Khan Academy: Sal Khan


This message comes from NPR sponsor Adian the future-proof Payments Platform. Welcome all payments beyond the cutting edge of customer experiences and Grow Your Business. With Adian Visit A. D. Y., E. N., DOT COM SLASH NPR to learn more hate. It's guy here. Have you ever thought about starting a business and if so what would it be? How do you come up with an idea? How do you find the money to start? How do you get the word out about your product or service? What do you do? If your idea isn't working and how do you pit well to answer those questions I've written a book it's called what else how I built this and it's full of inspiring stories from some of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world who've been through the trenches made big mistakes and lived to tell the tale if you're looking to start something or just want to be inspired by those who've built incredible things pick up how I built this now wherever you buy your books or by visiting Garros Dot Com. It was incredibly stressful and we were digging into our savings about five or six thousand dollars a month and you know, but might male ego was trying to shelter my family for from its US putting on a strong face to my friends and family and yet you can imagine my mother who he when I told her. I'd quit my job I started her first word was. What. From NPR, it's how I built this a show of that innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Guy Rise on the show today how a random decision to help a cousin was her math home let sal Khan to build Khan Academy a free online teaching platform with nearly thirty million users among. So. Most of the products and services we've talked about on the show have been innovative or disruptive in some way. But some of them and you've heard me say this before have fundamentally changed the way we live I mean lift AIRBNB starbucks. Shop Affi-. wayfair. These brands have transformed the way that many of us shop and travel and work. But every now, and then a founder comes along that seems to want to do something even more ambitious, even more transformative like remember. Pat. Brown, he founded impossible foods to create meet out of plants meet. So meet like that even the most die-hard carnivores would want to eat it. Pat Wants to put a stop to meet production period because of the damage, it's doing to the planet and essentially and I don't think I'm overstating this. He set out from day one to change the world. But still. Pat Brown stands to make a lot of money from his company same with most of the founders who've been on this show and I don't think any of them are motivated primarily to make money but it is part of the story they make a product or offer service, sell it to you and me, and they also get rich perfectly fine. But what about someone who makes a product or offers a service that is equally transformational maybe even more so but makes it one hundred percent free To do that, you have to make personal sacrifices starting by earning a lot less money. which is just part of what makes Sal Khan. So incredibly remarkable. Over the past twelve years, he's built Khan Academy into a powerhouse, a massive online learning platform that offers free tutorials to anyone anywhere. And from the very beginning South sided, his academy would be a nonprofit that it should never be tempted to compromise on its values. But before he launched Khan, Academy Sal didn't anticipate any of this. He was just trying to help a younger cousin with her sixth grade math lessons at the time he was working for a hedge fund. But from those early days of doing one on one to toils sal gradually built a platform that offers hundreds of classes in dozens of languages. Nearly thirty million people use Khan Academy. Every month to learn math science arts even sat prep all four free and Khan. Academy has inspired the launch of many other online learning platforms, but many of them are for profit operations that charge money. But we'll get to all that moment first. Let's back up just a little bit sal Khan grew up in metairie Louisiana his mom was from India and his dad was from Bangladesh and the marriage ended when sal was pretty young. My parents. Had issues and so they separated when I was probably about eighteen months old two years old and then I had really never seen my father and I saw once four an evening when I was thirteen and then he passed away the next year so it was really might. mother who raised us as as a single mother. While was there a community of South Asian families in imagery? Growing up. Yeah my you know when my parents separated. We actually live with my young at the time they were in their twenty s, and so they all were kind of like father figures and almost like older siblings to to me as well and and a lot of ways they were not your stereotypical you know. Just come to the US study. Get a job save money kind of prudent immigrant story they were. They were much more embracing of New Orleans. Culture. And I would say they're the most new ORLEAN South Asians. You will ever find it in your life. I had a very colorful childhood. You know late night parties, people, singing, and dancing. For me it felt like a I remember my third birthday that my uncles got a belly dancer. I still remember Habiba you know So it was definitely a different type of childhood, but it was a in some ways a really rich one. So what did your mom do for a living? The first job that I remember her having she she was the person who takes the change out of the vending machine at the at the local hospital actually the hospital where I was born and she took me to work a couple of times 'cause she didn't have childcare and I thought at the time I remember watching her do that. I think it was like the coolest job on earth because you have the key that you can open up the vending machine and like quarters just pour out of it. So she did that for a little bit and then essentially was a cashier at a series of convenience stores is kind of doing you know one minimum wage job after another and then I was in high school she had remarried her my Stepdad at the time were able to. Kind of cobble together to get a a small convenience store in. Your book you write. Louisiana was as close to South Asia as the United States could get. It's spicy food. Giant cockroaches in the corrupt government which is both funny but somewhat true true. I guess right I mean. You grew up at a time when. Like David Duke was the. The representative in steel her. The part of Mary where we had our store, it was called seminole convenience store on Seminole Avenue, and it's called a parliamentary called on that was kind of the heart of David Dukes base. So to speak I remember in a right outside of our our store across the street was the largest David Duke for president signing I've ever seen and so it was A. You know the the folks who lived in the neighborhood who were frankly know Super David Duke supporters in some ways it was lucky. This is pre nine eleven They didn't really know what to make of my family at at the time We've had a few conversations I remember with people the store where they they openly told us that they were trying to decide whether we were white or the N. word to you know we were confusing them but you know growing up I was the only Brown kid in in the classroom. But I never felt in school at all like folks were in any way biased or racist against me. If anything I have to give the the school system to Jefferson parish school system, a lot of credit you know I think a lot of what I am today is because they gave me opportunities there were teachers that believed in me. I had a really good friend circle So so I have no. You, know I I don't feel like it was a a tough childhood. So. Was your mom Did she have very strict expectations for you I? mean she had come from India to the United States of sacrifices to cheese sort of. You know would say you have to be an engineer doctor lawyer like would was there any kind of talk like sat at home when you were a kid? You, know, my mother. Definitely did instill some really strong values. You know just seeing her operate. My mom is a very courageous person and we were the only family that that in our friend circle where you know we were kind of not well off or at least not middle class. But I think that was helpful to because. The family friends we had many of them were the stereotypical doctors and engineers and you obviously can see where you live and you see where those kids live and you can see kind of our financial insecurity. I still remember I must have been eight or nine years old at Kmart and I was being a brat. I really wanted to be by this hot wheel set and I was throwing a Tantrum in the K. Mart and I remember that was the first time that my mom kind. Of. Just kind of broke down a little bit says, don't you realize we have no money and you know one of my uncles they had a they had a food store in a really rough neighborhood in New Orleans. He got shot You know people who you know. We thought he was going to die I think I was about eight years old at the time I don't want that life. I'd rather have the life of of my other South Asian friends who are whose parents are. You know who who are professionals. Sal, trying to figure out where your? Framing comes from the way you framed your childhood is. Pretty remarkable because I think you can also I mean I mean somebody with the same same experience could say actually was really hard. Financially insecure. My uncles had a convenience or my mom did it was not safe there were robberies we were you know. The only Brown skin people in our neighborhood there was racism I mean the way you framed your childhood is. Totally different from the way. I think a lot of people would frame it and I wonder. which attribute that to mean, where does that come from? Well I generally think it was a it was a rich and colorful childhood and There was definitely hard aspects of it