September 1, 2014

Education in the Age of Student Entrepreneurs

omninox publishing team2

Entrepreneurship has become “cool” over the last 20 years since the Internet came into being. Youth entrepreneurship, especially college students trying their hands at digital start-ups, is now quite a phenomenon.

Today, we’re going to look at a team of student entrepreneurs who have launched a product and got it to a revenue generating stage while still at school.

Meet Yatit, Drew and Jak

Yatit Thakker, the CEO of Omninox, had always loved science. As an engineering student at the University of Florida, he was however, disappointed with the boring textbooks and tools used to teach science.

Though there were several online education programs, Yatit felt they were not utilizing the technology to its full potential. Even with powerful platforms like iBooks, the online education programs being created were mere digital reproductions of the textbooks, without much interactivity.

The iBooks platform, though, was capable of much more.

So, in the summer of 2012, Yatit with Drew Vincent and Jak Yap, his fellow environmental engineering students at the University of Florida, took it upon themselves to make science challenging and fun to learn.

The Founding of Omninox

The three founded Omninox and created interactive, mobile study guides called Omniguides for high school students using the iBooks platform. They funded the company from their savings accounts, with part-time jobs, and some pre-seed investments from their families.

Omninox aims to consolidate the material that students learn for Advanced Placement (AP) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) classes by offering built-in software tools such as a calculator, quizzes and sketchpad with social sharing.

Their first interactive guide for Calculus 1 was one of the top listed Calculus 1 guides on the iBookstore. Over the next year, the market became more competitive. Companies like OpenStax, SchoolYourself and Houghton Mifflin had also started using the iBooks platform to create more interactive products.

However, Omninox had a first mover advantage and it upped its game as well. It became part of the iBookstore’s textbook section. This was a huge challenge for Omninox but had its rewards. A private school in California made the Calculus Omniguide a requirement for all its students.

Each AP Omniguide is sold as an integrated software package for $15. In 2013, Omninox released its first commercial product and it is already in the revenue stage. It has had more than 200 paid downloads across the world, with 120 of these in the past six months.

Close to 600,000 students are projected to take physics, calculus or statistics in the 2014 AP course. Assuming one-third of this target market has access to an iPad, it translates to a potential market of $3 million per year.

The Future of Omninox

Yatit says they plan to expand Omniguides to a web-based platform once they have a stronger base of content and customers. The platform will include more general preparatory courses for a subscription fee of $10 a month. This will help provide not only better content but also provide a more continuous revenue stream. They could also consider providing online tutoring for AP STEM courses.

One of the challenges that the online education sector faces is that many professors and academicians are not as savvy with Web technologies as their students. They have typically collaborated with eLearning companies and have released products and courses that have stuck to the sage-on-the-stage model. Online education’s true potential lies in exploring the guide-on-the-side model.

Is it then time to collaborate with student-led ventures like Omninox to bring out the true potential of digital technology in education?

More broadly, today’s generation of students are digital natives. They have been exposed to the Internet, smartphones, tablets, social media and many other technologies from a very young age. It is not surprising that we’re seeing a tremendous surge of entrepreneurship among students these days.

Image: Omninox Publishing Team, Omninox

11 Comments ▼
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Sramana Mitra


Sramana Mitra Sramana Mitra is the founder of One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, a virtual incubator that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategist who writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy.

11 Reactions

  1. I think that this is a great idea as it will generate more interest in entrepreneurship. I think that this is a good thing as I am always passionate about people loving what they do instead of doing it just to make ends meet.

  2. Nothing advances the economy and grassroots level innovation like startups do. To see more young people taking up entrepreneurship is one of the best signs we could hope for!

  3. Excellent! Not only a wonderful entrepreneurial story, but just publicizing it will encourage more student entrepreneurship. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Education is changing and digital platforms will be a major part of the change. I was recently reading about an online marketing simulation software called StuKent.com that allows marketing students to virtually market products. It’s very cool and I’m excited to hear about new ideas like Omninox too.

  5. What will the horrible Common Core curriculum being forced onto all the states and schools do to your success? I am opposed to Common Core, but parents and school dist were not asked, it was forced on them. We are currently experiencing failure in our household for math going on the second yr from 5th grade now 6th grade.
    What you have created should be looked at as a great learning opportunity!

  6. Anyone interested in entrepreneurship should get my book: Personal Brand Planning for life, available on Amazon to determine their unique skill set and persona so that they can market their entrepreneurial idea(s) more effectively.

  7. Lalitha G Krishnan

    Digital learning is the new age learning and definitely has more scope for improvement. It is quite encouraging to note many students are taking up entrepreneurship. mybskool.com has a wonderful course called Foundations of Entrepreneurship which introduces one to the basics of entrepreneurship.

  8. I like Omninox. I like the idea. And I like that it’s our youth at the helm of it. The advantage it really has is they’re students and so have a different angle, depth and understanding to their competitors.

    I have a really good feeling about Omninox’s future.

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