Ex-NBA Dancer Ditches Fashion Startup And Instead Launches An Online Education Startup

Business Insider

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Ranku

Kim Taylor, co-founder and CEO at Ranku

Kim Taylor, one of the stars from Randi Zuckerberg's "Start-Ups: Silicon Valley" reality TV show on Bravo, is launching a new startup. 

But it's not Shonova, the fashion startup she began working on last year

During meetings with potential investors, sometimes their eyes would start to glaze over, Taylor told Business Insider. Taylor took that as a sign that Shonova probably wasn't going to work.

So just a few weeks ago, Taylor scrapped the idea, just a week before the planned launch for Shonova. 

Taylor had been working on Shonova since last year, after she quit her job as head of sales at Ampush Media

"There were a few tears," Taylor said. "It was sad, but necessary." 

It was necessary partly because education has always been one of Taylor's passions. She also has a background in working with universities that offer online degrees.  In fact, she came up with the idea for her education startup Ranku back in 2009.

Once Taylor decided to close Shonova's doors, she did a week of soul searching. During that time, she also met with a handful of people working in the education space, and ended up connecting with top-notch accelerator TechStars.

TechStars and Kaplan recently teamed up to launch an education accelerator, but the application deadline had long passed at that point. 

Luckily for Taylor, TechStars and Kaplan said they would make an exception for her if she could get a team together. It also helped that Taylor had great references. 

Within two weeks, Taylor convinced her childhood friend and former ice hockey teammate to quit her wildly lucrative job as the senior director of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to join Ranku as a co-founder. Taylor also brought on board an engineer and user interface designer, and convinced her brother to help out, too.   

With a team in tact, she received her term sheet.  As part of the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, TechStars invests $20,000 in each company. 

The three-month program officially started this week, but Taylor and her team are already moving full force ahead. 

Ranku's official launch date is June 25.  The idea behind Ranku is to help non-profit colleges and universities with online degree programs compete against for-profit universities. At the same time, it will serve as a resource for people seeking more information about online degree programs.

If you do a Google search for "online degree programs," you're going to see a lot of results from for-profit schools like DeVry, the University of Phoenix, and Everest University.

But there a ton of top-notch schools with full-degree online programs that may not wind up on your radar if you stick to a Google search.  

On Ranku, each school has its own profile page full of features of the college, program offerings, professors, student testimonials, and related schools. Eventually, users will be able to see information regarding actual job outcomes of graduates. 

Ranku is also partnering with universities. Already, it has top-notch universities like the University of Southern Califorina, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Georgetown University on board as clients. 

There are now numerous startups today tackling the education space, like massive online open course (MOOC) startups like Coursera and Udacity. 

"I was very adamant that we weren't doing a MOOC," Taylor says.

Taylor sees MOOCs as important in the education space, but says she finds the degree market much more interesting. 

Sure, there are jobs that don't require degrees. But a recent report revealed that even with an increase in the number of college graduates, the premium in wages for them continues to rise

Ultimately, Taylor sees a lot of value in college degrees. 

Disclosure: The reporter of this article attended the University of Southern California. 



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