EP 170 – James Lewis – co-Founder and CEO of learnreel – The Social Contract Changed

by | Jan 8, 2022

The Asia Tech Podcast thoroughly enjoyed speaking with James Lewis, a co-Founder and the CEO of learnreel.  learnreel is short-form learning in a simple video-based app.
Some of the topics that James and I discussed:
  • The experience of graduating from University months before Lehman Brothers collapsed
  • How his job offer from Citigroup got rescinded
  • Realizing that if he wanted to learn something he could do it himself
  • Online, desktop platforms had made learning on one’s own easier
  • When he graduated he did not know the ‘startup’ career path was a thing
  • Those original online learning platforms were built for long-form learning
  • How learning outcomes are delivered and the time in which they are delivered
  • Completion rates for traditional online learning
  • The growth of short video platforms and their impact on learning
  • Connection-based social media vs. interest-based
  • The creator economy and the redefinition of ‘expertise’
  • Survivor bias

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:00
Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by James Lewis, a co-founder and the CEO at learnreel. James, thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you doing today?

James Lewis 0:22
Hi Michael. Yeah, I’m great. Thanks. How are you?

Michael Waitze 0:25
I am super. The weather in Thailand, which we define as hot, hotter, wet, wetter, which should remind you of Singapore. But it starts to get a little bit cooler here. So go ahead, I interrupted you.

James Lewis 0:39
Yeah, I was going to say, actually, is just stopped torrential rain. So perfect.

Michael Waitze 0:44
Yeah, same here. So rainy season is just ended. We’re on that cusp between rainy season, which ends at the end of October. And then you just get into this amazing like November, December, January, February, March where you can wake up. And if you’re really lucky, it can be 22 degrees. And then during the day, it gets up to like 33. And then at night kind of cools off, kind of sometimes. So I love this time of year. Anyway, before we get into the main part of this conversation, can we get some of your background for context?

James Lewis 1:13
Yeah, sure. So I guess we can we can maybe start when I graduated. So it was quite a quite an interesting time to, to graduate, which was back in 2008. So right into the global financial crisis. So literally, two months or three months before before Lehman, unfortunately,

Michael Waitze 1:34
did you know what’s going on? Right? Because before Lehman imploded, I think Bankers Trust also just disappeared off the face of the earth. Like, Were you familiar enough with what was going on in what I guess, would have been the city in London to understand like, what the significance of the Lehman blob was, and you meant the Bankers Trust blow up as well?

James Lewis 1:54
Not so much before Lehman. So when I graduated was May, May 2008. Lehman in September. And for me, I had a nice job lined up at Citibank, which was promptly cancelled. And so some of my my friends, fellow graduates, they were actually working at Lehman. So they started for maybe kind of two weeks, three weeks, and then literally, some of them, unfortunately, right. Right. When they started, they were there a few weeks, and then that was it. That was their their graduate position gone. Wow.

Michael Waitze 2:31
So it’s funny that you said, like, you had this job at Citi Group. And then it got canceled, I was actually working at Citigroup, and my job was a slightly different experience. But I understand the feeling sorry, go ahead.

James Lewis 2:44
What was kind of interesting, I think that’s really the the point where the social contract change between employers and employees agreed. So although although it was kind of really difficult at the time, I think, yeah, there’s a lot of lessons that people can learn from that from, I guess, what you think is a secure market? And nice job, which can just change it at any time?

Michael Waitze 3:07
Did you expect to be an entrepreneur, like when you were in school, and when you were much younger? Or did that like literally change the way you looked at the employment landscape? And does some of that come from talking to your friends who were at Lehman at the time as well, I have to imagine that, you know, you say post post graduation, you still must be really close to the kids. And I’m going to say kids on purpose with whom you graduated, and the people that graduated like a year before you and if you all get together and just say like, this is not the world we thought we were going to exist in is that fair?

James Lewis 3:37
Yeah, I think so. I think, yeah, I think that that that social contract definitely changed there. And I mean, for me, I definitely thought off that that whatever learning and experience I want to get, I need to go out and get that myself. And I can’t rely on employers to sort everything out out for me.