but I think everyone has their their own flavor of hardships and for the most part I think whatever hardships constraints we had helped. Grow me and. It gives you a perspective on life and I wouldn't describe my childhood as idyllic by any stretch of the imagination but I would I would I would describe as colorful and rich, and definitely had experiences that you know a lot of kids didn't have which I think we're actually in hindsight. Quite incredible. Yeah. I read that when your high school you were in. A. Heavy metal band or death metal band or Which one was F-. True yes. I was the lead singer but singing is is being very generous to what I was doing was more of yelling growling. You're the lead growl or of the death metal band I was the lead growl or a death metal band called. Original name and I cringe when I say these things now it was malignancy but then we have to change her name because there was abandoned. Florida called Malignancy. Anyway. You know it was me and. Three other guys. All right. You are in this band and But it sounds like school was pretty easy for you. Then you're doing pretty well. Yeah. I was a kid that kind of did whatever I needed to do to to get a decent grade and it was about ninth or tenth grade that I started getting really serious about studies I. Remember in tenth, Grade I kinda live live this double life where I was on kind of the academic teams and Quiz Bowl and Science Olympiad and I was chosen to be on a representing Louisiana National Academic Games. and. It was the same weekend as our first big GIG as a death metal band and so. This kind of path I had this choice that had to pick. This is this malignancies I main? Yeah. We we had an opportunity to open up for paralysis which is a big deal and malignancy opens for paralysis. Really, some of my the people who are my band there starting to get into trouble some of them started. Doing some drugs. Getting, getting a little bit into, I would call a scary crowd and that frankly I had my I had my quiz bowl and academic games friends. And then and then I had my my other friends who were. Their life was getting really tough and they were starting to I would say get into trouble and that that scared me. So. When it came time to apply to college were you encouraged to aim pretty highlight like to a prestigious school? I give a lot of credit to my sister. You know she was always a little ahead of me and I looked at the schools that she was applying for when she was graduating from high school. I was in middle school or freshman at the time and she was applying to places like Brown. University and I was like fire have you looked at the tuition at Brown University there's no way we're going to be able for that and she's like, no, there's something financial aid and you can get Glonass and and all of this and she ended up going to Brown and that completely opened up my mind of what's possible and to give my mom fair credit she definitely. I think. South Asian culture. Indian. Culture whatever you WANNA call it. You know there is this very you could call it positive or negative peer pressure of like, what are your kids doing so and so's kids going to med school what you someone has a perfect GPA's Valedictorian his your kid only the flu dettori. So she kind of would often tell us stuff like you know you should be value Tori and just like threw Heen through was kid we knew who was ten years older who had I think by the time he was eighteen he had a PhD from Tulane so. I think he now has to. Ambi. So I remember there's a lot I heard a lot about. So I guess your mom was pretty happy because you wound up going to mit and when you got there was so exciting. It was for me. When I got there I was. It did feel like heaven on. So many levels for me it was. The first environment that I had been in that? Really are like you shouldn't be ashamed if you're getting excited in organic chemistry class. I remember one of my friends who I actually met in the organic chemistry class like I literally saw him getting excited about. Being talked about having A. As as we were talking about the Aldo reaction and It's the closest thing to hogwarts in the real world where. You know science is magic and you can walk down the main hallway and MIT's called the infinite corridor and you're just seeing you know people with like that some of them are a little bit unusual in. All of this, but they have these magical superpowers and there's professors who are inventing things and building things, and this is right in the late nineties where the Internet and computer science was was starting to become very relevant to broader to as his whole it's. Mit. Was and continues to be incredibly exciting place. You graduated Mit with a master's degree you doubled tripled up on classes and. Against just. Insanely productive. and and got a degree in computer science What did you do after you graduated? Well. I remember my senior year. This was about November, my senior year I talked to a friend who was a year older and he had just gotten a job at oracle and I was kind of nauseous. Well, how much are they paying you and at and he said one hundred thousand dollars and for me the time I was like what am mind was blowing mind was My mom was making sixteen thousand dollars a year. I had about twenty, five, thousand dollars in debt, which at the time felt like all the money in the world. So I was getting stressed about it and I was, and I literally remember thinking like it would be irresponsible for me not to try to make that type of money pay off my debt help out my family. And just get a little bit more financial security I. Remember that's when I went to an adviser and saying. I think I need to finish the masters this year and they'll thought I was a little bit crazy but it happened and. Ended up working at. It's my first job. Wow. So you moved to Silicon Valley. To work after California to to to work for Oracle. Yes. Yeah moved out to the bay area and you get to you know about a year into my tenure there it's nineteen, ninety, nine our peak of the dot. COM bubble I remember having a conversation with. A friend of mine who was on an H. One B. Visa from India and and he said, why are you here as a White House pays really good he's like. I'm here because I have to get my to get `immigration but like you're a citizen like if I were you, I'd be I'd be starting a company right now is the late nineties and so Yeah I ended up joining a startup. A. Startup to it was going to democratize venture capitals called me vc where the idea was. You know, you had all these IPO's that were popping. So a lot of people were trying to get into the venture capital market, but obviously was hard for people to get into it, and so these two bankers from Roberson Stevens at the time they had come up with a structure that could be a publicly traded venture capital fund, and so that was the startup and who's going to have a tech aspect of it where people could see the investments, etcetera etcetera. So that was what I was. Supposed to build an ended built. it's a great idea, but still hasn't been democratized to this day. What happened to the STAR UP While the Nasdaq was roaring was doing quite well it it grew to forty employees at raised its first fund, which I think was A. Several hundred, million dollars But then you know I still remember that day and I believe it was spring of two thousand when the Nasdaq collapsed and and with that, I saw the the other side of the startup world where you know every week, we'd have to lay off you folks and it was incredibly incredibly painful and political and stressful, and that was around the time that I was like maybe I should take shelter someplace. Yeah. So I started looking up applications for business school. so you decide to leave silicon valley and the startup world for at least a time being and go to business school he went to back to Massachusetts to Harvard Business School. And what was the idea was your idea like all right I'll do this and then I'll go back into the startup world or go into financing, get a stable job and you know make A. Stable, good income like did you have a sense of what you want to do? I mean if I'm really honest I was I was lonely. I was out in Silicon Valley I mean the male female ratio in Silicon Valley back then was horrendous. I also felt traumatize to a large degree by my startup experience because it was it was so painful and political and and and I actually told myself that I didn't. I didn't have the fortitude to be an entrepreneur then that it is it's just It's just so emotionally taxing. Let me go to business school and you know maybe broaden my resume a little bit. So people don't perceive me as the tech guy or the guy, and it was while I was in business school taking finance classes and started seeing that, wow there's a real beauty to finance that it has its quantitative aspect, but it's also has a huge psychological and historical aspect to it that I loved and I remember taking a capital markets class and that was probably the math heaviest class offered in business school and. And, the professor's name George Choco. I remember going to after class when I really liked this class and he's like, yeah, you really have a knack for capital markets and things like this I was like, well, what should I do with this like what kind of career is this for I? Think you should go work at a Hedge Fund and? That's sounds great. What's a hedge fund and he explained you know it's it's like a mutual fund but there's a lot more flexibility in how you invest the money. You can get into exotic things you can short you can buy and sell options and I talked to some friends who are either who had worked at hedge funds or who were going to work in hedge funds and said know. So what's the pay like you know? Is it good and they kind of looked at me like, are you crazy? It's like it's about as good as it gets. So. I guess you decided to do exactly that to get a job at a hedge