Since 2008, has provided video of their math instructors demonstrating the processes of solving many varieties of math problems. They offer free videos as well as video content for university-level material which you can pay for or get a six-month subscription for with the purchase of one of their textbooks. In addition to their textbooks (also available online) and videos, they also run the site XYZ Homework (started in 2010), which is an online homework and gradebook software. Part of their aim is to offer all of their products “at a reasonable price, with professional, accessible service.”

The CEO and publisher of this multi-faceted venture is Pat McKeague. With a BA and MS in Math, he began his teaching career in 1970. After teaching elementary, high school, and college-level math for several years, he published “Elementary Algebra” in 1979 at a price of $12.95 for students. In 1985 he reduced his teaching time to focus on being a full-time textbook author. Since then, he has continued to teach, author books, and contribute to the mathematics community. In 2008, he hired six students to help him proofread, and check for errors in, a book he was penning. He was surprised at how keen his students were, so he decided to see how they would do in front of a camera. The results came out so well, that he started adding helpful online videos online for math students everywhere, whether they bought his books or not.

Other than a couple of sales directors, there is only one other team member listed on the site. Matthew Hoy is the company’s project manager. He has a BS in Journalism, and worked within that field for 15 years in roles from reporter to editor to graphic designer. While on staff at the San Diego Union-Tribune, the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Despite his journalistic leanings, he also has some mathematics training in his background. Part of his motivation for working with McKeague is to work with a company that takes strives to take the “expensive textbook barrier” out of education.

Overall, I ended up deeming the venture’s directors as skilled and trustworthy. I see this site as very useful to students and teachers, and could see how some money may be made with it. Just how much, it’s hard to tell.

From this activity, I have taken away a couple of personally useful insights. The first is about McKeague: he’s a good example that someone with useful educational skills/ talents can make their own place in the electronic world. He jumped on a need and has helped to fill it. I think the way he does things is also smart business: offering free videos to teachers breeds familiarity and trust in students before they go to university and start buying his books / subscribing to his for-a-fee content.

I also had a bit of a wake-up with this activity, in a “stranger danger” kind of sense. The first three or four programs / sites / ventures that I wanted to cover and delve deeper into had basically no company information available about them on their sites… or any other sites! I was frustrated and disappointed, but thought… as a potential investor, how the heck would I be able to trust in this person/group and make an informed decision about them if they won’t tell me anything about themselves? It had me second-guessing the value of some sites / programs I currently use with my students.

Edit: I forgot to add that I did the BDC questionnaire which gives an idea of how I measure up “entrepreneurially”. In short, the survey makers don’t think I’m going much of anywhere, as I was below the mean score in all three main areas. Where I had some positives were in the aptitude area, especially in resilience / handling stress. My self-confidence was almost good enough to make the mean measure, but not quite. Where do I have to improve if I want to go anywhere in this area? Motivation (power & freedom, especially), and how action-oriented I am.

Posted in: Week 04: Entrepreneur Bootcamp