tv Studio 1.0 Bloomberg August 2, 2015 9:00am-9:31am EDT
♪ emily: imagine a global classroom where anyone can learn anything, anywhere. all filled by one man. he got his start as a hedge fund analyst, tutoring his cousin on the side. he posted a few tutorials on youtube that became so popular he made it his life's work. , the khan academy now serves 26 million students, with over 1 million teachers, teaching everything from chemistry to computer programming, from kindergarten to calculus. and the best part is, it is all free. joining me today on "studio 1.0," khan academy founder and
education reinvented, sal khan. thanks for being here. you grew up in louisiana. sal: yes. emily: you were not wealthy, privileged. you were on free school lunches. sal: yeah. my mom raised me and my sister -- i never met my dad, really. of as a singlend mother my entire childhood. she had a bunch of odd jobs from managing a local convenience store two, at one point, she was the woman who collected change from the vending machines. emily: you went to public high school, right? sal: we had folks that were headed to four-year colleges. there were some kids who had just been out of juvee. there were a group of kids that were headed to college, too. emily: what did you want to be when you grew up? sal: when i was in high school, i got enamored with the golden age of theoretical physics. this was a science trying to understand the nature of reality.
what's cooler than that? i wanted to be a physicist. emily: you also learned to code, right? sal: we did not have a computer at home. but eventually i got my hands on one of these programmable calculators. i learned that just on a popular, you can write games and stuff. i became obsessed with that. i said, with code, you can create reality. that became captivating for me when i got to college. emily: you went to m.i.t. sal: yes. i remember when i went to high school and my guidance counselor said, ok, where are you thinking about applying to? i said m.i.t. he was like, no one has ever gone to m.i.t. from our high school. luckily, things worked out. emily: after all that, how did you end up at a hedge fund? sal: i went to a tech startup actually not too far from where we are right here. i was there for 2 years. like everyone from 1999, 2000, i was plotting my retirement at age 25. [laughter] then the nasdaq collapses. i remember thinking, ok, maybe i should rethink my future in
little bit. after doing about 40 interviews, i found a place with a guy who's a really great mentor and boss. emily: you started tutoring your cousin on the side. how did that work? sal: it was 2004. i had just gotten married. it came out in conversation that my cousin nadia was having trouble in math. i started to teach her some algebra. got her a little ahead of her class. then i became what i call a tiger cousin. [laughter] i called her school and said i really think nadia should retake that placement exam from last year. two or three years later, she was taking calculus at the university of new orleans. that was just an example. i thought there is something here, how many more kids might there be who think there are not good at math but with some intervention, they could just run. emily: how do you end up posting the tutorials, then, on youtube? sal: one thing that got around the family was that free tutoring was going on. so i started working with -- every day after work, i was
working with 10 or 15 cousins, family friends, all over the country. i started writing practice software for them. then, tools for me as their coach or their teacher or their tutor to keep track of what they were doing. one of my friends said this is all cool, sal. why don't you make some of them as youtube videos and upload them? i immediately said it was a horrible idea. youtube is for cats playing piano, not serious math. i went home that weekend, got over the idea that it was not my idea. i made those videos public. i thought it was only going to be for my cousins. but it wasn't long before it was clear that people who weren't my cousins were watching. emily: so tell me about the moment where you said 'there was a bigger problem here i can solve, maybe this could be my full-time job. maybe this can be my mission.' sal: in those early days, when i asked my cousins for feedback, and they famously said they liked me better on youtube than in person. they liked, also, having no judgment. if they have to review something from fourth grade and they were in ninth grade. or if in the middle of the night they were stuck on something, they didn't have to call me or anything, it was just on demand. then when i started getting
letters from people on youtube. some of the initial ones were just simple 'thank yous.' but then the comments, you know, 'this is the reason i was able to pass algebra,' 'this was the reason why i was able to, after leaving the military, able to go back to college and major in engineering.' 'this was the reason why my children who have a learning disability are able to engage with their math class.' and it was 2008, i set it up as a not-for-profit. by 2009, this was all i was thinking about. my wife and i sat down, and we figured let's give it a shot. it feels like this could be a real organization. i quit my job and tried to see if we could do it for real. emily: was it scary? sal: yes. [laughter] our first son had just been born. we ended up digging into our savings to the tune of about $5,000 a month. you almost have to have a somewhat delusionally optimistic mindset. it was the most stressful time of my life. you kind of question your self worth. like, 'oh, so what do you do for a living?' i make youtube videos. emily: like, not the cats playing pianos, guys. sal: exactly. so, like, nine or 10 months into
it, all of a sudden we got our , first major donation. it was from ann doerr. i immediately e-mailed her -- it was a $10,000 donation. i said thank you so much, this is the most generous donation the khan academy has ever received. if we were a physical school, you would now have a building named after you. and she responded back. she said, well, i love what you're doing. i'd love to hear more. we met and we talked more. she said you have made a lot of progress, but how are supporting yourself? i said i'm not. she said you really need to be supporting yourself, i just 100,000 dollars. that was a good day. that allowed me to say maybe i can really do this. emily: and it is still all free. sal: all free. free world-class education for anyone. that is core to who we are. we have support from the gates foundation, from google, and others. it is not just me anymore. 80 full-time employees. we have volunteers.
