Indian edtech giant Byju’s says not acquiring Unacademy

Indian edtech giant Byju’s said on Thursday the firm and any of its subsidiaries are not engaging with rival Unacademy to explore an acquisition or merger, refuting a media report at a time when weakening global market conditions have sparked several consolidation plays in the industry.

Indian news outlet MoneyControl reported earlier that Byju’s physical tutor unit Aakash is in talks to acquire Unacademy. “We strongly deny that Byju’s is considering a merger of Unacademy into Aakash Educational Services. As a parent company, BYJU’S is committed to investing in the growth of Aakash Educational Services, which is growing at more than 50% year-on-year,” a Byju’s spokesperson said in a statement.

“We have had absolutely no discussions with Unacademy or any other player to merge with Aakash Educational Services. Aakash is a market leader in our segment with an impeccable track record of delivery and results and we are focused on our organic growth and delivery to the lakhs of students that have trusted us,” an Aakash spokesperson said.

Valued at $3.44 billion, SoftBank-backed Unacademy is one of the largest edtech startups in India. The Bengaluru-headquartered startup has significantly cut its expenses as the startup pushes to become profitable in the coming quarters.

Unacademy “always raised more money than what was needed” to “continuously experiment and grow our platform without worrying about when we will run out of money,” Unacademy co-founder and chief executive Gaurav Munjal told employees last year. “But now we must change our ways. […] Winter is here.”

Byju’s, which is India’s most valuable startup, instead is in advanced discussions with bankers including Citi and Goldman Sachs to go ahead with the IPO of Aakash, according to a source familiar with the matter and presentations made by banks and viewed by TechCrunch.

Byju’s has received the approval from its board of directors to go ahead with the IPO of Aakash, which it acquired for nearly $1 billion last year, and it’s gearing up to file the paperworks, the source said, requesting anonymity as the matter is private.

Indian edtech giant Byju’s says not acquiring Unacademy by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Duolingo is working on a music app

Duolingo, a language learning app with over 500 million users, is working on a music app, TechCrunch has learned.

The Pittsburgh-based tech company currently has a small team working on a music product and is hiring a learning scientist who is an “expert in music education who combines both theoretical knowledge of relevant learning science research and hands-on teaching experience,” according to a job posting listed on Duolingo’s career page. The company also posted a job that was soliciting a freelance music composition and curricular consultant, but the company is no longer accepting applications for that position.

The job listing suggests that the app will teach basic concepts in music theory using popular songs and teachers.

Duolingo has slowly grown beyond language learning into several auxiliary new projects that may represent significant revenue streams in the years to come. For example, The Duolingo English Test, which spun out from a hackathon project in 2014, is an online certification exam that tests language proficiency. The company also launched Duolingo ABC during the pandemic, which is a free app focused on English literacy for kids ages 3 to 6.

In October 2022, the company announced Duolingo Math in its first subject expansion beyond its original roots of language learning and literacy. The math app is free and similar to language learning; both require methodical thinking and the ability to apply functions to get to answers.

Music is a subject that sits in the pedagogical middle of language, which requires nuance and context, and math, which requires focus on formulas to provide correct answers, or in this case, sounds.

Language, math and music in Duolingo all require users to know the basics. And that’s how Duolingo differentiates itself: It focuses on building blocks, instead of specific mastery, as a way to learn a skill.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that there appears to be some executive buy-in to the concept overall: Duolingo chief business officer Bob Meese is an investor in Trala, a tech company that offers virtual violin lessons. It recently raised $8 million in its Series A.

So far, the broader purview appears to be resonating. Duolingo more than doubled its paid subscriber base last year, according to its last quarterly update. Total revenue also nearly doubled at $369.5 million for 2022.

It’s unclear how Duolingo’s music app will materialize over the next few months — for example, we don’t know whether the app will help people read music, write music, learn instruments, or all of the above — or if it’s just a tiny experiment within an organization known to love a test or 10. TechCrunch reached out to the company for further comment and will update if we hear back.

Duolingo is working on a music app by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

Course Hero, once an edtech unicorn valued at $3.6 billion, conducts layoffs

Course Hero, a tutoring business last valued by investors at $3.6 billion, has cut 15% of staff, or 42 people – its first round of layoffs in 17 years, TechCrunch has learned from numerous sources.

A spokesperson confirmed the layoffs, saying that “the layoffs are happening as a part of a strategic effort to set Course Hero business line up for future growth.” The company says it does not anticipate future layoffs.

“Part of this transition support includes providing several months of severance, health care benefits through the end of June, outplacement and immigration support services, and we are working with individuals with special circumstances to make sure we do everything we can to ease their transition,” a spokesperson said.