Michael Waitze 4:00
Because before that, you can literally go we used to when I was at Morgan Stanley in Tokyo. We actually called it because we were so young, right? When I was there, I was 24 years old. And we called it Morgan Stanley university, because we figured we could go there. That was like our that was tantamount to getting an MBA. And at that stage, particularly in Tokyo, at that time, a lot of guys were getting poached to other firms, because they had been and I’m putting in quotes, educated by Morgan Stanley, you did learn a lot. Right. But that also changed, right?

James Lewis 4:28
Yeah, absolutely. I think, I guess some of the key the key things that have really changed is that from I guess, from 2008 2010 onwards, you could actually really learn what you want, which was, you know, from cost platforms, things like side hustles we were have become kind of increasingly easy over the last 10 years. So being able to supplement your income, you know, learn new skills through doing and creating your own business as well. Now it’s, you know, it’s easier than than it’s ever been before.

Michael Waitze 4:58
Yeah, and I look at my university already. really feel like I was trained to do a bunch of different things. Some of which had to do with work, right. So I studied economics. And I feel like when I left university, I was ready to go to work. But I look at universities today, I don’t feel like they’ve changed flesh in the 7000 years since I graduated back in like the 1820s, or whatever it was. Why hasn’t the traditional educational system kept up with these emerging trends, right? Like, I honestly believe this, like, I look at Stanford, and I think, Why do I have to be on campus to learn? Couldn’t you have figured out the fact that people would be willing to pay like half price to stay in Thailand, but still learn from you? Even if it was a recorded session? Isn’t there a way to make this interactive using technology? How could you not figure this out? When there’s so much innovation going on? At your university anyway? You couldn’t keep up with the one thing that you did as your core, which was educating people?

James Lewis 5:52
Yeah, I think just the pace of change now with jobs is so dramatic. So going back to my personal example, when I graduated London, 2008, the startup scene there was pretty small. Yeah, for sure. So all of the things were of the work that I’m now doing that I’ve come to love come to enjoy. I didn’t know that career path was available. Neither did I. Yeah, and certainly, you know, there were jobs now that just simply didn’t exist back then.

Michael Waitze 6:21
Yeah, fair enough. Right. How would you characterize the education industry today, particularly as it relates to or compares to what it was like when you graduated? Like, what are the differences?

James Lewis 6:34
So I think, a major, major trends in the education market going back to 2010, you know, the platforms like Udemy, Coursera, the MOOCs, all of those platforms, you know, Bill, early 2010s, all of those platforms were built as desktop first platforms. So these were delivering learning outcomes to learners in hours, days, weeks, sometimes months. I think the huge trends and the huge change that we’re seeing now is that we live in a mobile first world. So mobile first world with attention span is shorter than ever. So there’s, there’s this inherent contradiction between what users are looking at now and how they’re acting behaving online, and how most online learning platforms are actually set up.

Michael Waitze 7:25
So how does that change the way people get educated? I like to make equivalencies. Right. So like when I was in high school, we’d read classic English literature. And there was a product called cliffnotes, which meant you could just there was just the important bits, right. So you didn’t have to read the whole book, you just read the important bits, and you could pretty much get a good book report on it doing that. It was bite sized. The teachers knew that it was there, the students knew that was there, the parents knew that it was there. Nobody really ever talked about it. But and I think that that was a short attention span problem as well. It’s like I’d rather watch TV or play football than read The Iliad. Absolutely. But today, technology changes all of that, doesn’t it? What, what has changed? And what is the difference between a mobile first experience, and the Coursera and Udemy, and even Khan Academy experience, which is, like you said, build for the desktop.

James Lewis 8:20
So really, when you’re looking at mobile learning, it’s, I guess, the key thing is the is how learning outcomes are delivered, and the time that they’re delivered. And so typically, for, you know, a mobile learning experience, you’re measuring that in minutes, rather than, you know, your traditional MOOC platforms, which those learning outcomes. You know, things are a little bit better today with some of the platforms with slightly shorter content. But you know, typically, these are hours and hours long, weeks long, potentially months long, which, you know, it’s no wonder that that the completion rates for these are between 3% 6%.