fund? Was it easy to land one though I got? My application got rejected hundreds of times. Am My resume did not look like A. Hedge Fund resume I. Would I was getting tack wanted me to be a product manager or something like that but at that time I had There was a girl had a crush on from MIT. She was now in Med school in new. York and so I was also like I need to work in New York and so I was I literally went through the director of any Hedge Fund and New York and I was I was getting one rejection after another and eventually there was The sky Dan wool a based in in Boston who was apparently kind of getting his head off the ground and Dan at the time was thirty two years. Old I think or thirty three years old and I interviewed with him and he hired me and he later told me because I didn't have a background in finance. He liked that I seemed to be kind of a out of the box type of personality and You know it's one of these ironies that I had been fallen back into essentially a startup because it was me and Dan and you're looking for office space and making sure that the office was dog friendly 'cause he had this large dogs. We had to accommodate So yeah that that was my first job in finance. Head to go. How did you do? You know I gotTa Say I. I. It was it was a fascinating job because what we would do, we would screen the market for. Things that look just intriguing and we would try to understand that business and the best way to understand that business was tried to get the the management team on the phone to explain their business to us. Yeah, and and so it was intellectually I. I was a kid in a candy shop because I was able to. Every day I mean it's kind of like being a journalist you're able to really dive deeply into these and my job was actually to be kind of a hyper learner because you know the first half of the calls I would always say like it was a little bit of like Gee Whiz. So how does this work logistics work and all that and then the second half of the call I would I would turn up the novel little bit and I was like you know what you're saying doesn't make sense. And Push and push the management teams a little bit harder. And I mean why you're doing all this you're you're also. Starting what would become Khan Academy? You're working there in Boston and I guess it's around two thousand and four like the story I guess that I've heard is that your sister's daughter has having trouble with math is that is that sort of the story? It was a cousin it was a year. I was a year out of business school had just gotten married to the to Mama. The person that I was trying to move to New York for. The wedding was in New Jersey which is where my wife grew up but then. Family. was visiting from New Orleans and had come. They wanted to visit a Boston during fourth of July and so I was showing them around town and. Just came conversation that my to year old cousin, the her mother Nassir Auntie was telling me that she was having trouble in math and she's like salads or said anything you can do I know you're more knowledgeable about these types of things and so I I talked to Nadia. Nadia said that she was having trouble he took a placement test at the end of sixth grade had a lot of unit conversion it. She felt that she just couldn't understand unit conversion. Told Nadia's like I'm one hundred percent. Sure you're capable of. Learning Unit conversion how about when you go back to New Orleans I'm happy to tutor you remotely and she was up for it and. That's that was August of two thousand and four when I started tutoring not. All right. So remotely sounds fine today like in the era of Zoom and slack and stuff. But how did you do that in two thousand four was Over the phone. Yeah, it was over the phone. and. We'd use Yahoo Instant Messenger to to type messages or type questions and Yahoo instant. Messenger at the time had this feature called Yahoo doodle. With your mouse scribble something and someone on the other side could see what you scribbled and you can imagine writing math equations with a mouse was pretty painful and so I got myself and I got Nadia A. You like a sixty dollar pen tablet so that you could right. But it was on a little little part of your instant messenger window with still enough that you could write things like three x is equal to six. What is? So that's that's how we did it, and this is something you doing night. After work. Yeah we I was doing it every day about thirty minutes and getting on the phone and after a frankly a few weeks. Nadia. The first few weeks was deprogramming her own lack of self esteem. But then after she got through that, she started believe that she was capable of learning. You'd have conversion actually came quite easily to her then she got caught up with her class. You came a little ahead of her class. At that point, I became what I call a tiger cousin called up her school. I say you know I really think neither remind should be able to retake that placement test from last year. They said, who are you said I'm her cousin and surprisingly they let her retake placement test and the same Nadia who is only a few months ago put into a remedial class was now put into an advanced math class and I was hooked. Wow and what was the secret and? How, how did you get her from a remedial classroom advanced class in a matter of months? I would love to believe that I'm some type of super tours something but I think the reality actually a lot of research to back this up that if you do have one on one tutoring and that Tudor's able to identify what your gaps are and fill in those gaps especially in subjects like mathematics that most kids can actually probably all could be accelerated dramatically and That's all that was happening with the I. Mean there was some of it was just motivational. She'd almost given up on herself so at to just remotivate her a little bit and I think. A little bit of the secret. You know this might sound a little bit of like, what's IT GONNA Tiger cousin or Tiger parent thing to do. But when you get when you allow us to get a little ahead of their class, a two things happen one when they see it in class, they're like, Oh, I've seen this before. So they builds a little bit of cushion and also builds confidence. There's just you know once you start to realize that you can actually get a little ahead of your class. You're like Oh maybe this is my thing maybe I'm a math person. And I guess like the word gets out. On the family in Louisiana and other relatives like, Hey, can you help mike hit or can you help me? Is that sort of what happened? Yeah I mean puts it exactly as you described word spread that free tutoring was going on. Before you know and I was getting requests. From from from family members all over the country and by by two thousand six I was tutoring on a given day anywhere between five and fifteen cousins. Family friends are around day on a given audit they would all get on the speakerphone together. Would answer questions they had and. One thing I my cousins. The way that math is often taught and especially learned is it's like these fragmented concepts that you have to memorize formulas and patterns and things like that and what the thing that really served me well growing up is that if you just ponder the math a little bit it, all connects it. All makes intuitive sense. It's all just a way of thinking, and so I was really trying to do what I what I could do to support them all and meantime we're still working a hedge fund, right? I was and I have to give extra credit to Dan because in the early days when I was working for wool capital dance. Startup Hedge Fund. It was just meet him I had bought into the stereotype that you have to work eighty hours a week to make it in finance. So I was ready to do that and I remember miss probably a month or two into starting my job. Dan's like why are you still here? Aren't you going home has gone on Dan I'm I'm ready to I'M GONNA look for more investment ideas. He's like go home it's like okay I was like okay I'll go home and I'll look for investment ideas like no south you're not gonNA help anybody by just Having the appearance of motion, it's not about just churning yourself and tying yourself out because then you're just more likely to make bad decisions our whole goal is to avoid bad decisions and the best way to do that is when you're at work and have your game face on your game energy. But to do that, you're going to have to have other things in your life. You should read interesting books. Recharge and actually recharging is going to keep your mind open and keep you creative and not fond to the group think that a lot of people do so Dan forced me to have a life and that's what gave me the space in my life to offer obviously. Yeah. You know after close I'm I'm actually pretty free to to work with you. So you're doing this tutoring these kids in it's over the phone. And this is like around two thousand six. And somebody suggests that you make videos and you put it on Youtube is that that happened around that time? Actually even before the videos happened around late two, thousand five. This background in software and in the back of my mind, I have always been fascinated by. Ken. Software, play role in improving human potential and when I was in college. Almost every job I did was in some way related to education or how tech education could be useful I remember I worked for the some Spanish professors to help teach people Spanish, than the the next summer I worked on some software to help kids with attention deficit disorder. Learn. Math. And I created this little thing called math planet. So my brain was throughout for longtime and so when I started working with my cousins like, wow, you know it's hard for me to find good practice problems for them on the Internet, let me write some software for them that could generate practice problems and Then can give them hints and solutions and immediate feedback that could give me as a tutor data