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How We Built The Big Know Pt. II

How We Built The Big Know pt. II

This is part two of a Lab Notes series from Don Smithmier on the creation of our latest startup, The Big Know. The first post in the series covers the startup journey from initial idea to hiring our first employees.


The Big Know is nearly two years in the making.

And I think the journey to this point is worth sharing both as an example of the start-up process, but also as validation of why we’re so excited about the potential of this business. Let’s pick up where we left off last week:


Proving the Concept & Revenue Model

In creating The Big Know, we weren’t going to take another step until we proved that we could get a leading brand to pay for our service and that we could deliver for that client. And in the Fall of 2014 we were able to do just that.

The first actual customer of The Big Know was UnitedHealthcare, a Fortune 14 Minnesota company and the largest insurance provider in the United States. We created a 4-week online course titled “Becoming Dr. You: Essentials for a Healthier, Happier Life.

The course was taught by Dr. Reed Tuckson, a captivating physician and UHC’s former Chief Medical Officer. The audience for the course was UHC’s Medicare & Retirement group — a senior population faced with the challenge of staying healthy and happy as they age.

After a successful small test in 2014, we launched a full-blown pilot in January 2015. In all, nearly 13,000 people registered for the course, and the engagement and satisfaction rates were outstanding. We had created a great learning experience and it was validated by a tremendous consumer response.


Raising Money

Having put together the team, built the first version of the platform, and proven model with a major client, we determined we were officially in it to win it.

On January 1st of this year, GoKart Labs spun out The Big Know, Inc.

Jim Cuene, GoKart’s president, formally took over all day-to-day operations of GoKart so that I could step into the role of CEO of The Big Know (I remain CEO of GoKart and spend 20% of my time in that role. We share offices and GoKart is a major partner to TBK).

Though revenue-generating, The Big Know is not yet profitable, so investors were necessary. Initial funding came from GoKart Labs, myself, and A.J. Meyer (co-founder of GoKart). We also looked externally, finding further validation by raising a total of $1 million in our seed round of funding.


Launching For Real

In late October, we officially launched to the world.

We opened the doors with courses from UnitedHealthcare (#1 insurance company in the U.S.), Life Reimagined (a new creation by AARP, which is the #1 association in the U.S.), and Dan Buettner of the Blue Zones Group (Dan currently has his 3rd book on the New York Times bestseller list).

The courses on this platform are fantastic. The Big Know is serious about learning and we have a proven instructional model in place to ensure it. These courses are masterfully produced and carefully crafted.

I’m extraordinarily excited by what this means for consumers. These are great courses that are either free or very inexpensive thanks to the support of top organizations and a dedicated team. And we’re just getting started.

Our goal? To unlock the knowledge of the world’s brightest brands so that everyone can benefit.

The world’s top organizations got there for a reason. They know their stuff.

And now they’re about to share what they know with all of us. Brand As Teacher. I can’t wait to see what’s next.


The Big Know delivers amazing online courses, created by the world’s brightest brands and taught by trusted experts. We transform the expertise of top organizations into learning that delights and courses that matter. To learn more about our services, reach out to me directly:

Don Smithmier

A stirred—not shaken—cocktail of cool calculation and wild creativity, Don is the high-beam examination of all things we create, build and release to the world, keeping us on-task, on-budget and all of our work on-point. He’s also a freakishly fine musician, as well as the spark that ignited an online education revolution.

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