Michael Waitze 8:59
Is that really, that’s a fact, though, you’re saying that it’s let’s just average it out to like four and a half, or 5%? is what the completion rates are on these? And is that just because the content is boring? Or is it really just because people just cannot concentrate for that long anymore? Or can I see one more maybe a slightly more controversial question? Is it the case that there’s only a certain number of people or a certain percentage of people that actually can just intellectually and intelligently finish that stuff, and that that number is not changing, but that the exposure to that content is just so much bigger? Because it’s frictionless and seamless today, that the completion rates actually look low, when they’re actually not that different than what they might have been 50 years ago? In other words, that the same people are finishing, but the more people are exposed, so it looks like the percentage of people is lower, or is that just too controversial and talk about

James Lewis 9:52
potentially, I mean, we’ve done a lot of research with this with users. And you know, talking to Around 100 people, and very, very few people, you know, within that that group of, you know, 100, that kind of really detailed research on actually finished courses. So from what you know, it’s a small sample size. But I do think that’s kind of representative. I think this, this really goes back to the problems that users have, or problems that that that learners have. And a big thing today is his lack of time. So there’s so many distractions going on, people are so busy, it’s really no surprise that when you look at the time people actually spend learning during their work week, it’s around 1%. So it’s pretty, you know, pretty, pretty tiny amount.

Michael Waitze 10:41
So one of the theories that I used to have when I was in high school, I don’t know why I keep going back to high school, or why I’m so nostalgic about it today was that you could teach a regular person, history if you just put into rock and roll. Because everybody was listening to rock anyway. And if they could memorize the album lyrics back and forth and upside down and backwards for like every new album that came out, they could definitely understand they could definitely remember the history. Are you suggesting that the same thing is happening today, and innovation using social media and maybe making it more personal for people is trying to accomplish my rock and roll theory?

James Lewis 11:19
Yeah, that definitely works. I think, I think a key thing for me from from learning is, you know, being able to apply that learning. And I think that’s, that’s the thing with the current kind of setup of online course, platforms that where it’s where it’s kind of a one way interaction, yeah, it becomes difficult for you to learn the right things for you to apply in to your particular situation.

Michael Waitze 11:47
Yeah, so again, this is really interesting. And I always use the same example. There’s no way you can get into an automobile, with a driving manual by yourself for the first time when you’re 16, or 17, whatever it is in your country, and then have enough knowledge to get up on the motorway without dying, the first five minutes that you’re up there. That’s why you have a driving instructor. And it was super interactive, right. And I mean, I remember my first time on the highway, it was snowing because I lived in Philadelphia, I’ll never forget it. And the roads are slippery. But I had the instructor there. And it was very interactive, slow down, pump, the brakes, whatever it is, don’t change the lane so quickly, kind of thing. And whatever you do, don’t panic. But I’m suggesting I think like you are that the way education was always done, at least outside of driving was always somebody standing in front of a class, whether it was digital or not, and just telling you stuff that you were supposed to remember. Is this changing at all as well?

James Lewis 12:45
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s with technology, everything. So sort of obviously scalable now, so.

Michael Waitze 12:53
Yeah, but I mean, is it interactive as well.

James Lewis 12:57
That’s a more recent trend, I guess, in the last year that we’re seeing. Also, you know, alongside, you know, what we’re kind of focused on on on the timepiece. A second kind of big trend education that we’re seeing is around that interactivity. So things like cohort based cohort based courses, which, you know, where it’s not just the asynchronous learning experience, where there’s, you know, you’re you’re actually in a group of, you know, whether it’s 50 people, 100 people, and you’re learning live from that, that instructors, which which, you know, which allows that kind of, you know, two way interaction with the teacher.