on how they're performing and how long things are taking them and I wrote it. As a hobby and that was that was the first Khan Academy I. I set it up as a website, and you just was not very expensive. Presumably, you just kind of do yourself and offered it to. These kids. Yeah and I remember a lot of friends like this business. I was no no not a business. I'm not start up I'll never do that again. This is this. This is my family project that was my way of frankly protecting it emotionally, and yeah, I was at a dinner party and my friend has Zulu Zulu. Him full credit he's like. Well, this is cool sal but how he's killing your actual lessons and I said you're right. It's hard to do with ten cousins what I was originally doing with just nausea and her brothers and he says record some of your lessons is videos and upload them onto youtube for your family and I immediately. You know my technology site that's such a low tech solution and I-, vocalized him I was like no, that's like Youtube for. Cats playing pianos for dogs on board. It's not for learning and I went home that weekend and I think I probably had explained least common multiple to a cousin for the eighth time and I was like maybe he's always got a point maybe I should make a video on multiples where my cousins and then it was just a how do I make the video back in two thousand six a cell phones weren't particularly good I didn't have no camera and You Google Search, oh, there's something called screen capture software, and so I downloaded some free screen capture software and I started just essentially recording some of my digital scribbles using my pen tablet Yeah. You can hear my voice over while I'm talking here and there were done very extemporaneously from my cousins and I started uploading them onto youtube and telling them watch this at your own time and pace, and then we can. We can dig deeper when we get on the phone and after about a month some for feedback and they they famously told me they liked me better on youtube than in person. Yes. They just really liked having an on demand version of their cousin that they could watch as much as they want. There was no shame reviewing a concept that they should have learned in fourth grade and I started to realize you know this co this type of thing especially math and I was doing math and I started doing some physics and chemistry and biology. Well, it's pretty evergreen content. If once you have a good explanation of adding fractions with unlike denominators. Pretty much everyone in the world could use it and you don't really have to refresh it unless you figure out a better way of explaining adding fractions with unlike unlike the nominators. I'm trying to figure out how you were thinking about this because clearly you were added to help your. Relatives and and these kids in here extended family and friends of friends but after think that a part of you was like. Maybe, there's something bigger here or were you just not even thinking that at all? Oh there was the first or something my my brain it at oscillates between these like mega delusional. You know. Space Operas Science Fiction ideas and like sal you're being crazy focus on what you can do in the here now and so. The reason why I was always fascinated by software technology education is that. It's not hard to imagine that if you you make something that can increase human potential by ten percent twenty percent or one hundred percent, and if it scales technology can there's no reason why it can't affect all of all of humanity one day and I was super inspired when I was young in seventh grade I read. I read the foundation series. Isaac Asimov, and the protagonist is someone named Harry Selden who's kind of a new form of academic combination of mathematics economics history psychology, and he's able to predict large scale historical movements and he sees through his science that the Galactic Empire. is about to enter into a ten thousand year Dark Ages. And he decides to do something about it. He can't stop it from happening, but he can shorten it to a thousand years and the way he does that is by taking the galaxies knowledge and putting it into a foundation at the periphery of the galaxy and I remember when I was seventh grade and I read that. I thought two things. One. Why don't more people think on those scales like that? It feels so inspiring an epic to think on that scale. Well, beyond ourselves you know when under the Hedge Fund world, I? Most people don't even beyond the the next earnings period much. Must Generational or over centuries over thousands of years and then the other from that book in seventh grade was like Yeah Harry Celtics Right. Like the way to preserve civilization is really through knowledge it like that is what defines a civilization and that is what defines you potential and so. You know while I was working on this in two, thousand, six, two, thousand, seven and I started getting. Thank you letters from folks around the world people our soldiers in Iraq saying I'm I'm using your content while while on in Iraq do to prepare for college. So I can go back to college people who dropped out of high school. I was like maybe maybe this project could be like the foundation. It could be the thing that keeps us from going into dark ages or maybe entering into a new age who knows. That's what I'm wondering when you started printing these videos on Youtube on the Internet. Would you like wake up see like two hundred views and then six hundred views next day like, yeah that's that's pretty accurate. That's about what were you surprised me like what is going on? Who's WHO's watching this I was hoping that something like that would happen i. mean you know when when I put it on Youtube and asked whether I wanna make it public as it would be pretty cool if other people could could benefit from this. But when you start getting not just the views but for I'd say the comments especially, you know people like opening up on the Youtube message boards are opening up on. You know they'll. They'll. They can do the private a messaging on on Youtube and they'll tell you their life story how that one video on their perspective. I'm like, Oh, my God this is. This is a for that person that video is a big deal and I didn't really have to do anything extra for that person It's really inspiring and I just got more and more hooked on it. How meanwhile I mention I? Mean you you're still with Dan at this point at the Hedge Fund and then I guess at some point he decides to move the Fund to California right. Yeah we had moved out to Silicon Valley Dansk wife had become a professor at Stanford, which is why we had moved out here and So my wife was able to finish her fourth year med school during a bunch of rotations out here in the bay area. So we you know now that we're on the west coast I was working from five am till about the afternoon. So before our first child was born, I had a lot of time on my hands. Spending about you know that four hours at four to five hours spending after work I was spending about half of it making videos about half of continuing to write code right that software that practice offer for my family that other people are not using, and by two thousand, seven, two, thousand, eight, it was the tens of thousands of people, and by two thousand nine, it was in the hundreds of thousands of people were using it on on a regular basis. At. What point did you say to yourself I think want to do this. I. Think I want to do is full-time I think actually want to. Turn this into something. There were many moments you know you can imagine in the investing world you have your share of not so great days. Maybe, this is not what I should do. Maybe I should be you know this virtual tutor and then you're like Okay Stop Dreaming Sal, look, you gotta pay off your debt pay off your mortgage, etc etc. So had multiple cycles that over the years people in Silicon Valley they do understand quitting your job you know some Angel Investor Rights One, hundred, thousand dollar check and right you're off to the races but. Yeah, I did incorporated as a not for profit in two thousand eight to protect it from the get go. You said this is going to be a nonprofit even before you decided to. Make this your full time job. In my mind it was almost an it was initially an emotional thing to do which. I was getting these letters from folks saying how it helped them and. That was such a precious thing people's trust in me that I never wanted them to to even suspect that I'm doing it for any other reason. Now, there's a lot of for profits in many industries that do incredible things and education for profits that do good things you know was working at a hedge fund I believe in capitalism I believe in in markets but. while. I was at a hedge fund. I. Saw how much capital structure and incentives can really drive what an organization does and yeah, and the only organizations that really do stay true to some social bottom line over long periods of time are nonprofits I did have some folks who are reaching out to me by two thousand and eight saying, Hey, our kids have been using your stuff. We think it's great. We think this is going to be the next big attack. Can I write a check and we'll start this thing sure and it was tempting. But then by the second conversation, it was always like we'll give this for Free Hook people, and then you have the freemen condor salad. And that just felt a little queasy to me. So. But even when I set it up as a nonprofit I said, you know I'm not going to quit my day job I have a great day job. You know this Hedge Fund thing I can I can make a lot of money. What I can do is a nonprofit as other volunteers who wanNA help maybe if we get some philanthropy, maybe I can help hire other people and maybe if you know if I could be on a trajectory like Dan was. Dan Dan. If he kept at, it could've easily become the next Warren Warren Buffett but you know he decided to Kinda pseudo retire