Gnowbe CEO So-Young Kang Was Featured in HR Digital Today’s New Success Stories

November 17, 2021

Gnowbe CEO So-Young Kang was featured in HR Digital Today’s New Success Stories and highlighted Gnowbe as market-leading HR Tech Pioneers. Read more on the featured piece here.

There are a lot of start-ups out there but when you see one that has spun out of an already successful organisation, due to its clients' demands, it warrants much closer attention.

By any measure the success of Gnowbe is astounding. The testimonials are significant and from senior figures....

"The Gnowbe platform is one of the most versatile mobile learning platform we have come across as it allows us to do a range of learning activities rather than just going through text, videos or quizzes," said Lim Lai Cheng", Executive Director of SMU Academy. (SMU is the professional training arm of Singapore Management University).

Gnowbe joined the KPMG Digital Village, an initiative launched in April 2016 to facilitate collaboration between corporates and the startup community. According to Jan Reinmueller, Head of Digital Village, KPMG in Singapore, "Gnowbe’s mobile first approach, continuous feedback and social features, give it a distinct advantage over traditional learning and knowledge management tools".

Furthermore Gnowbe have Harvard, Facebook and IMD top Executives on the Gnowbe Global Advisory Board.

Gnowbe stands for Grow Knowledge into Being. (Gnowbe is pronounced Nobee). A mobile, micro-learning platform that delivers content for training and engagement in the workplace, delivering e-learning apps to learn anytime, anywhere. We went to meet So-Young Kang, The Chief Energiser.

When was Gnowbe launched and how did you get the idea?

Gnowbe was launched in beta in 2015. It was spun out of my first company the Awaken Group, which started in 2009. This is a transformation design company. 40% of its revenue was arriving from experiential learning - hands on learning. We constantly heard of the challenges and needs of our clients to scale training at cost to ensure employee engagement through relevant content and delivery and the desire to see learning applied at work.

We recognised the need to scale this up to millions of people. We were trying to find a good technology to complete this task. We could not find a platform. After realising that these needs could be solved on mobiles, we spent another six to eight months completing user research as a side project. As experience designers we conducted rigorous qualitative and quantitative research to learn the needs of our end users – both employees and our clients, who make purchasing decisions (HR, organization development, leadership, training departments). We learnt and observed the unique needs for a mobile app versus face-to-face learning. We spun out Gnowbe as a stand-alone company.

What was the trigger for the Awaken Group?

I was Head of Finance Transformation Services For McKinsey North America, helping high value clients such as Microsoft. I had joined post MBA from Harvard and was a nominated Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. But after 4 years I wanted to see further impact from the consultancy work being delivered. I recognised that the human element was really critical. This would include leadership evaluation and coaching of senior executives, the genesis for the Awaken Group. The focus being on Business Strategy, Leadership, and human centric design in order to provide a holistic and integrated solution for our clients.

I have 20 years of experience advising and developing leaders globally. I have delivered talks globally across US, Asia, Europe, Australia, Middle East and Africa on multiple topics across Transformation Design, Innovation, Leadership, Culture, Strategy, Education/EdTech and Entrepreneurship. Audiences usually include leaders from multi-national corporations, governments, educational institutions, and social impact organisations. Also, as I believe in giving back to society, I have also founded The Young Professionals’ Group (YPG) in 2000, a non-profit in 5 countries dedicated to helping students achieve their professional dreams.

How would you describe Gnowbe?

Gnowbe is a platform. Imagine you had a text book, and ask yourself what content would you teach in the text book? You would teach all kinds of subjects, soft skills, technical skills, how to manuals.  The text book is just a medium for the delivery of great content.

We have now evolved from the text book into the eplatform and now onto the mobile.  Gnowbe is a platform that allows all kinds of content to be delivered. The range of topics for education is infinite.

The disruption that Gnowbe is to the world, is around the delivery of content. We are disrupting the way content is delivered. We are the future book but now I can read, watch a video, answer  questions, engage, share, activate and apply, based on the content.  We can drip feed this training.

What do you mean by drip feeding of training?

Our users can dip into the mobile training when they are in a taxi or public transport every day and during the day. This regular immersion is great for absorbing the training and its detail. From our reports we are see people accessing Gnowbe in the morning, before 9 am on their commute to work, then during lunch and after work hours. Some would call this down time, but now this is productive time. Of course if a member staff has not logged in then this is visible during the team meeting - they are encouraged to log in at the next available opportunity and pick up the training!

How do you price the service?