Michael Waitze 13:38
So, let’s go back a little bit in history. It’s not that long ago, but vine actually started with these sort of 10 second videos, right, which started going viral. And they kind of got expanded on and I forget who followed them. You know, even now, on YouTube, most videos are not more than like three or four minutes long. But if you look at some of the other video platforms, right, and you’re right, like even Instagram reels or who started that, what was that? Snap started that or what wasn’t? Or Instagram started as well.

James Lewis 14:09
Yeah, just going back to one one point there. And YouTube, I think, is a really interesting point, when YouTube first came out, in 2005 2006, the average length of a video there was only a few minutes, like 334 minutes. And then they integrated advertising into their products. And obviously, for you know, for an advertising product, the creators, the the Video Creators worked out that they would get paid more if the video was above 10 minutes. So, so something kind of went wrong, where you had a platform that had, you know, relatively short content. And then you had these incentives for creators to actually create longer content, which then meant that the average video length was, you know, way above 10 minutes. I’m not sure exactly what it what it is, is now But it’s yeah, it’s interesting that, you know, that change over time.

Michael Waitze 15:03
But then how do you get this like thing like tick tock just coming out of nowhere, which again, goes right back to just short videos. And I mean, we can start with dancing or whatever. But how does tick tock feed into not just the way people are spending time, but the way you are positing that people will be educated? Like, can you really learn something of substance in a minute or two?

James Lewis 15:28
Absolutely, yeah, I think it’s the focus on time isn’t just that you’re going to learn for that one minute, two minutes. And then, you know, and then stop learning. So if you look at a platform, like Tic Toc, the average time that people spend on that platform is about 45 minutes per day

Michael Waitze 15:47
in a row though, or is it broken up into little pieces?

James Lewis 15:51
And it’s broken up into into very into various sessions. But yeah, but still, you know, that the average time is, is you know, it’s still pretty high. Considering that the, you know, that the videos can be anything from 15 seconds to 60 seconds,

Michael Waitze 16:08
go ahead. But how does that help people learn? Really just walk me through this. And maybe you can talk particularly about your company learn real right and how you can take advantage of either either those technologies, specifically or similar timeframes and similar technologies to help people learn things and just how that whole process works, based on sort of all the things we’ve already discussed, so on the platform that we’ve built already, and the foundation that we built already in this conversation, where does lens real? Where does learn real excuse me fit in? And then how do people learn from it? Or how does it actually work?

James Lewis 16:41
So firstly, your question around the platforms like, like, tick tock. Their growth has been absolutely amazing, particularly in the last year. Yeah, that’s really where our research round users really came from, was looking at, I guess it’s answering two kind of really quick key questions is, where are people spending their time? And what and what are they consuming? So the short video platforms in the last year, they’ve seen huge, huge growth. So this includes everything from entertainment, but also really interestingly, things like education. So for example, the, the hashtag on Tik Tok, which is learn on Tik Tok, that’s had 180 billion views, which is just, you know, a staggering number. You know, even if the video is, you know, maybe 15 seconds long, so it’s not like a long YouTube video. That’s still kind of a Yeah, an amazing amount of time that people people are spending there. And what are they learning, though? All kinds of things, that there are topics from sort of white collar education through to, you know, things you can things you would want to learn for work through to, you know, things like DIY, cooking it cetera, et cetera.

Michael Waitze 17:59
I think it’s some level learning needs to be verified, right and curated. And, again, one of the benefits and drawbacks of these platforms, whether it’s YouTube, or Instagram stories, or whatever, is that anybody can put anything they want out there. And it’s very hard to police it, like you said, What do you say 1.8 billion views? Or was it 18 billion? It doesn’t matter, right?

James Lewis 18:23

Michael Waitze 18:24
Same thing, okay. It’s just a zero. But, and either one of them would be huge, right? But in a world where there’s 180 billion views on a specific hashtag, it’s just got to be hard to curate that. No. And are you using does does learn really use tick tock to do this? Or are you just building your own platform that then people can use to do the short videos for teachings and for learnings?

