Before co-founding Epic!, Kevin Donahue worked at Google in Strategic Partnerships and was a member of YouTube’s original team, serving as Vice President of Content and the company’s first head of marketing. There, he led the company’s early content and media strategy and established partnerships with major entertainment and media companies.
Prior to YouTube, Donahue specialized in business development and content for a variety of technology and media companies, including Akimbo, Urbanite Network Inc., and Turner New Media (Turner Broadcasting, Inc.), where he designed, launched, and managed Cartoon Network’s digital presence and developed innovative content around classic children’s brands. He was also a producer with Disney/ABC Television’s Multimedia Group where he designed and managed ABC’s first online community for kids, creating award-winning games and educational content. Donahue has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, and Newsweek.
How did your education and previous professional experience shape your current work at Epic?
My background isn’t actually in education at all, but in media and entertainment. I started my career in children’s television and had roles at Disney/ABC and Cartoon Network, among others. Throughout my entire career content has always been at the forefront, created most often with kids in mind. I designed and managed ABC’s first online community for kids before joining the founding team of YouTube as the VP of Content.
What we are creating at Epic! truly feels like the perfect use of all my past experience, combining my passion for great content and storytelling with my experience developing engaging experiences for kids.
What has been the response to Epic from readers and parents?
The response from parents, teachers, and kids has just been tremendous. Parents are thrilled to have a safe place where their children can have the freedom to explore their passions and develop a genuine excitement about reading and learning. Parents also enjoy having a way to connect with their kids around what they are interested in and learning, bringing them closer together through meaningful conversations. Teachers are thankful for a valuable free resource that aids their teaching and that kids actually love! Teachers send us fan letters every single day, sharing the ways in which Epic! has helped them and improved the lives of their students. It’s very rewarding for us to see that.
We are now reaching more than 10 million kids across schools and homes, we’re used in over 90% of U.S. elementary schools, and over 500 million books have been read on Epic! since we launched. I think those numbers speak for themselves!
What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
This may seem like an obvious choice, being from Silicon Valley. I think technology will play a huge role in the near-term future of education. We are seeing it already with the use of technology–tablets and computers–in the classroom. With teachers trying to serve kids at so many different levels with such a wide variety of backgrounds, I believe that cracking the code on effective personalized learning will be important to both teacher and student success. But beyond technology, I also believe that Epic! has been so successful in schools due to the large volume of engaging content on our platform. A lot of that content comes from partnerships with publishers and media companies, and an increasing amount of it is original content we’ve developed ourselves.
What, if any, are future plans for Epic?
We began creating our own original content this year and the response has been astounding! Kids are just devouring the original books we’ve added to the library. A few of our original books even have complementary videos. For example, our book series, My Pet Slime, has an accompanying video where the main character from the book teaches kids how to make their own slime via a fun DIY project. This encourages hands-on learning and engagement with the content even after the last page of the book has been turned. We plan to continue down this road and grow the Epic! Originals collection this year.
In addition, we will continue to be dedicated to refining and expanding our library to bring the best selection and reading experience to our young audience, both at home and in the classroom, by continuing to offer free access for teachers, librarians, and their students.
Who are the most interesting people you are following on Twitter?
Believe it or not, I don’t spend time on Twitter so I really can’t make any recommendations there.
Image: Courtesy Kevin Donahue