June 2, 2021
5 min

Personalization at scale.

Hello,

We all learn differently. Some of us learn better through the written word; others through pictures; others through listening.

Last summer, I wrote about this in the context of education technology; how, through accounting for the different ways we learn, AI is transforming the future of education.

In that newsletter, I mentioned a Korean education start-up, Riiid. By observing user behaviour, Riiid’s AI tailors education content to the individual’s learning style.

Riiid initially came to my attention through our search engine. As a result of high user numbers and significant media coverage, Riiid jumped up our edtech rankings. We shared Riiid with some investors in Europe last September, showing these milestones:

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This company was the first Korean start-up we shared with our investor network. We didn’t get any bite, but separately from us, Softbank started looking. Today, as the sole investor, Softbank has put US$175Mn into Riiid. This puts Riiid squarely on the global start-up map. Together with the Coupang IPO earlier this year, it’s a huge endorsement of what’s happening in the Korean start-up world.

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Riiid’s impact on nr2 has been significant. When I wrote that newsletter last summer, I was wondering: How can we use our own AI to ensure we deliver information on companies like Riiid as soon as the search engine flags it? Today, in a slight twist of fate, we have an answer to that question.

If you’re a registered user of our search engine who’s shown an interest in AI and/or education, you will have received an e-mail about the Riiid news already. That e-mail didn’t come from me. That e-mail came from our AI.

So is this a new feature?

Yes! This is the first step towards giving the power of our AI to all registered search engine users. We are programming our AI to identify news you might be interested in and to send it directly whenever it happens. Our AI, which is called Theia, is going to make well-intentioned mistakes over the next few weeks, but the aim is to send you things as quickly as the data emerges.

One size does not fit all

The phrase ‘AI’ is becoming meaningless. Let me explain what I mean, using education as an example.

Let’s go back to education as a concrete example. When a classroom has more than 30 students, it affects how much the students learn. We all learn differently and have different interests, so it’s asking an awful lot of a teacher to find a single method that works at the same time for so many people.

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Students in a University lecture

By providing personalized services at scale, Riiid is using AI to solve that problem, just as nr2 is doing so for early-stage investment. The same personalization is also evident in products you use everyday: Google, YouTube, Netflix, Naver, Watcha. All of them are personalized based on your behaviour. YouTube, for example, shows me what I care about, and it does the same for you. The videos will differ greatly.

This is the path nr2 is taking. We want to build a neutral and reliable platform where you can find information on start-ups and technology. We also want to build something that helps you learn more about your personal areas of interest and stay on top of developments you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.

Let me know how you get on with Theia. As with Riiid, it’s a learning journey we are on together.

Thanks as ever for reading and, if you like what you see, please consider sharing!

Best,

Jordan