James Lewis 18:48
Yeah, so we were really focusing in on it within the short video space within one segment. So that one, a segment being education, and then building building features that really serve the creators who are creating the content and the learners better than on on the on the short video platforms themselves, which are all kind of generic and all of those other platforms. So whether it’s Tik Tok, YouTube shorts, Instagram reels, they’re all kind of copying each other, and all sort of merging into one platform. So

Michael Waitze 19:22
yeah, it doesn’t feel any different at all right.

James Lewis 19:24
Now, I think they still got there at the moment. They’ve got their unique cultures. But for example, tick tock is adding longer videos, so it’s becoming more like YouTube, Instagram, Instagram has declared that it’s, you know, pivoting towards video away from photos. So it’s, you know, it’s copying tick tock. So, all of them are kind of, you know, I can see in a couple of years becoming this kind of amorphous sort of blob of social media. Yeah. And what’s really interesting is the the creators on these platforms, they’re using the content or are starting to use the content more interesting. Usually, so you’ll see, you’ll see a lot of content that isn’t necessarily platform specific. But being used in that same example of short video being used in that same vertical video format across all the platforms.

Michael Waitze 20:13
So I want to make an equivalency and tell me again, where you think I’m wrong. And maybe this is just too American to make sense. But you’re a smart dude, he’ll figure it out. You know, in the old days, back in the 50s, there were hamburger joints. And then McDonald’s came in and said, We’re gonna put a hamburger joint on every corner, and we’re going to automate the entire process, and every hamburger is gonna taste exactly the same. And, you know, they sold billions and billions of hamburgers doing that there was Burger King and Wendy’s as well. But people got tired of the sameness, that amorphous blob that you’re talking about. And they went back to this local artisanal, people love hamburgers, but they wanted artisanal, they wanted fresh cut fries. And, you know, they wanted handmade Root Beer kind of thing. I think that technology is going to do the same thing. And I think that over time, people are just getting tired of all the, and I’m going to talk about it in engineering terms. If you think an engineer is out there to eliminate noise, and find signals, it has to be easier on a platform that’s bespoke. So that’s using sort of the modern technology. But it’s curating the content so that people know when they go there, it’s going to be good. And it seems to me like that’s what you’re suggesting you’re doing, you’re looking around at the landscape and saying, here’s the way people are behaving, here’s the type of content that they’re consuming. We know that 180 billion likes for this or hashtags for that are out there. But it’s too much noise. So let’s take them off of that platform, and create bespoke learning, but in a way that people actually want to interact. Is that fair?

James Lewis 21:50
Yeah, that’s, that’s absolutely right. So people aren’t asking the question of, you know, what should I learn? They’re asking the question of who should I learn from? So they said, This is a really, really, really, really, really, really key change. And that’s really what we’re aiming to do is bring out those great educators. And then give them a platform where you know, they can they can teach to their audience and have have that kind of two way connection with, with the audience.

Michael Waitze 22:17
Yeah, and I think if you look at the way social media has been built up until now, it’s really just, it’s basically been just recreating offline echo chambers, right. In other words, you go on, you connect with all your friends, and you just hear all the same stuff you would hear normally if you were sitting at a party with them. But I was always, like, the way I met a lot of my friends at college was I would literally walk around the dorm floors, the dormitory floors and just peek in and go, What are you guys talking about? And if it was interesting, and I was interested in some of the same things, we’re learning about some of those things, I’d actually pop into that room just go to modify, hang out, because I’m much more interested in people that are interested in similar things, as opposed to just the people that I know, which I consider to be very proximity based, right. In other words, you know, most people marry somebody that they worked with, not because their job was so great, but just because they were sitting over there. They were available. You know what I mean? But technology can change that. No, sorry. Go ahead.

James Lewis 23:14
Yeah, absolutely. I think mirroring that onto social media is another big trend that’s happened in the last couple of years, which is really, the social media 1.0 versus social media 2.0. So this is moving from connection based, like you said, you know, your your friends, to moving to interest base, and it’s more built around discovery. So you can kind of look at this, as in the social media 1.0 Was your Facebook, where you’re connecting to your, you know, your, your family, your friends, who says, you know, they’re not, they’re not necessarily going to have the same interest as you, right? Social media. 2.0 is much more focused on the interest base, where, you know, going back to the example of, you know, tick tock, for example, where you, without friction, start to get served videos. And then the app collects data on how you get engaged with those videos, how long you’re watching them, whether you’re swiping through them, immediately starts collecting data, and then personalizes the experience, to what you know, to the videos that you want to see. I think that’s a really, really, really key key change.

