Issaquah student launches online education business from high school

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — A local high school student has taken his school project to heights he never imagined.

Joshua Feinsilber is only 18 years old, but in the last three years he’s set up an online learning application that’s now  used by millions. That has also set him on a path to managing his newly formed business once he graduates from Gibson Ek High School in Issaquah.

Feinsilber’s app is called ‘Gimkit,” and he created it while attending Gibson Ek HS. He and his academic advisor, Hillary Nadell, sat down with KIRO 7 this week to talk over how they have gotten to this point.

Nadell credits her student for being a self-starter, but for also taking to the school’s independent learning program.

“He's built an entire business himself,” said Nadell.

The school is only three years old, and Feinsilber joined it his sophomore year when he felt he wasn’t getting the most out of high school that he could.

When he first started at Gibson Ek, he says his goal was simply just to become a better engineer, but that goal eventually launched him towards creating his website Gimkit as an independent study project.

He says he hoped to put into 10 classrooms.

“For me, that would have counted as a success,” said Feinsilber.

Last month his online learning app was run by an estimated 3 million users in 100 countries,

“It’s a number that's hard to understand; the number is cool but it doesn't mean as much,” said Feinsilber.

What is meaningful to Feinsilber is that he built the tool himself. His advisor, Nadell, admits she had very little expertise in creating a website through coding, but knew what her student was aiming to do.

“It’s like an online quiz game that teachers use as a review … it's like we're like a startup and he's created his own startup,” said Nadell.

Feinsilber says he interned at a Seattle startup, learned to code from scratch and created his online learning game. It's a live quiz app that lets teachers create learning kits, students run through questions, earn awards and their progress is tracked in real-time. It can be played on any browser, which makes it useful and accessible on any computer or device at any school, which is what Feinsilber originally intended.

“When I started working on Gimkit, I had been programming for less than year,” said Feinsilber.

Gimkit already has a local following -- a teacher at the Northwest School in Seattle says he uses it in his classroom – Feinsilber also says he's heard about It being used by teachers as far away as Singapore.

“It’s been kind of crazy to see how far it's gone,” said Feinsilber.

Nadell admits the school’s independent learning format appears to have been a success for her student.

“It’s super exciting for us to see what we had envisioned come through,” said Nadell.

Now, Feinsilber says he will have five employees to manage Gimkit's growing user base. He's skipping college and going straight to the professional ranks with his new business.

“This is something I could have never imagined. You couldn't go back and say, ‘Oh, yes, I should come here and built this thing and have it become a career,’” said Feinsilber.