CEO LeveL90: online solutions can help upgrade education in the country


Abdulnazarov the Ainur, the founder of one of Russia’s largest resource for learning languages LinguaLeo, founder and CEO of online education platform LeveL90 within RIW2015 talked about technological solutions in the field of education, about the necessity of creation of the Russian “Technology Valley”, or import substitution in the it sector and the establishment of a network of partners that together will help to raise the level of education in the regions.

– Let’s start with the origins. Why did you decide to do business in the field of education, especially online obrazovaniya?

Education since the childhood played an important role in my life. At school I enjoyed studying English, dreaming to travel. He was fond of mathematics, physics, participated in the Olympic games. Then enrolled at the HSE – the most exciting and modern UNIVERSITY in Russia, in my opinion. On the second course I made that taught English as a private tutor.

At the same time the HSE (HSE – approx. ed.) has opened Russia’s first business incubator, which organized Dmitry Repin. He told stories about entrepreneurs who made large and interesting company. They created the business beautifully, honestly, clearly and with an impressive result. These stories inspired me greatly, I took his course on “Entrepreneurship: creating a successful new business”. This was probably Russia’s first such program within the University. Then I wanted to create a high-tech company. In the business-incubator HSE HSE-Inc I already went with the idea of the project “Club of native speakers” – my first business that I opened as a student. Three years successfully developed this business: we had about 150 teachers-native speakers from around the world and 12 languages to study with them. But by the end of training I realized that I wanted to go ahead and create high-quality, interactive mass available online product that would help people keen to learn English and later other languages.

Then I wrote graduation thesis on “Organizational design and mechanisms of intrafirm coordination” by the book Henry Mintzberg “Structure in the fist”. In the book of this German management guru describes five formats of company management – direct control, as in the army, for example. Standardization of processes – for example, the plant of Henry Ford. Standardization of operations, knowledge, as in medical institutions, and universities. Standardization of production, both in divisional holding companies and franchise companies; standardization of values, as in non-profit organizations and political parties. And there is even a form called “adhocracy”, the main leading mechanism intra-firm coordination in it – mutual agreement. Mutual agreement is a traditional form of communication in a harmonious family, a group of friends and associates. In this form of management is the leader, he gathers specialists of different fields (a small team of 5-7 people). In this case, all communication within the team is horizontal. This does not mean that there is anarchy, but rather everyone does their job and is responsible, that is, everyone is responsible for their piece. They communicate a lot, to come to a common opinion, what is the best practice, and even use special tools intensive communication and coordination (technical). In the end we get strong solutions at the intersection of expertise involved responsible professionals.

Henry Mintzberg wrote that the adhocracy is used in research laboratories, studios and in “little Silicon Valley”. He wrote “the Structure of the fist” in 1983, then these “small companies in Silicon Valley” were a new phenomenon. In fact, he revealed the “secret sauce”. Even in the valley it is, in my opinion, not paying enough attention. In Russia, about the “secret sauce” and no one really knows, but this model needed to create a successful, productive it company. I realized that. This particular form of organization I have created in the first business “Club of native speakers” in a General way, and then used at the start and in the development of LinguaLeo. In this form of interaction each team member takes responsibility, strives to maximize quality, result and all this is based on healthy values, and persists the principle of “think globally, act locally”. All this together allows you to create a world-class company. LinguaLeo, today, competes with foreign platform for learning languages Duolingo. And quality metrics that you can look at the open source on Alexa.com at the Same higher rates. But LinguaLeo is in Russia, and Duolingo in the US, so initially the company had evolved in different conditions. And in Russia it is necessary to create such conditions, to have a global company of Russian origin. This “secret sauce”, including, I want to tell in the course “it-entrepreneur level 90”, which we posted on LeveL90.ru

– So, you consider yourself a supporter of import substitution?

Yes. And LinguaLeo is a Russian company. We are now actively working to create a solution for the mass training of the Russian language around the world with a key indicator 20 million users within 5 years. We want to support every language, that is, we multilanguage. And in this sense Effectively multilingual and multicultural educational product. In General, I realized that my vocation is education, and it is necessary to create quality technology solutions in this area. The important thing is to train people, to invest in human capital. Because for every project there are specific people: leaders, experts in their field. And it depends on them the future of a project. It is therefore very important to give them quality education that will allow them to create demand at the global level products.

– And on the basis of which project you decide to implement it?

