Carine Marette of Kritik tells us about developing technology that empowers student learning in higher education.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Carine Marette: I’m very grateful that my family and I are doing well. Fortunately, everyone is staying healthy. Our company has a value called ‘Healthy Mind, Healthy Body’ so we always try to ensure that our physical and mental health are checked more than ever. I’m very lucky to have such a supportive and caring team at Kritik.
Regarding my immediate family, although they are in France, we always try to remain present in each other’s lives and care for one another through virtual means. There is not a day that I don’t feel their love and support, which is very important during these COVID-19 times. Friends and family are really what matters, and I’m grateful that everyone is safe.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Kritik.
Carine Marette: As a mechanical engineer by training with a master’s in IT and a bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology, I’ve always been passionate about developing technology that empowers student learning in higher education. Having experienced being a student at Online Laurentian University, I noticed the struggles of receiving regular feedback as professors were extremely busy most of the time. I knew that I had to do something about it, and given that I’ve had experience in launching startups, I came up with an idea and paired with the founder of Top Hat, a leading higher education platform.
How does Kritik innovate?
Carine Marette: Our mission is to build a powerful assessment and content creation engine, which enables learning through collaboration and critique. We implement our mission and innovate by focusing on students’ learning requirements and educators’ teaching objectives. Through our AI-driven, calibrated peer assessment platform, students can develop their higher-order thinking skills in an engaging, effective and efficient manner. By empowering the students to collaborate and provide regular feedback to one another, they can learn by teaching and practise their soft skills, which is vital to their academic success and personal growth. Our algorithm ensures accurate and authentic peer assessments while our gamified process incentivizes student engagement, resulting in better academic performance. By effectively conducting peer assessments, educators save time on grading and administrative tasks, empowering them to focus more on research and coaching students.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Carine Marette: The pandemic brought significant changes to the current education system, and students and educators were heavily impacted. Due to the accelerated transition to online learning, we needed to make sure that we lead students to the right learning platforms and direct educators to effective online pedagogies. As such, we are more driven to introduce our platform across North America to help students, educators and institutions adapt to online learning. Our hard work and efforts paid off last year, and the number of professors adopting Kritik in their classes increased by over 300% and the number of students using our platform increased by approximately 530%. We managed to increase our revenue growth by 685% from Winter 2020 to Fall 2020.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Carine Marette: As we expanded our company and scaled up our business during the pandemic, hiring new employees and ensuring their satisfaction and optimal performance were initial challenges given the remote working environments. However, we quickly adapted to virtual methods and have since structured and established daily online meetings through Zoom, constant communication through email and Slack and internal company training documents and policies through Notion. The Kritik team has proven that we are resilient to changes, innovative in our actions and transitions, and supportive of one another.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Carine Marette: As a company that believes in face-to-face and digital interactions, we have always done our product demonstrations and onboarding and client meetings, both in-person and online. We use Hubspot as our designated CRM and conduct Zoom calls which have been extremely useful in our daily operations. Everyone in the Kritik team has access to client information through Hubspot, making the sales process more efficient. As new data is entered, sales representatives can effectively reach out to prospects, leads and customers via email and schedule meetings using calendar invites. Lastly, we use Intercom as a B2C communication platform to provide instant and daily customer support. All of our available tools have been extremely helpful in developing strong relationships with our customers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Carine Marette: We are fortunate enough to be eligible for some government financial support through grants and subsidies. It definitely helps maintain our operations and keeps our business afloat. We are also grateful to our investors who share our mission and vision and recently provided a new round of funding. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to scale up rapidly, considering the implications of the global pandemic.
Since we genuinely understand the impact of COVD-19 on finances, we ensure to accommodate students’ financial challenges. Due to the abrupt changes to the education system that emerged last year, we provided classes free access to our platform to build strong relationships with our customers but, most importantly, to help them with the transition to online learning.
As we expand our business further and accelerate the introduction of Kritik to the market, we are expecting a higher revenue percentage growth this year. We are excited to seek out opportunities that will launch Kritik to a new level.
Your final thoughts?
Carine Marette: During these COVID-19 times, my team and I have learned to prioritize a healthy mind and body to stay focused on our personal aspirations and collective goals. We have been innovative in our response and action to the pandemic by successfully working remotely, adapting various online tools to improve our productivity and output, and implementing great online work culture.
We embody a mamba mentality as we work hard to improve our platform by not buying or selling BS. Most importantly, we strive to always learn from one another by being critical yet motivational as we go above and beyond to help students and educators achieve success.