at forty two. focus focus on his family. When if he kept going, he could have easily become a multi-billionaire. Wow and I'm like maybe I can retire early and be reasonably well off yet that I could I could do this at that point. That I mean that make sense of the plan was. Let. Me Make the money I need to make and be financially secure, and then I can devote my life to this thing and not worry about money. Yeah. Exactly. Right. So. So. What? How did you decide to leave that? Relatively secure and stable and that stable. But you know this this path towards immense riches and jump into this full-time. What what happened? What was the catalyst? there's this Guy Jeremiah Hennessy who's the founder of bj's restaurants. He got my email address and emailed me and I was like, Oh, this guy runs a large restaurant chain publicly traded. Legitimate I should talk to him and he's I started having like these therapy conversations with them almost like on a weekly basis and he would just keep calling me and say sal. Your purpose in life is not to be a hedge fund investor I'm sure you're good at it, but that's not your purpose in life. You don't realize the content you've made what it's done for my own family what it could do for the world you need to be doing this and he's like there's gotta be some way that someone will fund this as a nonprofit the impact on the world could be so huge and so. When a legitimate person tells you that this is a legitimate thing to do you start saying maybe but then you go home, you look at your, you know my my son was born in February of two, thousand nine and I'm like, okay I have another mouth to feed we. we were renting a house. Rented gone up because we had to move to larger house my mother-in-law had moved in with us as well like there's no way I could do this right now you were not a millionaire. I, was not a millionaire. And then by. Fall of two thousand nine. There are several hundred thousand folks we're using. The stuff I was making on a regular basis. I got a call from the local tech. Museum. They had this annual award ceremony, which is a pretty high profile thing called the tech awards and they call this at you've been nominated one of three entities nominated to win this year's Tech Award and I was like, wow. And I was getting that validation that like what people are starting to take notice of this thing and then CNN had called. Around the exact same time I mean if everyone remembers the context, the market was falling apart and it turns out I had made videos on not just on math and science actually had made videos explaining the stock market and videos explaining what mortgage-backed securities were credit default swaps, and is debt obligations and I started getting media houses contacting me saying we are watching your explanations before reporting on the financial crisis. Wow we think they're the best explanations out there and that I remember Rick Sanchez on CNN reached out to me says I want you to come onto my show for twenty minutes and explain the financial crisis to America. So I'm like well, like people are paying attention. So that was like my first signs from the universe that maybe this is what I should be doing. Your wife I, think was not yet of doctor. She was still in residency or maybe he was a she was in fellowship at this point. When you said Hey I'm going to leave finance. and. Do this. was she nervous I mean was she like sound like scrape but I mean, we don't have enough cash or did she say okay. Do It for short period of time. It was a process. And you don't look every marriage. There's a call it moods or whether to the marriage and you know if I caught her in a bad moment, it'd be like I just got a weird look. But if I cut her good moment, she'd be like, no, you don't like you've been showing me these letters you've been getting they are incredible and it. Does seem like you're onto something but but but then let's look at our finances and we would look at it. You know a rent to Renta a four bedroom house out here at the time it seemed like a lot of was four, thousand dollars a month we were she was making probably forty thousand dollars a year as a as a fellow My mother-in-law was living with us. We had a child we we were hoping to have more children. Our expenses were were only going higher So she saw that I was having trouble focusing on anything else. Down payment we were saving. We said like, okay may maybe we can dig into that for a little bit for year I also say a couple of. Had reached out and said, we're interested in what you're doing and so. I was like Oh surely one of these people will fund it. So let me let the were after the racist. Million Bucks, we're good to go. That's exactly. So I quit the job and then it doesn't work that way to work out. All right. So you jump into this with both feet and Did the money start to come in immediately. Did you start to get donors sending you checks? Kind of. Those early, those early funders who seemed promising by conversation four five I started getting. Well, this is really exciting, but it doesn't really fit in our portfolio. Our budgets are already allocated, and so you go several months into it. I did have this little donate button on on my website and there were. People starting to donate amounting to a few hundred dollars every month if it was anyone listening thank you for but. We were digging into our savings about five or six thousand dollars a month. So it was it was incredibly stressful and you know but my male ego was trying to shelter my family for from was putting on a strong face to my friends and family, and you could imagine my mother who? When I told her, I'd quit my job I. Still Her first word was what? Literally in that in that in that tone because. As we talked about. I had now fallen into a really lucrative career, and then to give that up and to do that for something that was like not something that she could tell her friends at the next Indian party. You know not only was there monetary aspect there was probably a shame aspects to this as well. that. was hard love love your mom. Yet no right. I mean she came to the United States with nothing and really you know Kinda was scraping by most of her career and her son goes to MIT and Harvard Business School. And now he's calling mom and saying. Yeah. Can Do this nonprofit thing. That no that no one has funded. Probably thing that no one is funded and I'm living off a savings, would you like to see your grandson child but I really can't support? We'd go to gatherings and I remember at one party and they kind of asked what what I do for a living and I said, well, I used to do this but you know now I do this thing where I make matthews and I, write the software as a nonprofit and and they're asking all these questions house funded with the model. I was still working on still figuring it out and I remember when they were walking away. I mean, they literally said this. He's lucky that his wife is a physician. It's like this is like a punch to the gut of your fragile male Egos. No I can support my family to you. You. Wait you wait. When we come back in just a moment how sal gets his first big donation for Khan Academy and how he eventually winds up having a slightly surreal meeting with bill. Gates, stay with US guys, and you're listening to how I built this. NPR. Support for NPR and the following message comes from our twenty twenty how I built this lead sponsor comcast business. Dave silver is a CO founder, of REC space for creatives. Dave reflects on why the wreck founders chose comcast business to help power their studios and workspaces. We could have hundreds of creators in our space. We could have fourteen studios book according Music Uploading to the cloud comcast business helped us to provide the experience that we were looking to provide to our members learn more at comcastbusiness, dot com comcast business beyond fast. This message comes from NPR sponsor Adian the future-proof proof Payments Platform Adian connects you with customers around the world and makes it simple to accept all kinds of payments in-app online in store touch free and beyond with a solution keep customers happy and your business growing with Adnan business not boundaries visit A. D. Y. E. N. dot com slash NPR to learn more. Thanks also to Microsoft teams. Now, there are more ways to be a team with Microsoft teams bring everyone together in a virtual room collaborate live on the same page and see up to forty nine people onscreen learn more at Microsoft Dot com slash teams. On facebook there these three brothers who love God's sake guns are over-regulated. Say the NRA is too quick to compromise and they're gaining more followers every day they're very in your face offensive and. By God I love for listen now to the no compromise podcast from NPR. What are some of the key traits that successful entrepreneurs have in common? Why do some people succeed when others fail? How do you build something with no connections no money and no experience in can you learn to develop the skills and traits? It takes to become an entrepreneur to find out the answers to all these questions pick up a copy of my new book how I built this. If you love this show, you will love this book how I built this. The book is available everywhere books are sold or at Cairo's DOT com. Hey welcome back to how I built this from NPR and. So it's two, thousand, nine and sal has just left his high paying job at a hedge fund to focus on Khan Academy full time. And since it's just him, no other coders, no other teachers this new venture is not costing him a lot of money. But what is costing him is the fact that he's no longer making any money. You know the first three months you're euphoric. You're you're super excited about your new lifestyle is this nonprofit do-gooder? In fact, ACT I would say by months seven or eight, I couldn't sleep. I I. Literally Could Sleep I, I. I was yeah I was getting anxious I was waking up in the