Why we believe audio is the next frontier for online learning

Warren Shaeffer
Oct 1, 2019 · 5 min read

Introducing Knowable

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When you’re listening to a great audiobook or podcast, it’s like you’re spending time with a friend. Engaging audio can turn even the most mundane tasks, like driving to work or folding laundry, into sought-after activities.

I discovered audiobooks when I was a teenager — way back when they were called “books on tape” — and I’ve been a fan of spoken-word audio ever since. Today, about 90 million Americans regularly listen to podcasts, and, like the three-quarters who do so primarily to “learn new things,” I love audio that teaches me about our ever-changing world.

As a first-generation American whose parents came to the states with little more than dreams of a better life, I’ve seen firsthand how access to great teachers can transform someone’s trajectory. And, as the pace of change in our economy accelerates, I believe that high-quality education and lifelong learning is more important than ever.

So, when I got together with my co-founder, Alex, to brainstorm what kind of company we wanted to build together, we realized that we both revered two things in particular: great audio, and great teachers. We also realized that there was a lack of options for people like us: people who want to learn from the world’s best minds in a deliberate way, but don’t have much free time.

Podcasts and audiobooks are great for casual learning, but there are few options for people who want structured, course-like learning over audio — online courses today are almost entirely video-focused, and the scant audio options that do exist are outdated and lack the useful features that people have come to expect from online learning.

We asked ourselves: how can we make high-quality education more convenient and approachable, so that people can spend time learning when they can’t or don’t want to stare at a screen?

And today, we’re excited to announce Knowable, an audio-first learning platform and library of original, expert-led audio courses. Knowable unites world-leading experts, academics, and storytellers to create immersive audio courses for people who want to get inspired, learn new things, and accomplish their goals.

We’re working to make education more modern and accessible for people around the world, and we hope you’ll join us.

What makes Knowable unique?

  • Audio-first learning — Most online courses rely on video, limiting when and how you can learn. Knowable courses are audio-based, allowing you to learn more conveniently and free from distractions like emails, texts, and social media. After listening to each lesson, we email you a summary of what you heard, and suggest clear next steps to apply the learnings to your life, so that you don’t have to take notes while listening.
  • Multiple course experts — Knowable brings together teams of world-leading experts to provide well-rounded, comprehensive, and diverse learning experiences.
  • Trustworthy instruction — The internet is loaded with self-ordained experts, espousing questionable advice. Knowable courses are created by professional researchers, journalists, academics, and world-renowned experts.
  • No ads — Knowable emphasizes editorial integrity, with courses that are free of advertiser influence and disruption.
  • Premium production value — Knowable’s creative team, hailing from NPR, Washington Post, and MasterClass, among others, brings a fresh take to educational audio that’s fun to listen to.
  • Curated learning tools — All courses come with detailed in-app lesson summaries, suggested reading lists, topic-specific resources, optional action items, and a downloadable e-textbook.
  • Exclusive member benefits — As a Knowable member, you’ll receive exclusive benefits and discounts on course-specific products and services.
  • Free access for a friend — Learning is better with friends. Knowable courses include a code allowing you to bring a friend along so that you can learn with someone you know.
  • Private member community — Collaborate with and learn from like-minded learners in the upcoming private Knowable course communities, and get your questions answered by actual experts.
  • Seamless membership experience — Knowable courses are delivered through our own apps, allowing us to create a personalized experience for you to help maximize your chances of achieving your goals.
  • 100% money-back guarantee — If you’re not satisfied with your learning experience we’ll give you a full refund.

What are the launch courses?

Today, we’re launching with three original courses, all available on iOS, Android, and web. Each course is four to seven hours in length, and features perspectives from world-leading domain experts, along with the perks listed above.

  • Launch a StartupFounders, investors, marketers, attorneys, and more share their stories and teach the steps to startup success. Experts include Alexis Ohanian (founder of Reddit and Initialized Capital), Michael Preysman (founder of Everlane), Tracy Lawrence (founder of Chewse), and Eddy Lu (founder of GOAT).
  • Start a PodcastAudio industry leaders from NPR, Vox, RadioPublic, Stitcher, and more share their wisdom and teach you how to create a podcast that listeners will love. Experts include Jonathan Hirsch (founder of Neon Hum Media), Paul Scheer (creator of How Did This Get Made? and Unspooled), and Jillian Weinberger (senior audio producer at Vox).
  • Sleep Better TonightWorld-leading doctors, journalists, and sleep scientists reveal the mysteries of sleep and teach you how to improve your sleep habits for dramatically better health, performance, mood, and personal well-being. Experts include W. Chris Winter (author of The Sleep Solution), Dr. Fiona Barwick (Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine), and Russell Foster (Oxford Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute).

Who’s on the team?

Our creative team hails from NPR, Washington Post, Vice, and Masterclass, and our product team has developed software used by hundreds of millions of people.

We’re backed by some of the world’s best venture capital investors and we’re hiring quickly. If you’re an experienced software engineer, product designer, or audio producer with zeal for learning and self-improvement, please visit our jobs page or introduce yourself at hello@knowable.fyi.

What’s next?

As Knowable evolves, we’ll continue to improve our apps to deliver learning experiences that are more personalized, interactive, and rewarding. And we’ll continue to partner with the world’s top experts and storytellers to expand our library of original audio courses into a breadth of new categories. We have amazing courses already in the pipeline, and are really looking forward to sharing them with you.

About Knowable

Knowable is an audio-first learning platform with a growing library of original, expert-led audio courses. We create immersive, screen-free experiences that help people get inspired, learn new things, and accomplish their personal and professional goals. Knowable is built by a distributed team of audio lovers and lifelong learners, and we’re venture-backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, Initialized Capital, First Round Capital, and Mucker Capital, among others. To learn more, visit knowable.fyi.


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