a much larger effort than me. doerr,john and ann google i know eric schmidt is on , the board, how do you get these kind of people to support you? sal: in a lot of these folks mention they just ended up using khan academy or using it with their children. they were able to directly feel the benefit of it. emily: i am curious now. your model is there is no employee equity, right? sal: everyone gets the same stock package i do. emily: there is not going to be an ipo, right? sal: there is not going to be an ipo. emily: at this point, do you worry about making ends meet? sal: we are a strange beast. we are a high growth tech thing that is reaching millions, but at the same time we are not for profit. we are competing for the top people like google and facebook and dropbox, all of these hot silicon valley companies, but we aren't able to give the stock packages. we find if you give them a good salary, a good mission,
intellectually challenging work, and other great people to work around it naturally feeds on , itself. so i feel good about the model, even though it is strange. emily: what about your own financial position? . sal: i pinch myself every dust what about your own financial position? i know you have three kids now. sal: i pinch myself every morning. the level we got to, to come in and buy a honda accord every eight years. we get to dream about what could be in the future. we could be the harvard or the oxford of the next stage of civilization that could reach a billion students a year. not imagine being in a luckier position. emily: you are hanging out with tech billionaires and on the same list as mark zuckerberg. how do you feel you fit in as an entrepreneur? sal: i do not know. i joke that i was the poorest person on the cover of forbes. [laughter] isneat -- is neat about
silicon valley is as much wealth as there is here, it is not about the wealth. what people in silicon valley care about is what are you doing to innovate. what are you doing to change the world. that is what makes silicon valley silicon valley. emily: what is the myth about khan academy? sal: i'm still changing diapers and cleaning burp up off the floor. the other myth is that sometimes it looks like these things just happen overnight. i don't think i'm speaking just for myself. i think i would be speaking for a lot of folks in silicon valley who started things. you hear about their success, but there are a string of failures that get swept under the rug. 40 organizations before i started khan academy. it is never as clean as it looks in the outside. emily: do you think videos can replace learning in the classroom? ♪
number of the videos. it's one of the things that keeps me happy. emily: how many videos have you may personally? sal: i think around 4000 videos. most of what you are investing in is that software that i started with my cousins in 2005. students can go, and learn at their own pace, it understands what they know or don't know. partnering with college board, which is the official test prep for the sat. emily: by some measure, khan academy already is one of the largest schools in the world. one of your investors says you are one of the world's first superstar teacher. sal: actually we view this as a , huge responsibility. you can imagine kids in the inlage in africa or the slum india who gets access to a low-cost phone or tablet device. in five or 10 years that will be everywhere. every albert einstein we found, how many of them did we not find? how many got squandered because they didn't learn to read, get an education, etc. imagine if we could increase
that by a order of magnitude, by a factor of 10, the number of albert einsteins in the world. the number of people who can do can serve research. the number of people who can think about alternative energy. this could be a force multiplier like we have never seen. it is very exciting. emily: do you think videos can replace learning in the classroom? sal: if learning in the classroom is about information dissemination, and some of the classrooms we grew up in was about that videos can do that. , in some ways, it is more bite more on demand. but i do not think the physical classroom goes away. i think it is a huge opportunity to allow the physical classroom to move up the value chain. if students get their information at their own time and pays, practice and get feed back at their own time and pace, the physical classroom can now be used for real human interaction. emily: critics have said the videos can be repetitive. like drilling. sal: i am the last person to force videos on everyone. i will be the first to say i think the videos are the least important part of your education experience. the way i view it is if you need
an explanation, it is great to be able to look it up. but real learning is when you have exercises. and in physical classrooms, hiding dialogue, getting feedback from your peers. the teacher can be the human in the child's life and sit next to them and learn about them. not just what the content gaps are, but what are the emotional needs? what is going on at home. there was all this body of research that says your brain is trainable if you just push yourself. if you stay out of your comfort zone you can make yourself , smarter. emily: you actually have a new classroom that you set up at the academy where you are testing a lot of different things. tell me about this. sal: it is always been a dream before the khan academy existed. wouldn't it be fun to be a mini and experiment with these ideas. we should have a small lap were we can test some of these ideas. emily: who are these kids, how
many kids? sal: my eldest son is one of the guinea pigs. a lot of the kids are khan academy employees' kids. we should live by what we are saying, otherwise we would be hypocrites. there is that. and we just started so there are a handful of families letting us excrement on their children. emily: do you think all my education will replace traditional education? ♪
emily: the u.s. spends more than any country in the world on education. $1.3 trillion a year. and yet still, we are 25th in math, 17th in science, 14th and reading. what is wrong? sal: if you went 50 years ago and you said, give me a list of the 10 most innovative companies in the world, maybe 30% would've been american. if you want to do that list now, probably 80% would be american. what i like to think about is how can we bring that ofrepreneurship, that spirit
failure not being stigmatized, how can we bring that to the future --'tis the schools? it doesn't mean just a gpa, it can be a portfolio of creative works, peer feedback. being a designer is a creative endeavor. show us what you have done. emily: the u.s. is the only developed country with a high percentage of top performers and bottom performers. we live in the heart of innovation in the world. and the public schools in san francisco aren't good at all. what is the problem? why is that? sal: we're living in a world right now that if we don't fix something, we will have a smaller percentage of people participate in this innovation and wealth creation. we lose our most creative engineers and mathematicians based on how we evaluate them in middle school. you can't solve an exponent when you are 14, we don't think you can be a doctor. we do not think you can be an engineer. emily: you are tracked so early.