We have two tariff models. One is an enterprise user licence format. This is an SaaS model and is based on the number of employees in the company.  A fee is applied per user per month with value discounts for more employee numbers.

The second model is premium content. The company may have their own training material. For example, onboarding, product training or customer service. We replace the internally created PowerPoint training plans. The company content is placed onto our platform. They may need new content and are then offered a licence from training programme providers. This we enable and then deliver the training. In this model they pay a premium content fee per user.

As Gnowbe leverages on micro-learning, the content is agnostic, which means any content can be uploaded on Gnowbe. We also offer blended learning solutions, together with face to face sessions. Topics covered include, but are not limited to, general onboarding, product knowledge training for sales teams, leadership training, soft skills training (e.g. customer service skills), technical training (e.g. program for mechanical engineers). Gnowbe can also be used as a communication tool for employees to engage with each other and even communicate their weekly updates to the team.

What is offered in your real time analytics

Gnowbe allows training companies to monitor, in real time, the employee’s engagement levels, completion statistics and graduation status for each user. It also allows companies to access each user’s contributions for all questions asked. Gnowbe provides additional metrics that include the total number of minutes invested in each program and the average minutes invested per user. Results of assessment questions asked throughout the learning programs (to assess program effectiveness for example), can also be accessed in real time. Analytics can be exported into a .csv file for convenience.

Please explain the process for a training company to upload their course materials

At Gnowbe we do not use the term “upload course materials” as it is not simply an upload or copy/paste.  Gnowbe is a mobile-1st micro-learning platform, (The World's 1st) thus content must be re-designed and re-imagined into a bite-sized, engaging, multimodal format, fit for the modern learner wanting to access materials anytime, anywhere, and any device. We call this “Gnowbefy-ing”.

Gnowbe can train companies to “gnowbefy” their own materials or Gnowbe can take charge of the process. In either case, an intuitive, user-friendly curation platform will be used. Companies can be trained on using the platform in few minutes! Gnowbe also allows companies to re-direct the users to external resources (e.g. YouTube, Forbes, Business Times)

What are the unique features of your service?

Based on research on how adults learn, the Gnowbe app is unique with its focus on application of learning and interactive, bite-sized multimedia content that is accessible on the smartphone for staff, anytime, anywhere. We believe that activation really happens through empowering people to Learn. Think. Apply and Share. Specifically:

There are 11 different action types compared to typical video and text only products.

Anything you can do on a mobile, you can do on Gnowbe (e.g., selfie, upload videos, chat, write).

Social learning in community. We have an Instagram-like team board to share, like, comment on others’ contributions.

Gamification. We use behaviour design to drive higher engagement with weekly leaderboards and pop-up rewards in app that are customisable.

Behaviour triggers. We have in app push notifications and action-based triggers to automatically send email messages to users (now, in 3,5,7 days) to create a highly personalized learning experience even in self-paced context.

Integration with >200 platforms.  We have integrated with popular platforms like Slack, HubSpot, SalesForce, Mailchimp to create a more seamless employee experience.  For example, any shares in Gnowbe can send alert to Slack to let tell users to check-out the team board. For new sales contact in x industry, this could auto-trigger receiving a Gnowbe sales training program on x industry.

Digital certificates. We offer mobile, micro-learning certificates to learners based on completion, to encourage engagement.

What is the shape of the organisation – Management, Technical staff, locations?

Gnowbe has two offices, one in Silicon Valley/San Francisco with headquarters in Singapore.

Leadership team: CEO (So-Young Kang), CTO (RokKrulec), Chief Learning Curator (Roslina Chai), Chief Growth Architect (Anne-EvEnzmann)

Our team is made up of product, sales, marketing and content (instructional design).Developers are mostly based in Silicon Valley and Slovenia, while our Sales, Marketing and Content team operate in Singapore.

What do you look for in your people?

Alignment of Gnowbe values and vision.

Passion about learning, hard-working, and to enjoy sharing a good thing with the world.

A strong entrepreneurial spirit, driven, smart.

Can people try out your service?

Yes, of course! People can download Gnowbe in the App Store/Play Store (Android) or head to to give our product a try. For iPhone users, people can try out content creation on the Gnowbefy app for free.

What is the end goal?

To impact billions of lives through our efforts to humanize the world through transformational learning. Prepare people for 21st century skills in critical thinking and creativity. We want to encourage people to not just passively consume content but to actively engage through Learn. Think. Apply. Share. We believe Gnowbe can make a meaningful impact in developing critical thinking and creativity skills.

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