middle of the night cold sweats I was I would I would look at my bank account for over Kennedy You know, look at our expenses, I would run financial models for my family. And my wife say. Nothing like. I. Mean in hindsight I was like I shouldn't have been so. Kept it to myself but I wasn't I was in a really bad place mentally and the stress and the anxiety was was killing me was there. May Be residual fear of like. Failing. I think there's you know we talked a lot about childhood in you know not having a lot of resources growing up think I I frankly still have. A fear of being one catastrophe away from financial hardship. Yeah and In two thousand dollars like? I made the catastrophe happen like I. Wasn't like a hurricane or something that that's ruined our finances on a fire. It's like I quit a good job and like the type of job. Is. Not Easy to. Get. A highly sought after jobs. If I really had to I could probably go get a job but what I be able to get as good of a job as what I had that that actually probably was was unlikely and. Try to channel whatever nervous energy or anxiety I had into the work is let me make more videos. Let me Let me make more content. Let me write more code and and hope that eventually someone will notice. I guess, like sort of maybe it was a kind of a low point that you hit and. A. Wealthy. Very wealthy person. We checked his end or the wife of John Door the. Billionaire venture capitalist CA reached out to. Make a donation what what was the story? Hey this is you know I I have this theory that benevolent aliens are are helping me so that Khan Academy can help prepare humanity for first contact and you know the end door coming into my life, and then you know what happened shortly afterwards was may two thousand ten and you know I was getting these donations off pay pal if people donating ten dollars, twenty dollars every now, and then a fifty dollars donation come in that was pretty exciting and then. I saw a ten thousand dollars Asian come in so. Ten thousand dollars just like that. Yeah it was I. Just like I got an email notification from like pay pal donation it's come in I was like Oh this is going to be a fifty like ten, thousand and. Dan I immediately did a Google search I was like Oh. Wow. Like and doors she's like a real philanthropist and I immediately e mailed her and I said no thank you so much for this incredibly generous donation. This is the largest donation that Khan Academy has ever received. I've tried to project like a real institution and if we were physical school, you have a building named after and and and immediately emails back and says well. You know I didn't realize you. You weren't getting this kind of donations i. see that you're based in mountain view You know I've been using your stuff with my daughters. I've been using it even myself to understand the financial crisis and accounting and finance. If, you have time I would love to grab lunch with you and. I was like, yeah, absolutely and so a week later. Maybe, a few days later, we were in downtown Palo Alto at an Indian Buffet restaurant she asks me over lunch. So what what, what's your goal here and I told her when I filled the paperwork with the IRS to become a nonprofit that little part of the forum with mission Colon, they give you the line and a half I filled out a free world class education for anyone anywhere. and. She looked at me. She's like well. That's ambitious. How do you see yourself doing that and I told her you know be very clear mission. I don't think. I'm just going to be able to check it off this weekend and then move onto healthcare or something. But I showed her she was already familiar with the content I was making I showed her the exercise, a software pot from making I said look videos are nice and I wanna keep making videos I really enjoy that I want to translate into the languages of the world but the real learning happens when students are able to work on exercises get immediate feedback. Ideally, teachers and parents can get dashboards to understand where their kids are and how to do more interventions. By, this point been rejected by so many major foundations probably about twenty of them. But, in preparation for all of them had a binder of of testimonials from around the world I. Mean it was Louis. Several hundreds, pages thick and these letters I showed it to her showed her how the the usage was growing exponentially and I like you know I think this could eventually reach like all of humanity. And she's like well, you've made a lot of progress a how I only have one question how are you supporting yourself and as? Proud of a way as possible I said. I'm. Not. She kind of processes that and she's thinking you're a big shot. You're like doing TV interviews and Hundreds, thousands of people using this like, right? Yeah. No I mean I had been on. And I didn't realize there was actually there was a buzz about Khan Academy in Silicon Valley at the time but I didn't know about no one. But I wasn't in the No. I wasn't even the right circles to be experiencing the buzz and so anyway, she she she she offered to pay the bill and I said Oh if you insist. And ten minutes later I'm driving into my my driveway and I get text message from an and it says. You really need to be supporting yourself. I've just wired you one hundred, thousand dollars. How That was just one of those moments where you just stare at the phone and you sit in your driveway for like the next half an hour. Wow. Like you know. Holy Crap. I mean I think. I might have cried like it was that type of You know all that stress built up over the months all of a sudden. It just gets released. You know inside that one, hundred thousand was all of a sudden change everything forever but it's like, okay I can now pay my bills. Were Not GonNa have to dip into savings. It gave a like. I. Can do this for a few more months for a year at least or maybe a little longer. So so she fires you hundred thousand dollar check and. I guess that same year two, thousand, ten The Aspen Ideas Festival happens and Bill Gates is there and he's he's telling the audience that he uses this thing called Khan Academy. How did you find out about Bill Gates? Mentioning you at Aspen. So. Start getting text messages for man. Would, you can imagine I now take very seriously and she four or five of them and kind of cryptic as text messages often are, and they said, this is an writing I'm at the Aspen Ideas, festival main pavilion. Walter. Isaacson Interviewing Bill Gates. Gates. Last five minutes talking about Khan Academy. Wow and Let's just kinda stared I was like, what is she talking about and I started doing a web search for Aspen Gates Khan. Academy. After about ten minutes actually found like the delayed. Recording of the interview and Walter is in. Ask Bill Gates. What are you excited about right now Didn't even say. And he says, well, there's this one guy. I think his name is Sal Khan and he's critical Khan Academy. I've been using with my kids I've been using it myself. It's really great and and it was not only was he using it but he was he was eerily familiar with my story. He's like, yeah, this one guy, his his wife let him quit his job he was making stuff for his cousins. One of those moments where you're just like is this really happening Mike? What did you have any idea that Bill Gates was using this was his children. I had no idea what at all I mean it. It was it definitely gelled with some of the delusions that I've had over over time but. It. I, I, I had no clue and. I remember that night I went home I immediately showed my wife, the video when she got home from fellowship and you know we both kind of stared at each other a little bit and I was just like, what do I do now? I could do do I. Do I, call him how do I contact I'm sure he's not listed. Contact Bill. Gates. Was An obvious and. Simultaneously a reporter from fortune. Had reached out actually before this happened saying Oh you know. There's this thing you're doing. It's really interesting. We'd like to do a story about it, and so I was already talking to the reporter and that reporter calls and he's like, did you know that bill? Gates uses Khan Academy as I had no idea and then the reporter Robert Kaplan with fortune he says. I'M GONNA Call Bill Up. I'm like if you think you can call bill up and do that, and so he calls me like two days. He's like bill took my call he I just interviewed Bill Gates about you and and it's like this really surreal thing because. This person this obviously like a lifetime hero. Up In computer science reading about Bill Gates and and then the fortune article came out. And I still had not met bill yet or even had any contact with them and the article said something like the title was Bill Gates is favorite teacher. Wow. The press sometimes rights hyperbolic headlines to I always felt insecure as like my favorite teacher. Did he say that they misrepresenting? Serious Imposter Syndrome, and then I got a call a cell phone rings. Record a video and I answer I say hello and I hear you know this is Larry Cohen, Bill Gates of Staff. You might have heard that bills a fan and I was like, yeah, I heard that. And if you're if you're free over the next couple of weeks, would love to fly up to Seattle and learn more about what you're doing. Maybe ways we could work together and I was looking at my calendar for the month Completely Blank and Said maybe next Wednesday. Cut My nails do some laundry. I'm happy to meet. Happy. Happy to meet with bill can make that work So yeah, I flew up and we had that meeting. What was that like? and. It was a little bit awkward. Wasn't like an obvious like. Oh, you know what you're doing. It was like Oh. So you know Y- There's a little bit of a prompt I. Think Larry Medicine Tell Bill what you're up to, and then I just started into into. My laminated slides. And with me love it, you didn't bring laptop. You brought laminated slides I love that. I mean there's an irony to it