sal: the example is looking at a 12-year-old and saying you can't mix paint we don't think you can be a painter. or you are not so flexible, we don't think you can be a dancer. emily: do you think online education will replace traditional education or the traditional classroom in the future? sal: not at all. uber might disrupt the cab industry. airbnb might disrupt the hotel industry. but i don't think that will be the case in education. what i hoped for my own children, i hope they use khan academy and other things to learn at their own time and pace, but i hope they go to a classroom where they are able to interact with their teachers, have a conversation. not told to be quiet but to move around. not told be quiet, but to discuss. emily: decades from now, will people still be paying thousands of dollars for that m.i.t. or harvard degree? sal: even today, the return on investment, unless you major in a lucrative field, is suspect. if you extrapolate the growth intuition 10 or 20 years, you
-- you have young children as well. you are looking at -- emily: oh yeah. sal: half a million dollars. that is just not feasible. i think over the next five to 10 years, online will be part of a catalyst. there will be other paths. i don't want colleges to go away but there will be some economic discipline that forces them to lower tuition. emily: have you had any conversations with a university about lowering tuition? sal: i don't think it is that simple. but there are obvious tools at their disposal to drive this down just yet. are other there narratives, options, that people can do with different economic models. that will naturally put pressure. this has nothing to do with online. you have things like general assembly and coder schools. they accept students and take no tuition. they train them for a year, on something that society needs.
whether it is designers or somewhere else. then they say hey, it will be like a recruiting model. we will take 20% of your first year salary. that is a way to win. you think if i get placed, and , make six figures, i make a good income. i don't have all the answers, but there are interesting catalyst and things happening that will change things in the next 10 years. emily: is there a government solution? sal: there is no equivalent for a college degree. but you can imagine the world where the government or some industry person can say that if you can prove to us that you know this set of skills at the same level as a college graduate, we will give you a credential. we will give a signal to society that you are employable along these dimensions. -- at a very high level. this is something the kid who graduates from stanford or harvard would want to do. that will be one of those catalysts that puts pressure on positive pressure on higher
education costs. when we put $200,000 for a diploma, most parents are thinking, the bulk of that we are paying for is a credential. universities, if you think about the resources, it is going into something else. it is going into the campus, the landscaping, whatever else. decouple credentials from learning, it allows everyone to compete on the learning side on equal footing, and allows innovation to happen. it allows everyone to kind of aspire for credentials that have equal weight. and i am just daydreaming now. that could be a pretty powerful way to level the playing field. emily: if the brain is a muscle, and trying harder can lead to better learning, does that mean anyone can be sal khan? anyone can be mark zuckerberg? or is there something innate about great entrepreneurs that can't be learned? sal: i don't know the absolute statement here. i do think most people on the planet are capable of mastering calculus, are capable of
programming a computer, are capable of understanding genetics. i generally believe that. to 400ple is if you want years back to western europe, 20% of men and 10% of women were literate. emily: can anyone start facebook? khan academy? sal: i don't know for sure. some of these things, mark zuckerberg. you shift his life a year forward or back, he might not have started facebook. he might have been an engineer for facebook. you shift sal khan's life forward or back instead of going , up in new orleans, he might have grown up in calcutta. you don't know what paths might have been. there are people who push themselves to grow. but they also had a lot of opportunity. they were in the right places at the right time. and a little dose of luck never hurt. i think mark zuckerberg would've been successful in anything that he did. i do not know if i can say that everybody could be mark
zuckerberg, but i think that are a lot of people that could be mark zuckerberg who right now think they cannot. emily: what does the classroom look like 10 years from now? sal: kids are able to create things that 10 or 20 years ago you needed an engineering degree to build. schools will be these maker spaces. it does not have to be technological things. they could be making art, doing poetry, starting businesses, who knows what might be. emily: what about you? sal: i hope to be doing this until the day that i die which hopefully is not for another 50 or so years. it might be longer if we hit the singularity like some people think. if i imagine a world in 500 years, i hope khan academy is still around. what do we need to do to make this a 100 year or 500 year organization that can be billions of students, and powering billions of people. before i go to bed, i think what needs to be done? what is at stake here? and just keep going. i hope i keep making videos. emily: sal khan, thank you so
♪ emily: it has changed the way we watch video, redefined going viral, challenged governments, and even launched the career of justin bieber. today, youtube, now owned by google, has more than 1 billion users, uploading 300 hours of video every minute. it all started a decade ago with a trip to the zoo. and one of the founders says he is not quite done changing the way we are entertained. joining me today on "studio 1.0," youtube cofounder and former ceo, chad hurley. chad, thank you so much for being here.