By Kimberly Marselas ’00

In the eight years since Prannoy Nambiar ’12 left the University of Maryland, he’s been cooking up a big idea, one meant to bring innovation and equality to education.

In October, Nambiar jumped out of the pan and into the fire with Bansho, a free, online learning app featuring short-form videos. In its first three weeks, his mobile-based platform for children in preschool through fourth grade became home to 1,000 unique lessons and garnered more than 30,000 views.

Nambiar has taken a measured approach to entrepreneurship, starting with an undergraduate degree in finance and marketing from the Robert H. Smith School of Business. He began his career as a middle school math teacher in Baltimore County, MD, through Teach for America.

“Oftentimes in business school, you get a sense that there’s a path you need to take, whether it’s investments, consulting or working for a Fortune 500 company,” Nambiar said. “But I was made aware of this very urgent problem that needs to be solved or at least helped in education in America.”

The child of Indian immigrants who moved to New Jersey to pursue advanced engineering degrees, Nambiar has never forgotten the possibilities his public school education afforded for him or the inequities he saw within the American system. The challenges facing educators and families were underscored during his years with Teach for America, even in a school with relatively good resources.

While earning his master’s in education and, later, an MBA from the Yale School of Management, Nambiar continued to seek out experiences that would inform his vision, provide technical expertise and put him in a place to act when the time arrived.

He spent more than two years with Deloitte Consulting, giving him insights on moving the needle forward in large systems. He held an MBA internship at Facebook and worked as a product consultant on various education-related products. He also dabbled in building products for data analysis, emotional intelligence, recruitment and software development — all tools he’s now relying on as CEO and founder of Bansho.

Bansho takes its name from a Japanese teaching model that requires collaboration on shared problems to promote critical thinking and deeper understanding of specific concepts.

Bansho’s content is designed to be short, interactive and fun; and lets parents track their child’s use and seek out the type of content they want.

Nambiar also hopes the curriculum-aligned videos become a tool for teachers working in-person and remotely. They can share the engaging material — in categories as diverse as math and mindfulness — knowing it has been vetted for quality and safety.

The platform is free, but Nambiar may eventually offer customized and sponsored content as well as subscription versions to support the model’s growth. He is already bringing more content creators into the fold and adding functionality.

Back home with his parents Renuka and Jay, Nambiar has picked up skateboarding in his free time, and the baker regularly cranks out batches of bread. Unlike some COVID newbies, he’s fed his sourdough starter for five years — almost as long as he’s been cultivating the idea for Bansho.

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