Michael Waitze 24:25
Yeah, and I would make the case that over time, technology is going to make geographic physical geographical borders disappear. I know this is a non traditional idea. And people are going to organize their countries. And I’ll put that in quotes as well, just around things that interest them as opposed to just where they were born. I just think that that thing is going to happen. Can I ask you this, though? How many people out there actually creating content that’s worthwhile? Like how big is that market?

James Lewis 24:57
That’s interesting. So Guess that’s pretty subjective. At some level, right? What? Yeah, it’s what’s what each individual likes and has, you know, has interest for but in terms of kind of, you know, broad, high level numbers. So when we look at people creating content, which we could turn the creative economy, so that’s, you know, individuals who are sharing their knowledge, sharing their passion. So it’s estimated to be 50 million people, only 2 million of those are actually professional. So that’s when I, when I say professional, that’s people working full time, right, the rest of the rest of the 48 million, that’s people who aren’t doing this as their full time job. In terms of in terms of the quality, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s obviously, you know, there’s guys that are doing it professionally, you’d expect them to be you know, that they’re making money. So there’s a certain quality there for the other 48 million. I think one of the really interesting things in in the crazy creative economy is that it’s redefining what people think of as expertise, right? Which, you know, might then least come out in what content is good. So the beautiful thing now is that you don’t need a decade of experience, for example, to become an expert, who can then create content and have people wanting to watch that content. You could be, for example, a new graduate, who’s just apply through the graduate schemes at work, and has something to teach people who are going through that graduation persons.

Michael Waitze 26:31
Absolutely. I’m in the process of trying to create some educational content for people around startups, right, because I think the way the market right now is teaching people about it is wrong. So what do I need to do to get on to break it up into pieces that are small enough so that you think it makes sense? So I can put it on learn real and get paid for it?

James Lewis 26:54
Yeah, so I think a really key thing, we we touched on this earlier around attention spans, and getting people, you know, shorter attention spans. I think that’s actually a lot a lot more nuanced. So I think it’s actually more to a large extent, is around consideration spans. So you know, people now they yes, that that people, a lot of people are kind of consuming short, short form content, but people are still consuming binge watching Netflix watching for, you know, hours and hours and hours. Yes, there are shorter attention spans, but they’re also shorter consideration spans. So within within, you know, within a quite short period of time, you need to convince people that you have something that’s, you know, that’s worth talking about, that’s worth their time to listen to.

Michael Waitze 27:44
How does his masterclass thing work? What’s the business model there? In other words, how can they get Helen Mirren who’s already worth like 30 or 40 million bucks to come on and teach acting like what’s in it for her on the Creator side? And this gets back to the other thing that you’re talking about is I think people are also tired of learning from the same people over and over again, they want to learn from these people. Like you said that they have a different view on this but I’m curious about the masterclass business, how do they get these people to do this?

James Lewis 28:13
masterclass is fascinating, actually, I would say with a lot of struggle and hard work, I think. Yeah, I think so. I think they they spent, if I’m right, the first two to three years, at least working before they actually launched a course, which is, which is a huge amount of time. Yeah. And then they started with three instructors. They’re going in a very different level from a lot of other platforms, you know, they are exclusively, you know, these huge celebrities, people who, you know, supposedly kind of top of their game teaching in terms of what those creators get. So they get a revenue share, but most of these people are a lot of these people are kind of multimillionaires,

Michael Waitze 28:58
like Steph Curry it doesn’t need a revenue share from Masterclass

James Lewis 29:01
No. No. I think there’s, there’s one quote that I saw, I can’t remember the exact creator, but he said that he saw other people on the shelf, and he wants to be on that shelf as well. Fair enough. So there’s like, a, there’s an, there’s an exclusivity, but what what’s really interesting is that is, I guess, when you look at creators, that is the very kind of top end of the market, and the hopes the hopes for the creative economy is that you know, there are going to be new transactions for you know, for for people who have experienced a Shem and when I say new transactions, this is people who have knowledge people who have passion who want to share with the Creator, criminality, you know, anybody can can fill that role. You don’t need to be a master celebrity. And in order to in order to kind of share your knowledge and passion.

