Linking education and technology just seemed to make sense to Gary Kiliany, founder of Pittsburgh-based iKnowThat.com, a creator of Web-based educational software for kids under 12. "We wanted to fuse the best aspects of multimedia technology with Internet communications so that kids [could] publish to the Web education projects that they were interested in," says Kiliany, who started his company in 1999. "We hoped to motivate kids to maintain an interest, a curiosity, a passion for learning."
All games are accessed at the company's site and can be saved for viewing by family, teachers and friends. Parents pay a $29 annual subscription fee for unlimited access to the activities at iKnowThat.com. Once registered, kids can learn about dinosaurs by creating their own sticker books, geography by completing puzzles or art history through virtual painting. Other subjects covered include math, reading, history and science.
Before launching iKnowThat.com, Kiliany founded Sentient Systems, a developer of hardware and software solutions for disabled children. That company was sold to Sunrise Medical Corp. in 1998 for $40 million. Kiliany stayed on with Sentient for about a year after its purchase before leaving to start iKnowThat.com.
As it turns out, starting Sentient had its advantages: "The first company I started turned out to be very successful, so I had a lot of credibility with the investment community," says Kiliany. "When you're presenting any new idea to investors, you're going to have more negative views than positive ones, but you don't need 100 investors-you need one or two. I was very fortunate to find some people who thought the ideas we had were worth moving ahead with."
Kiliany's next idea is downloading, which would allow subscribers to run iKnowThat.com software offline. He's certain parents will appreciate the option as much as they do the site. "It's about keeping kids interested in learning in a fun way," he says. "It's just very natural for kids to want to do things with these various electronic media."