By Ben Carsley, Managing Editor (@BC_PYMNTS)
As it turns out, selling high on Bitcoin isn’t the only way to see intelligence rewarded via virtual currency.
Qranio is a Brazilian startup aiming to “make learning fun” by offering rewards – or more specifically a virtual currency used to purchase rewards – to those who engage with its educational content. Called “iQ$,” the currency is earned after users sign up for Qraino for free, and is then exchanged for prizes.
How much has the startup raised in funding to this point, and what plans do they have for an American expansion? PYMNTS.com spoke with Samir IÃ¡sbeck de Oliveira, CEO and founder of Qranio, in this exclusive to find out.
PYMNTS.com: Please introduce Qranio to our US audience using your own words. How long has Qranio been around for, and how did you get the idea to found the company?
Samir IÃ¡sbeck de Oliveira: When I was a kid, I spent my childhood playing with my friends on the streets of a rural area in Minas Gerais, in Brazil. Not surprisingly, I would rather play soccer than studying.
However, I loved to LEARN. I loved learn how to build my own toys so I could play with my friends. I could not see the purpose of studying at that time … but I was all about learning new things!
Fast-forward 20 years, I realized that my daughter was also having a hard time studying but she loved to learn new things, especially at her iPad. Then I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be great if could take out the boring part of studying and make learning fun?”
So I decided to create Qranio, an online platform that makes learning fun by stimulating everyone to learn through fun and educational content, while rewarding their progress with awesome prizes!
Everybody thought I was crazy…Maybe I am, but initially two friends, Gian Menezes (CTO) and Flavio Augusto (UX), trusted in me and in my project. They joined me then as Co-Founders, and after 18 months of bootstrapping, Qranio has more than forty thousand users, who spent on average twenty minutes online per access, learning new things with us!
How did you come up with the idea to equate IQ with dollars therefore creating a virtual currency – iQ dollars – that allows user to purchase real awards?
I decided to use the same letter we used to create the name Qranio for our virtual currency. The letter Q reminds us about the word Qranio (Q r a n i o = Qi in Portuguese = iQ in english). And Qranio is a neologism created from the word “Crânio”, a Brazilian slang to define a very smart person. Users earn iQ$ to be exchanged for prizes on our virtual store. There is a large possibility of interaction among users, who learn and have fun at the same time.
Qranio has received several rounds of funding and has landed almost $500,000 to this point. What are your plans in terms of investing this money?
Most part of this money is being invested into content improvement.
Initially, I set up a personal investment of $150,000 in order to start Qranio development. But the money invested by myself and Wayra (startup accelerator managed by Telefonica group) was not enough to create high-level content in three different languages. We needed good reviewers and software developers to create strategies for our product improvement.
When our angel investor, Gui Affonso, started the partnership with us, we could improve our quality and hire a qualified team to work with us. Basically, our most important investment was in human resources.
The Qranio Facebook AppData indicates that you are also catching the attention of an English-speaking audience as well. How many monthly active users who speak English are you seeing, and do you have plans to enter the North American market?
We’re seeing around 2,000 English Speakers and we aim to extend Qranio to Latin America, U.S. and Europe users until the end of the year. We have questions in English and some prizes available for North American users. We’ve just selected English native Speakers to create specific questions in English-speaking countries.
The U. S. market is our greatest project. That’s why we are improving our applications and content to start working more effectively in North America, bringing more benefits for American users. We’re planning to open an office in the U. S. at the end of the year to increase commercial partnerships and other strategic actions. We are working hard to be an edutainment startup reference and reminded as the most present “making learn fun” platform in number of users.
What is your vision for Qranio in the next year? What partnerships are you hoping to establish and how are you planning to grow?
The biggest goal fin 2013 is reaching more than one million users. And yes, we are planning to establish new partnerships next year, especially with TELCO’s around the world to start Qranio operation with SMS (text message platform).
We’re planning to operate in the United States with Android and iOS, for smartphones and tablets and BlackBerry.
In the U.S. a large number of users have smartphones. Such as it happens, in other emerging countries, the Brazilian reality is different. Only 20 percent of the population has smartphones and most of those smartphones users have a data plan. We have a global partnership with Telefonica, and we find the focus on SMS service a more democratic way to benefit Brazilian users.
We are planning to establish partnerships with multinational companies in order to display prizes available for users around the world. We have already started to develop new exclusive actions for kids and teenagers. Qranio is also finishing features for teachers in order to help them to gamify homework.
Samir IÃ¡sbeck de Oliveira
CEO and Founder, Qranio.com
Samir IÃ¡sbeck is founder and CEO of Qranio.com. IÃ¡sbeck has a postgraduate degree in Business Management and Marketing from UFRJ. A serial entrepreneur since childhood, he has assembled a software factory (eMiolo.com) that helped fund his dream of making learning something for everyone and everywhere: the Qranio – a startup that aims to make Learning Fun. IÃ¡sbeck has been 100% dedicated to Qranio since 2011 and today is supported by Wayra Brazil (Accelerator TelefÃ³nica | Vivo) in addition to several other achievements. Besides Qranio, he is happy to contribute and transfer the know-how he has acquired with other entrepreneurs and Startups. Internet enthusiast since the days of BBS he has been contributing and innovating the digital medium since 2001.