Based on online platform LeveL90 (resident of it-Park Kazan), which we started doing in the spring, and now we have a closed alpha version. The first focus in the educational program are made on the training of it entrepreneurs, because exactly this problem and the need in the country today I most acutely feel. But then I realized that it makes no sense to do only for entrepreneurs, but need to create an educational product that is available for teachers, pupils, students, people of different professions, that is, to scale the product as an educational platform for entire Russian-speaking audience, because teaching touches all spheres of life, one thing pulls another. And our goal is to make the product popular and accessible. In other words, this product because of its simplicity and intuitive use will be available to both pensioners and children, and everyone in between. This knowledge should be given in an interactive way using modern technologies from the computer games industry and the modern media (cinema, interactive formats) – without this in any way today, because you need to compete for the attention of the user. We already have similar experience for example, LinguaLeo, and now all this knowledge I am ready to shift at LeveL90, thereby, to create a solution that can help to raise the level of education in Russia. Of course, we think globally about other markets, but, first, we are a Russian company, and, secondly, we are primarily interested in teaching Russian-speaking audience, there will live our children.

– What exactly at the moment you offer the project LeveL90?

At the moment we launched the program “Triple package it entrepreneur”, which includes “101 the question for practitioners of technology entrepreneurship”: users can ask questions practices the it industry who personally answer them. Enjoy access to alpha version of online course “it-entrepreneur level 90” on the platform LeveL90, as well as the webinar course “10 lessons from the masters of it business”.

The focus of the curriculum is to train specialists in the it industry: entrepreneurs, designers, Internet marketers, growth hackers, sales professionals, external communications, developers, engineers. If this is not done, then Russia will not be able to create tech valley and to develop the it industry to the world level. It is to me that Russia has developed technology and has been created by technological valley, then there will be conditions for the development of LinguaLeo and my other projects. The core technology of the Russian valley I see in the “Innopolis” (new city special economic zone in the Republic of Tatarstan). By the way, LeveL90 passed the selection of the Supervisory Board of Innopolis 7 September. But such technological clusters must be created in other Russian cities, all of which they must be connected somehow. For technologies are the future of our country. And for this we need to train competent professionals, to provide a quality education. This solution we are implementing. And we want to use not only online solution LeveL90, but also more mundane to offline formats: group webinar lectures, offline meetings at the sites partners to create a professional community. We want to run the offline part brand CAT Centre (centre for culture, education and technology). And to do this we will attract the leading practitioners and industry experts to transfer high quality knowledge.

By the way, many Universities in the region do not have courses for it professionals, this “exposed” regions. That is why online education is now in this area may allow you to “patch” these holes. But we do not intend to be limited only to the it sector. We plan in the future to run courses in 5 areas: basic school subjects (“Mathematics 90”), occupations (“Builder 90”), about family values, social roles and business relationships (“Mother of level 90”, “Team player level of 90”, a healthy lifestyle, sports, food (“Football 90”), culture, art and philosophy (“the Connoisseur of 90”). The slogan LeveL90 – rates.

– And how much you appreciate Internet education in Russia?

The potential market for online education – 1.5 billion rubles, according to the consulting company Merku.

– This is potentially because the market is not yet created, right?

The market is there, but at the moment the share of the development potential of the market about 29%. That is, the market turnover of 400 million rubles. Therefore, the point growth there. And our goal is to offer a quality product to this market. In the long term the growth of interest in education and self-education will substantially increase and market volumes. For 5 years we plan to reach 10 million users who have completed at least one course on the platform LeveL90. And we are ready to collaborate with professionals, experts of different fields of knowledge, as well as universities and other educational institutions. Encourage and respond to those who are in tune with what we say and do in order in cooperation to achieve better results.

– Do you plan cooperation with state bodies?

Yes, we are very interested to cooperate with development institutions, state agencies. As you know, is now developing a format of cooperation of private and public institutions in the framework of the national technology initiative (STI). 2016 ASI and RVC shall conduct an examination of the “road maps” for market AeroNet, AutoNet and NeuroNet. We believe it is necessary to enter the program EduNet associated with education. And ready to actively cooperate on this initiative. Need to update the education system in the country through such approaches and National technology initiative EduNet. Yesterday, RIW 2015, at the discussion panel “Education and Internet” we have come to this conclusion and agreed to establish a working group for the development of this theme with market participants and regulators. It is important to cooperate. Everyone needs to unite and make every effort to create a truly quality education system in the country.

Interviewed Nadezhda Gerashchenko