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Basar Basaran

1/3 of the team on a mission to offer the most personalized learning experience possible at a price everyone can afford.

Company: Kunduz

Role: Co-founder, co-CEO

What drew you and your co-founders to the EdTech space?

Melih, Baris and I all tested into the same boarding high school in Turkey actually. It was a utopian educational model in terms of equity; there were students from all over the country from all different backgrounds who had access to the same, robust resources. We’d all share information and learn directly from one another. This is really what prompted us, years later, to consider how we could use technology to help scale utopian models of education globally.

We want Kunduz to evolve beyond just Q&A to become the platform that completely changes how much personalized support is available to any student, anywhere in the world. We plan to continue to use AI but also facilitate affordable, person-to-person tutoring as we grow.

What differentiates Kunduz from other EdTech platforms?

Our mission to offer the most personalized learning experience possible at a price everyone can afford is at the heart of our every decision – even if it looks like we make strategic compromises in the short term. We know that this will, counterintuitively, help us to realize our mission in the quickest way in the long term.

From the organizational point of view, we have 75 team members who are university students. They’ve been key, not only for operations but they represent role models for students on our platform. The university students are only a couple years older than them but already attending top institutions; having them central to our company creates – for both sides – an emotional connection to Kunduz. Most importantly, they know more about what students go through better than us – they’ve been through what our students are going through just a year ago or so. They come up with the most reliable insights.

How do you feel you've grown personally in building this company?

Reid Hoffman has written a lot about how as a company transitions from a family, to a tribe, to a village, to a city, the role of the founder changes; each phase requires a completely different skill set and mindset. We’ve been in the tribe phase for more than a year so I’ve personally been focused on preparing us for that transition to a village. I want to set us up to thrive in that next phase. I can say the same on behalf of Melih and Baris.

What’s the best piece of user feedback you’ve gotten so far?

We make a point of talking to our users a lot; themes that emerge in their feedback always form the foundation of what we’re building next.

The platform itself took shape from talking with students. We knew we wanted to do something in the education/test prep space but only after I talked with high school students and saw the WhatsApp groups they were using to pose questions and help one another did I understand what kind of solution they actually needed. Once I saw this pattern, I began to connect these younger students with college students who were fresh off of intense test prep themselves and looking to earn a bit of extra money… and the earliest model of Kunduz was born.

What’s been the most exciting milestone you’ve hit as a team?

Being able to use AI has been incredibly exciting and essential to scaling our impact. We are now able to offer support for unlimited questions at the price we used to only offer 100 questions per month. We get hundreds of thousands of questions daily and, since implementing AI, we’re able to answer students’ questions in under 10 minutes. But what’s critical is that we’re not having to compromise the quality of answers to deliver them so quickly; since ~80% of new questions sent in have already been answered by tutors before, the AI retrieves these existing answers.

Is there a specific source of inspiration that keeps you pushing through tougher moments?

We’ve come to understand that our growth will have cycles; we’re at a stage where we don’t freak out about next week’s growth. Most of the things we build now are towards our next 10x and what Kunduz will mean to our students and tutors next year.

We’ve grown to learn to trust our process of listening to users, analyzing metrics, and iterating on solutions. On that last point, we’ve had to resist getting overly attached to the solutions we personally come up with. Building a startup is a series of experiments so you can’t fall in love with any one solution, only with the problem.

We’ve also been intentionally about building a team who cares about what we’re doing and are excited by our mission and impact. That’s been a huge motivating factor as well.

What’s a song or album that’s gotten you through 2020?

The most recent one was from this Brazilian band, Trombone de Frutas. It’s called Me n U. I’ve been listening to it a ton for 3 months. Redbone by Childish Gambino is the song that got us through YC, though.

Favorite emoji or gif?

I love the funky dancing man; it has an energizing connotation of “work hard, play hard” 🕺🏻 I am also a little too liberal with using the lightning bolt ⚡️.