Medical Education Startup Secures $30 Million

Medical Education Startup Secures $30 Million
SketchyMedical founding team from left to right: Aaron Lemieux

West Los Angeles.-based online education company Sketchy Group, doing business as SketchyMedical, has received a $30 million investment from an affiliate of Playa Vista-based Chernin Group. As part of the deal, TCG will receive a majority stake in the company.

Founded in 2013, Sketchy makes educational videos for medical students. It uses drawings to represent complicated information that students need to memorize for their exams.

“For example, there is a bacteria called pseudomonas that medical students have to learn about,” said Sketchy Co-Founder and Chief Executive Saud Siddiqui. “We thought that name lended itself to Mona Lisa. (The bacteria) stains red under a microscope and thrives in aquatic environments. So (we drew Mona Lisa) in a red bathtub, eating grapes — which correspond to an odor the bacteria gives off.”

Siddiqui said the unusual approach is more effective in helping students retain large volumes of complex information than traditional rote memorization techniques. The company currently offers courses in microbiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, biochemistry, internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics and OB-GYN.

Sketchy is looking to grow its offerings with the new funding from TCG, according to Siddiqui, into areas such as pharmacy school, physician’s assistant education and undergraduate studies.

“In Sketchy, a lot of these symbols and characters are reoccurring,” he said. “The same drug that a doctor needs to learn about is the same drug a pharmacist needs to learn about.”

The new funding will also be used to build on Sketchy’s online education platform. According to Siddiqui, this will involve new approaches to content creation, including establishing a studio and creating animated videos, as well as building out a learning management system. The new system would, among other features, allow instructors to track students’ progress on the platform.

The majority of Sketchy’s 30,000 active users are individual students who purchase subscriptions to assist in their own studies. According to Siddiqui, several universities have also purchased subscriptions for their students, including the medical schools at Tufts, Georgetown University, Tulane and the University of South Carolina.

In the future, Siddiqui said that Sketchy could expand into additional education categories beyond the medical sphere. “Law is not out of the question, CFA (certified financial advisor) is not out of the question,” he said. “Anything that needs to memorize a lot of complex information.”

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