We Catch Up With Chicago EdTech Startup PackBack Who’s Made A Total Pivot From When We Met in 2013
We met Mike Shannon and Kasey Gandham back in 2013 at Chicago Techweek. Back then the team behind Packback was on a mission to help college students save millions of dollars by renting textbooks by the day rather than paying full price for books that just sit in a closet all semester long.
Not too long after that appearance at TechWeek the team packed it up and headed for ABC’s Shark Tank where they were able to sway billionaire investor and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban into investing $250,000. It was full steam ahead until they realized some flaws in their original business model.
The original Packback for textbook rentals was a great idea but it was plagued by two major factors. The first was that more and more colleges and universities were becoming less and less dependent on text books in the first place. The second was the textbook publishers themselves proved to be problematic and very slow to move in the fast paced world of millennial led startups.
Along the way though, another product started evolving out of Packback. as CEO and Co-Founder Mike Shannon explained to us at BbWorld 17 in New Orleans “we started to form this community around questions involving the text books. Students and teachers were using Packback to discuss the content of the books and ask questions” he said.
As the textbook business started fading away, Shannon along with Gandham and Jessica Tenuta started deep diving into the question platform. They realized that not only could they create a question platform for college students, somewhat similar to Quora, but also change the way students ask questions.
Now, packback is a platform that helps coach college students into asking really good, more open ended questions. An algorithm based, proprietary AI platform fuels the discussion and the questions and then develops a newsletter from the questions, an important discussion tool currently being used on college campuses.
“Packback Questions is an online Curiosity Community with the purpose of awakening your fearless, relentless curiosity. Instead of just focusing on memorizing facts, Packback Questions is the place where you can ask the big, sometimes unanswerable, questions that you’re truly curious about.” the company says on their website.
We ran into a professor on the show floor at BbWorld 17 who spoke highly of Packback. She basically explained that while college classrooms turn more and more to technology, platforms like Packback insure that good quality discussion still happens. In fact with Packback the quality of the discussion is kicked up quite a few notches.
Packback integrates with popular LMS systems like Blackboard and Canvas. You saw Shannon in the video above, now check them out in this pic below, a little green and fresh out of college.