that I'm obviously someone involved in technology counterfeiters based on technology. I'm presenting to the creator of powerpoint. So. Yeah. I went through an and and at the end and he didn't give during the presidential lot of feedback. So I just kept going and it's one of those moments where you know. Twenty percent of your brain is trying to do what it needs to do, and then the other eighty percent of your brains saying. You're talking to Bill Gates that's Bill Gates. He's three feet away. Don't mess this up south don't mess up your about to mess this up don't mess up And then when I was kind of done he kind of he's like, yeah, noticed a ton of sense. This is great. This is great and I'm like, Oh, my God you know. And then I got overconfident I, I, remember I throw another. That doesn't make sense you're right. Wow. But was there any like end? Here's a plan on how we could collaborate. was there any of that at all? They ask they bill said, well, what would you do with more resources and you know I think this is the question I have to answer really well and I said look you know it's just me and closet right now with more resources. We could translate this to the languages of the world. We could build out the software platform. Some more people can access it. We could tools for teachers and I said I think we could were reaching hundreds of thousands now I think we could reach a million folks by the end of the year and it could be ten or one, hundred, million. You know by the end of the decade this need for that and you know I said look if I if I. Could hire up about five six engineers and educators and content folks I. Think we'll be up and running So you know fully loaded costs in silicon valley be million million and a half dollars a year and so this and yeah, we'll. We'll. We'll think about that. That seems reasonable. So and then a few days later they said Yeah that's they could do that. So I started talking to the Gates Foundation about about that that grant and simultaneously. Folks from Google had reached out. Google had made this promise in two thousand eight, which was a ten year anniversary of Google that it would donate ten million dollars to five projects that had the potential to change the world, and they determined that one of those projects has to be a project that has a chance to educate the world and. They on their own said, we've done a lot of research and we think what you are doing has the best chance of helping to educate the world. Okay well, I'm glad you've been listening in on my delusions and by fall of two thousand, ten about the Google and the gates foundation each gave about two million dollars So we had four million dollar initial funding for that first two years to hire team internationalize and start scaling. Khan Academy. Wow more than four million dollars. So now you've got to. Grow. You've gotTa Build. You've gotta get office space, but a higher people you've got to really turn this. Thing, that was just you into. Thing. So what did you? Do I mean that's kind of overwhelming a bright. Isn't it. Yeah, it was I. Mean I'm usually call. One of my closest friends Shaath Newson, how he was someone I met actually in Louisiana he beat me at a math competition in tenth grade, and then we were on the same team representing Louisiana. Academic Game. So that's how I got to know him. He ended up becoming my roommate freshman year at. Mit. We're pretty much like brothers and I said, he shot the new help like I. Know This wasn't on your career path to to start to help me kind of get the sing off the ground but like I need your help and I think it'll be fun and. You know he he took a couple of days to think about it and. He decided to take the plunge with me, and so he quit his McKinsey job and joined. Khan. Academy is as the President and COO essentially help me turn into a real organization at the same time. There were these two engineers it's what's really eerie how these people came out of the woodwork to engineers that summer. Ben came into Jason Rozov did volunteered for Khan Academy and I assume there are some young kids are looking for some experience. But when they were volunteer, I'm like these are incredible. These are some of the best engineers and designers I've ever worked with in my life who are they, and then I realized that actually known figures. Like. A really well known engineers and designers. and. So they were something my next call Said Hey would you guys WanNa work fulltime for Khan Academy? I, think we're going to get funding and They after a few months, we were convinced them. They worked initially remotely from New York. Then they were able to to move out to the bay area. So as you began to grow and scale and more people I'm assuming you kind of wanted to professionalize it a little bit more and maybe kind of start to replace some of those early screen capture videos. That you've made in two, thousand, six and seven. Yeah the interesting there's a constant tension as an organization grows. Of How do you make sure you do what's right from a professionalization point of view from scaling from a managerial point of view. But how do you make sure that you're not just doing the things that everyone else does that ends up creating these large bureaucratic organizations that? Aren't always the most innovative and how do you make sure you don't lose whatever secret sauce you had that made you success initially and a lot of con- academies. I say not. So secret sauce I believe was its ECCENTRICITY has quirkiness. It's in formality coupled with its depth, an intuition and desire to. Show. The wonder in the universe and the curiosity and So you know the last ten years for me have just been how do I? How do I balance that you know? Can I bring in other people who also compliment us but we do not lose that entrepeneurship that creativity that curiosity eccentricity that the quirkiness that made Khan Academy what it is. What's the I mean at that point you were still. You're offering still math and. finance. Was the ambition to. To offer as much as you possibly could offer in as many subject areas as possible. Yeah I remember writing these envisioning docs back in two thousand, eight, two, thousand, nine says, okay. We want to create a world where anyone on the planet has access to all the core academic learning they need from pre k. through the core of College Subjects in grades it was part of the initial vision that yeah one day we would try to figure out you know language arts, humanities, etc because they're important early learning. And then we'll just keep running experiments to see how they go and and You know we're we're still on that journey. Yeah. I interview dumb. The founders of head space different. Obviously a for profit company is a meditation APP but initially, all the meditations were Andy Andy Party Com-. If you're familiar with it, I'm very I'm very familiar with right and initially all the videos were were Sal Khan but sal Khan is not scalable. You cannot make tens of thousands of videos was that clear to you pretty pretty soon after you started the funding started come in that you needed to get other people to make videos to your standards. Now, we don't have a lot of folks making videos I still make. A lot of them I pretty much all of the math and science video and we have a few other folks who are doing some history videos and some language arts videos. And one of the reasons why we were we became a little sensitive of like not just outsourcing it to five hundred folks. We got a lot of feedback that. Education even what is done in this kind of distance way synchronous you have to trust your teacher. You have to trust that they're going GonNa get to someplace that I I know is going to be insightful, and there's going to be an a Ha moment that you're willing to invest in it, and we've had moments where you know there's a video for me a video from me, and then there's video from someone else just even though they might be explaining that better than I could have it could be dissonant for the student where they're feeling wait I really got catch it that my teacher now substitute showed up. So what we've been trying to. Balance that. It's amazing. I met David Coleman, a couple of years ago the head of the College Board and he talked about the partnership that they did with Khan Academy where you offer free sat prep which. Is. Essentially. Really. Had a pretty big impact on the four prophet sat prep industry because you're essentially offering this product and service for free. Yeah. You know. I think all of these players they're trying to do what they can in the context that they're doing it but David Coleman reached out. and it was really I think David's brainchild when he took over the College Board that you know the cod were the folks who administer the sat and the AP exams. It was the cause was a non for profit that came into existence to try to level the playing field that yeah, a hundred years ago. The only kids who are getting into Ivy League schools where kids of legacy kids who have scored to the rights knows exactly and the notion of the sat is, let's give a chance for the kid in Louisiana to to to to compete with the kids from an Dover or Chote or deerfield. As we know this whole industry billion dollar industry came up around what look like creating a perceived and maybe actual advantage for the for the you know upper-middle-class or or a fluent and David said, look we've been. Secretly observing Khan Academy and what we really like about. Khan. Academy is y'all about really learning the material I had actually made some sat videos for navy and my cousin facts you went through the sat practice book and I did every problem in the book on video for my cousins. That it was a four hundred something problems and I was afraid that the college would was going to sue me because I didn't take their permission to like screen capture their problems. Davis I watched that and what I