The rise of EdTech. Brainly is an educational startup based in Cracow, Poland, that is benefiting users across the globe. Operating a group of social learning networks for students and educators, Brainly is making the most of our evermore-connected society by allowing people to combine their strengths in learning with others. The platform that allows students to collaborate their knowledge with others is available in 13 language versions which are visited by over 50 million different users monthly from over 35 countries of the world. The man behind it: Michał Borkowski, a thriving European entrepreneur. Michał was kind enough to share with us some of his ideas and pragmatic approaches that have benefitted millions.
How did you enter your field and begin as an entrepreneur?
Michał Borkowski: When I was a student, I co-created a Quora-like platform in Poland. This was actually before the real Quora existed. It gave me my first experience in this field. It was only natural for me to start a company once I graduated. This is how we started Brainly, or Zadane.pl, which was the name of our first social learning platform for the Polish market. After a year, we had one million monthly unique users. This was a signal, that it was time to go international.
What is your current position and what does your role entail?
M.B.: I am the CEO of Brainly. This makes me responsible for Company Strategy, Product Strategy, Culture & Structure. I am also one of the three co-founders and I now live in New York City, although I spend a lot of time in our Kraków office.
This is the power of a global learning community. It’s for students, by students.
What was the initial idea behind the company? Have you pivoted from this or does the original idea still remain?
M.B.: We believe that everyone has some strengths and is able to share their skills and knowledge with others by asking and answering questions. This is the main idea behind Brainly. When I was in school, I had some problems with Biology. My parents and friends couldn’t help me with that subject and so I lost my passion for it. At the same time, I was good at Math. What I needed was a community that would fill in my knowledge gaps, explain the things I didn’t understand and help me develop my skills. In return, I could give back to the community by helping others with things I was good at. This is why we created Brainly.
How does your app and website cater to learning in a social environment?
M.B.: Brainly answers to every student’s need. When they come back home, they often find themselves in a situation in which there is no one they can reach out to for help with the school problems. We’re an out-of-school platform that fills in for parents, siblings or peers that are unable to help. Every Brainly user can ask a question about their problem and receive an answer from their peers within minutes. No matter where they are and what device they’re on. This is the power of a global learning community. It’s for students, by students.
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Building and scaling a business is no simple feat. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in building your business? How did you overcome the barriers to your success?
M.B.: After entering several markets we saw that not being present on the US market was getting more and more problematic. You may grow big, but until you’re noticed in the US, you will not make a global impact. This is where the competition, capital and biggest challenges are. It’s is why we decided to open a NYC office in 2014. I actually moved to NYC with my wife. It’s strategically important.
In the Photo: The Brainly Team.
What makes you unique from your competitors?
M.B.: What’s unusual about Brainly is that we focus on students. Many Edtech tools and platforms reach out to teachers, parents and schools. This way, they put themselves one step away from the ones who are most important in education – students. We build a product that students love and want to use. We focus on their needs. Eventually, this makes parents and teachers follow. We have proved that. Each month, a few million parents and teachers come to use Brainly.
What entrepreneur do you consider as your role model or inspiration and how has he or she impacted your career?
M.B.: I’ve always looked up to Mark Zuckerberg. It’s amazing how his product has evolved over the time. You can learn a lot by tracking the development of Facebook and how it became the king of social networks.
If your company were given $1B, how would you spend it?
M.B.: We’d throw an epic party! But seriously, this is not how things work. You must rather estimate costs of specific goals you aim to achieve and then secure resources to accomplish them, not the other way around.
What is your advice for people who want to become entrepreneurs and start their own business?
M.B.: Focus on your strengths. One of Brainly principles is that everyone has some strengths, remember? You should realise what you’re good at and focus on that, develop your skills. Pay attention to your shortcomings, but what’s important is the solution. Instead of trying to be the best at everything, build your team to be complimentary to your strengths.