Making People Smarter In 5 Minutes — Ukrainian Startup Highbrow Knows How to Do It

Highbrow is a subscription service that brings cool and exciting bite-sized courses to your inbox. You get new information every day, without boring expensive classes. Short course from Highbrow appears in your inbox every morning. We’ve asked Artem Zavyalov, co-founder of Highbrow, about his experience in making people smarter every day.

—First of all tell us how did the idea of creating Highbrow come out?

The entire idea came to us for the first time when we realized that there was a huge knowledge gap between what we’ve been learning from the media and real textbook knowledge. We felt like we had some gaps in general knowledge topics: History, Philosophy, Art, Science, Psychology etc., but we didn’t know where to start filling it in. And like the most of modern population we found ourselves constantly too busy or distracted to find time for learning something new.

So, we made it our goal to solve own problem by creating the easiest way to gain new knowledge on a daily basis.


Artem Zavyalov

—How does it work?

Highbrow accustoms people to learn something new in just 5 minutes per day. It’s a good habit. Our users do not have to spend time on Highbrow’s website, because we deliver courses directly to user’s mailbox every morning. In fact, you don’t waste time at all — each course consists of easy-to-digest 5 minutes chunks ideal for a morning coffee. Everything in general takes just 10 days — you simply don’t have time to get bored by it.

What is particularly convenient is that you don’t need to be near PC for studying our course. New knowledge is there in e-mail, wherever you are — in the office, commuting or standing in line at the grocery store.


—What are the most popular courses among users of Highbrow today?

For now, the most popular courses are in Productivity, History, Philosophy and Science. Recently we launched «Challenging logic puzzles» and it has already become quite popular. It was really surprising for ourselves that this course about significant philosophical ideas became one of the most popular one.

—Looks like your audience is unpredictable. To whom do you sell your product?

We all were born curious, and 2,5 billion of us have an e-mail address. It’s our market! Today we are so «well-informed» on current events, yet there is lack of depth and breadth of those knowledge. TV, social media and chatting with virtual friends provide mind-numbing entertainment which helps to spend time without expanding our minds and skills.

We aim to reach people who feel that lack of real knowledge. They are busy with hundreds of different matters and are too distracted to find time for getting smarter. Investing just 5 minutes per day in focused exploration of new knowledge in their inbox can elevate people’s mind and build true knowledge.


—Are there any updates for Highbrow in the nearest future?

We want to represent our freemium model, and it’ll happen soon. Our users will get an ability to make their learning experience more personalized.

—Speaking about free and paid services: tell us what kind of business model do you apply?

Now we generate a revenue through CPM-based sponsorship model. A company can sponsor specific course or category of courses; and we will put its title with web-address at the top of Highbrow’s email.

We also plan monetizing our service through a premium-account — as I’ve mentioned above, it will give possibility to personalize user’s learning experience and get access to more in-depth content with audio files.


—What do you do to persuade foreign investors to support Highbrow team? Is it hard enough doing it as a company from Ukraine?

It is not hard to do it being a company from Ukraine, but it is almost impossible being a company in Ukraine. So if you want to raise money from VCs in US, you must be in US. At least for some period of time.

Thus, we’re raising a seed round here in Ukraine now and meanwhile we are busy making useful connections with US investors.

—Did you make any promo or PR campaign for Highbrow?

The best promo for Highbrow is word-of-mouth. It’s obvious acquisition channel for us, since Highbrow is a free and social useful project, so people really want to share it with friends and colleagues. Of course, we use SEO and PR as well as work directly with journalists and popular communities like Reddit, ProductHunt, HackerNews etc.

—Do you participate in any IT-conferences or local meet-ups?

To be honest, we rarely take part in social activities as far as we work hard on Highbrow and its growth, and right now it takes all our time. But we really believe it is worth it.

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