The man who launched iPlayer wants to revolutionise school video
British startup Knowledgemotion knows video is king. It knows that, by 2019, 80% of the world’s internet traffic will be video content. It also knows that video is the lingua franca of the millennial generation, and will only become more important as time marches on. However, it also knows that trying to bring video into education is no easy task. Both the entertainment and education industries are slow to change and to adopt new formats and business models, but that’s what Knowledgemotion and its platform Boclips is here to change.
Named after the tree under which Buddha sat when he became enlightened, Boclips is the key to unlocking video content in the classroom – at least, that’s what Knowledgemotion founder and CEO David Bainbridge believes. Having helped launch Channel 5 – yes, you can blame him for that Spice Girls song “Power of Five” – and been an instrumental member in the launch and promotion of BBC’s then-revolutionary iPlayer, it’s safe to say Bainbridge knows a thing or two when it comes to understanding video content. That’s why I met with him to find out more about where the idea for Knowledgemotion and Boclips came from, and where it’s going to go next.
1. Where did the big idea for Knowledgemotion and Boclips come from?
After having had four kids and seeing them grow and go on their own educational journeys, I thought “gosh, technology in the classroom is really changing”. Blackboards have become interactive whiteboards, and you could argue that physical textbooks have become Chromebooks. The delivery mechanisms have changed completely since I was in school, but the content being consumed through those devices is exactly the same. [For all this technology, materials] were really just a lazy PDF of a physical textbook. Coming from a telly world, I just thought “well, hang on a minute. Why, when you could actually put video material into these digital textbooks?” Why wasn’t there more of the fantastic stuff that’s on telly every single night, that reflects the world we all live in – which is completely relevant to what you’re learning at school, university, or in corporate and vocational training – “why isn’t more video material being used?”
The bad thing, of course, is doing a startup and having four children is a nightmare. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
2. What’s the problem Knowledgemotion aims to solve?
If you’re in the education space, you want to be able to get hold of all of this material in one space. By putting lots of video content in one place, it allows [educators] to cherry-pick video clips for geography, history, sciences, maths – whatever it might be.
We’ve aggregated some of the biggest names in video production from around the world: companies such as the BBC, Getty, Associated Press, British Movietone, all the way through to Bloomberg News. We have some really big names alongside 20 other smaller producers of content, many of whom we can’t announce yet, sadly.
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All our content – about two million clips with around 30,000 hours of programming – is mapped algorithmically to the topics taught through primary, secondary, higher and corporate and vocational learning. We use a combination of machine logic and human curation to map those clips to either curricular – by market – or publisher taxonomies.
From there we devised a set of rights and pricing apposite for the education marketplace. Everything’s all rights cleared, so nobody’s going to get their fingers burnt from using our content, and it can be integrated into the ecosystems of the partners we’re working with.
The really important thing to stress here is that we’re not selling directly to students, parents, teachers or schools. We’re a B2B business who, very deliberately, focus on selling video enablement to content producers who are really good at producing pedagogical stuff. They’re great at writing textbooks, but they’re not very good at producing video – we provide the video piece in the digital world.
3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve managed to overcome so far?
To galvanise the content industry in coming together to support an early-stage business in a sector that they don’t typically understand. Getting big organisations like the BBC, AP and Getty as suppliers of ours was a long and painful dance at times. But now they’re seeing the benefit of what we’re doing, and the demand and interest from the education industry for the service and product we have created – it suddenly becomes a lot easier. Even in the past 18 months, we’ve seen a fundamental shift on the demand side – the educator side – recognising that a PDF of a textbook just isn’t good enough, and that video is critical to their survival moving forwards.
“When digital-native teachers become the majority, there will be a fantastic source of new, stimulating, educationally aligned video content.”
You won’t be surprised to hear that we use stats from the TV marketplace to emphasise to the education industry how important it is that they pull their socks up and get on with it. I think one of the big points that really surprised me is that, in 2011, 40 minutes of video was consumed at home on digital devices by millennials off the main TV set. Today, that’s risen to over two hours a day. Video is bigger than social media in terms of time spent.
If that’s happening outside of the classroom, it’s just wrong that when the same students (be they adults or kids) go into the classroom, there’s no video content. It’s missing an opportunity to engage, entertain, excite and captivate, and all those good things that well-produced video delivers.
4. Where do you see Knowledgemotion and Boclips being in five years time?
Our stated ambition right at the start of this journey was to be the home of video in education. I think what we will start to see more of is us not only having well-known content brands on our platform and niche providers of content, but also content produced by teachers and students themselves. They can use a platform such as Boclips to upload, share and monetise the content that they produce themselves.
When digital-native teachers become the majority, there will be a fantastic source of new, stimulating, educationally aligned video content. That’s a new content acquisition and distribution paradigm for us, and it’s going to be very interesting. The new paradigm of teachers and professors becoming publishers of their own material will be something we see more and more of. We want to be the enabler of that. We don’t want to become a publisher, but we want to enable those publishers, be they Pearson or a professor at Hull University.
5. Could you see VR playing a role in your future?
We’ve always said we’re not in text or still images, we’re in video and wherever video goes. When it comes to 360-degree video content, exactly the same model can apply. We can become the aggregator and distributor on a B2B basis. We’re already in conversation with players in the US and Asia who are starting to do some quite cool stuff that is apposite for education.
So, absolutely, VR and AR is on the roadmap, but what I think we have to recognise today is that the industry hasn’t even got its head wrapped around video. It’s five years plus, rather than “in the next five years”.
6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before starting Knowledgemotion?
For me, it’s about making sure that when you start your entrepreneurial journey you do so with the right people: making sure your initial partners in the business have the same motivations and ambitions that you do. When you’re starting a business, you have to beg and borrow a lot, but the most important thing is to have a founder alongside you who is your support through those dark times.
To be honest with you, I didn’t get it quite right from the start. But now that I have, it’s transformational – it just makes a huge difference. A team is so important when you’re tiny; it has to operate well. That team has to be incredibly tight-knit, taking on all the external slings and arrows, not worrying about internal potential disagreements. I don’t know what the art, or the science, is to getting that right. All I know is that we didn’t get it quite right, but I have done now!