Michael Waitze 29:49
Yeah, and I mean, I would make the reverse case or I would agree with you on steroids. And that is I don’t want to learn from somebody that’s not struggling today because they’re not remembering how hard it was to get there.

James Lewis 30:02
Right? And that’s, that’s survivor bias, right?

Michael Waitze 30:05
Absolutely. I want to learn from people that have maybe mucked a few split things up. And, and you’re right, everybody on masterclass has is on the wrong side of Survivor bias for me, right? What I really want is people that are down in the trenches every day, still trying to figure stuff out, giving me again, a more nuanced and personalized explanation of how these things work. And that’s why I want to build the content that I’m trying to build as well, because I think people can gain from it even if I haven’t built LinkedIn kind of thing.

James Lewis 30:37
Yeah, absolutely. And that that’s going to be like, that’s gonna be a really, really interesting problem that a lot of people working in this in the creative economy space are gonna have to solve is how you can, how you can get this middle class of creators and not have all of those, you know, top people with huge social media followings who take the majority of the earnings.

Michael Waitze 31:00
I call this the Tim Ferriss problem. Like I just couldn’t be more tired of Tim Ferriss or Gary Vaynerchuk, who haven’t built anything new in the past like 15 years.

James Lewis 31:09
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And relating this kind of back to education, some of the other education platforms, you know, that there’s a thing that we kind of turn the Udemy problem, which is where on their platform, you can, you can pick any, any course and you can see what creators are earning, right course. So it’s a really interesting thing is, you know, people teaching marketing courses, for example, the average earnings for someone teaching a marketing course, are 16 US dollars a month, which is crazy. It’s, it’s, it’s the few guys at the top who have all of the ratings, you know, who’ve been doing this for years, and years and years. They’re the ones that capture all of the value, right? And if you have someone, you know, who might have a couple of years experience, you know, working in, you know, whatever company, for them to spend, you know, two years, three years building up an audience on these learning platforms to building up their ratings. You know, that’s, that takes a long, long time.

Michael Waitze 32:15
It does. And that’s not what’s meant, like, technology was supposed to democratize a whole bunch of things, not just take the oligopoly that existed offline and transfer it online. Yeah, absolutely. Before I let you go, what’s this? How would you characterize the status of learn real? Like, where do you think this is going? Have you been funded? Tell me a little bit more before I let you go.

James Lewis 32:35
Yeah, so we we raised some funding. So we we launched earlier this year. And we’ve that apps now been downloaded in over 60 countries biggest markets are India, us, broadly, kind of the you know, the the value proposition to users is that we serve them short educational videos personalized on their learning habits. So the idea is that we want to, we want people to get to pick up their phones, and without friction, learn what they want to learn. Yeah. Which when you when you kind of contrast this to a desktop learning platform where you’ve got to sit down, open your laptop, go onto a website, search for like a specific topic. All of that adds in so much friction to the learning experience. We want to remove all that friction.

Michael Waitze 33:22
Got it. And when did you say you launched?

James Lewis 33:25
So earlier…the start of this year.

Michael Waitze 33:28
Okay, great. So we’re gonna have to catch up with you again in six months to see what kind of progress you’re making.

James Lewis 33:33
Absolutely. Big plans.

Michael Waitze 33:35
Yeah, I’m sure there are gigantic plans. Okay, I’m gonna let you go. This was awesome. I really want to thank you for coming on and doing this today. James Lewis, a co founder and the CEO at learnreel, I really appreciate your time.

James Lewis 33:49
Thanks so much for having me.


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