really liked about it is and no point. Did you say, Oh, this is how you guess you always said Oh this is a concept you need to learn to be ready for college. This is where you learn it. This is how you learn it. There's a little bit of test-taking strategies. He's like that's what test prep should be. It should be something that generally makes you better generally makes you more prepared for college and and how you perform the sat's going to be a byproduct product of that. Yeah. So he said how about we partnered create the world's best test prep that happens to be free and It made sense to me, and over time the relationship volved were they actually pay US resources To Create Free Test Prep which is, you know that's that's the type of revenue I love it sustain us, but it's it's free those student. This year the most challenging year for school age kids For many decades. And it's looking like this year probably will be remote mostly, it will be remote for many many if not most kids in the United States. I have to imagine that you have seen a dramatic uptick in user's usage this year. Yeah. Yeah we we I caught wind in February this past February that you know something interesting was happening. We got a letter from a teacher in south. Korea telling us that he was heavily dependent on Khan Academy is they had their their nationwide school closures and that was the sounds like, wow. A whole country's closing schools because of this Cova thing that's that's and. A few weeks later. I live here in Santa Clara County, which is I think it was the first community spread happened to your hand local private school had to shut down due to contact tracing. That's what it I don on us. It's like, wow, this hit the US at which even then seemed like science fiction in early. March. But you know it was one of those. Moments where you look left and you look right you realize I think this is us. 'cause if schools have to shutdown physically in the United States people are going to need something clearly, online would have to cover multiple subjects in grades would have to efficacy research behind it. It would have to be trusted you. It should be accessible on mobile devices and computers everything. It was clear. We're GONNA we're have a big role to play. So we started you know acid engineering team to stress test servers make sure we can handle more server load and then the next week you know California was one of the first states to say that they were going to close and then. By the week, pretty much most of the country and the world had shut down. You know we normally see about a pre cove. It was about million students were coming per month and that increased to thirty million. Then they were also spending fifty percent more time on the site Registrations went through the roof they those ten of of normal on a daily basis and I think right now we're sitting at around one hundred, ten million registered users. What, what is your? What is your operating budget? Your annual operating budget? Our annual operating budget now is in the high fifty million which every time. I, say it gives me a cortisol bike. Yeah But about a five, million of our of our funding comes from a few hundred thousand people donating on average twenty thirty dollars. So there's a lot of people donating because coal donate button on site. Yeah. I asking people for money is a very humbling thing to do My hope was always let me show people how great this is I have to become a little bit more explicit saying that I have a need and then hopefully people would show up. Yeah. I think less than a check. It's more than this. Now Khan Academy videos have been viewed like. Almost two billion times. Which is Insane I have to imagine sal over the last few years as the kind of Ed tech sector has exploded right and lots of schools by these programs, dream box and other four prophet. Programs that are available to help children with math and other language skills, etc I mean I'm sure people can't even sow. Let's spin off a for profit channel here. You've got something big here. You know there's there you know, and then you won't have to worry about raising money for for Khan Academy you know you can still do that but let's let's do that. I mean that must have happened must still happen. You know we do. oftentimes you know sometimes I'll go to a potential. PHILANTHROPIES will. I'd rather invest than donate. Something like that. People, I think there's some creative ideas that I would entertain. They're like Khan Academy is brand valuable. What if we could take that brandon? Do it in this tangential spaces and Khan Academy can have equity and maybe it can help build an endowment for. I'm always open to. Ideas. But what? I always remind myself and look I'm I'm not someone who has transcended material desires I tried to transcend material desires but. I have go to a friend. Who's you know done well with a Po or something and they've got the new tesla or living. You know they're living slightly upstream the income gradient. And living a little higher up the hill. But I remind myself. One I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I I am doing, and the way I think about is I've done my philanthropy in reverse order and I stayed in the Hedge Fund world and you know maybe one day become a multimillionaire or larger and then but then what I've done with that money. I, you know I'm not. Someone who who wants that much I I want to be able to you know have have a backyard be able to best support the family you know go on vacation once or twice a year right and anything above that. If I did become a billionaire I would have donated it to an effort like Khan Academy. So you might as well just cut out the middleman. Time, shift it and work on and and I do generally think that it has benefited the mission and the vision because once people hopefully are viewing it as an institution they do they're they're they're rooting for it because they they realized that it's not it doesn't have an ulterior motive. You know the the everybody I've had on the show over the past four years that you are most like Jimmy Wales. Jimmy. Wales had an incredibly enormous influence on the world with wikipedia. Right? Had they done this as a for profit? He could have been a multimillionaire his argument was it wouldn't have worked. You had to make a nonprofit and by the way he said look I don't really care about having lots of money I. I have a really interesting life. I. Get to meet really interesting people, Interesting People WanNa, meet me I get to have. Get exposed to all these ideas that to me is worth more than any amount of money I could ever have and I that's really stuck with me because I. Think. He's right I think he's right. I agree with I mean I. Like Jimmy, Wales, by virtue of this adventure, I've been on I get lenses into really interesting parts of the world which for the most part have made me more optimistic about the world you know I every now and then I'm you know get invited to various conferences that you know where you know very powerful people are talking about the problems of society and how to fix them, and when when you when you when you get into these circles, you realize most of these people are honestly just trying to help you might not agree with everyone etcetera etcetera but it's it's actually been very It's made me more optimistic about the world not less. When you think about this just this incredible journey in the amazing success of of Khan Academy. How much do you think it has to do with you know your skill and how hard you worked in intelligence and how much do you attribute it to lock It's all. All of the above I mean it's you know one person can call it. One person might call it benevolent aliens working in your favor to prepare humanity for first contact. But yeah, there's something. That I I can't i. mean there's a lot that I can't take credit for I mean and above and beyond luck. Sir I. Guess It's luck where I was born where I was born a had the teachers I had had a the friendship supports that I had and then. Fell into things at the right time and but every now and then you see a door crack open, you save I think there's something interesting on the other door and you've got to sprint through it, and so I try not to overthink when when there are signs in my life that that doors open don't don't don't make someone have to force through the door. Like, run through that door. And Sal Khan founder of Khan Academy. By the way if you google his full name Salman Khan, you will find at least one other famous person who has exactly the same name. That other Salman Khan is one of the most popular Bollywood Actors in the world and actually I was I was in India five years ago and I met him I think it's just because you know people from this kind of get a kick out of things like that. Let's get this guy and that guy. So, there's there's some youtube videos of US having getting co interviewed. He's a he's a big star. He's he's a big heartthrob. He's major Maitra. He's also very well known for his physique. He's kind of the guys that that that taught bollywood that. Indians all have to look like software engineers. And thanks so much for listening to this show this week, you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can write to us at H. I. bt NPR DOT Org. Our twitter handles are at how I built this or at Iras are instagram accounts are at guide dot Roz or at how I built this NPR. Our show is produced this week by Jan Andersson with music composed by routine Arab Louis thanks also to Julia Carney candice limb, Derek Gaels JC, Howard Grant, and Jeff Rodgers. And you've been listening to how I built this. This is NPR. Is NPR's only Spanish language podcast simple stories. You won't hear anywhere else told by the voices that make Latin America come alive each week we bring you another remarkable story that will surprise in movie. New episodes every Tuesday, listen and subscribe.

Coming up next