Khan himself welcomes all iterations of his ideas, since he’s not in it to make money.
His organization is a nonprofit started about five years ago after he quit his job as a hedge fund analyst. A graduate of public high school himself — Grace King High School in Metairie, La. — Khan has advanced degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.
After making some money in the financial world, but not enough to retire on, he took the plunge and quit in 2009 to start Khan Academy. After putting some problems online for relatives, he saw the power of using the Internet as a teaching tool. With a background in software development, Khan has been able to make the problems interactive, so that students can work on them on their computers using their computer mouses to navigate around.
After a year or so, the popularity of the site began to grow. And so did donations.
He had set up a PayPal account where, for a long time, people made occasional, small donations. In May 2010, he got a donation of $100,000. That was followed by other large donations, and Khan realized, “I could keep doing this.”
Then Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates got on board, after he used the site with his son, and Google joined in after learning what he was doing. Together, they donated $3.5 million.
In March 2012, CBS-TV news magazine “60 Minutes” aired a segment on Khan and his academy. Hits on the site went up by 1 million the very next day, he said.
While Khan welcomes the plaudits and superlatives of the media and other supporters, he is also wary of it.
“This grew literally out of me helping my cousins,” he said. “This is a passion of mine, but my team and supporters see this as a unique opportunity based on where we are. This is a once-in-millennium opportunity. We are trying to rethink in a positive way how learning happens and how schools can be re-thought to be more supportive of students’ and teachers’ needs.
“A lot of things have come and gone in education,” he said. “We need to prove we are not one of those things. Yes, we are at a special time in history, but we have a long way to go.”