’t you do something outside of education?’ Well, it’s something I’m really passionate about and that’s the thing about being an entrepreneur: I get to do exactly what I want to do.”

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