The workforce reduction comes after Course Hero itself, a rare edtech unicorn, saw co-founder Andrew Grauer leave his post as chief executive four months ago. Course Hero then was put under a parent company, Learneo, which took that multi-billion dollar acquisition and named Grauer as CEO.

He was succeeded by John Peacock, who was formerly the VP of product at the company. The layoff appears to be one of the new CEO’s first significant changes to the business since taking over. Peacock sent an email to staff this week explaining the changes.

“This is the first time in Course Hero’s 17 years that we have done a layoff of this size, and it’s not a decision we made lightly,” the email, obtained by TechCrunch, reads. “It follows careful deliberation with the leadership team about the moment we’re in.” He went on to say that the layoff was done to meet the needs of the “rapidly evolving” sector and that it was “absolutely necessary” for the future of the company.

Launched in 2006, Course Hero was somewhat allergic to venture capital until recent. After launching, the company waited eight years to raise a $15 million Series A. Then, after going another nearly six years without raising venture capital, Course Hero closed two financings in 2020.

Then in 2021, the edtech company announced yet another tranche of capital: a $380 million Series C at a $3.6 billion valuation. It brought a 227.3% increase to Course Hero’s valuation in a little over a year. With fresh capitalization and a broader vision of its total addressable market, the company began scooping up businesses, including Scribbr and LitCharts, a Sparknotes spin off. It’s unclear how the acquisition cadence will change given today’s scale back, if at all.

The business tells TechCrunch that Course Hero and Learneo are cash flow positive and profitable on an adjusted EBITDA basis.

If you have a juicy tip or lead about happenings in the venture and startup world, you can reach Natasha Mascarenhas on Twitter @nmasc_ or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. Anonymity requests will be respected.  

Course Hero, once an edtech unicorn valued at $3.6 billion, conducts layoffs by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

TechCrunch+ roundup: Optimizing acquisition, parental leave tips, riding the downturn express

I try to keep things fresh, so I was dismayed to realize that I’d used the word “downturn” in two different headlines this morning.

Despite the quickening pace of layoffs, there is some good news for SaaS startups: 70% of SMBs plan to increase IT spending in 2023, and the procurement process is getting faster.

According to Caroline Hogan, senior director of vendor marketing at Gartner Digital Markets, this means companies can boost growth and revenue just by studying buyer decision patterns.

“At the awareness stage, businesses are looking to solve a problem or challenge using technology,” writes Hogan.

Full TechCrunch+ articles are only available to members.
Use discount code TCPLUSROUNDUP to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.

“Therefore, it’s essential to clearly communicate the benefits of your product and develop use cases tailored to the challenges businesses are facing.”

For example, Gartner found that 41% of SMB customers rely on customer ratings and reviews before making a purchase.

Which begs the question: When was the last time you checked your reviews on Capterra or GetApp? Here’s a follow-up: Which methods are your sales team using to encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews?

If you don’t have ready answers, you’re leaving money on the table. (Don’t worry, I won’t tell your investors.)

“Understanding shifts in how buyers are researching, evaluating, selecting and purchasing software is critical to accelerating growth,” says Hogan, who shares several tactics for gathering actionable insights.

Thanks very much for reading,

Walter Thompson
Editorial Manager, TechCrunch+

5 key metrics that help edtech startups improve profitability

Edtech startups have been riding a roller coaster over the last few years.

COVID-19 school shutdowns made the sleepy sector hot overnight, but today, many companies that overhired are reducing headcount just to stay afloat.

But this isn’t a problem for the CEO to solve. Sales, product and marketing teams have multiple levers they can pull to optimize revenue, writes Roman Kumar Vyas, CEO and founder of edtech startup Refocus.

Finding ways to nudge KPIs like service-level agreements and approval rates will reveal strengths and weaknesses in your current offerings, but “these metrics can help you build trust with investors” as well, according to Vyas.

5 tactics for managing paid customer acquisition during a downturn

3D Rendering Magnet and Chrome Balls

Image Credits: akinbostanci (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

When economic conditions change, companies adjust their marketing tactics. When the pandemic began, I stopped receiving almost all junk mail, but after vaccines rolled out, my mailbox was once again full of irrelevant offers.

Paid marketing is a core tactic for early-stage startups, but this downturn is a good time for founders to reexamine customer acquisition strategies, says Brian Rothenberg, an investment partner at early-stage VC fund Defy.

“Capital is more expensive now than it’s been in years,” he writes in TC+. “Where else can you invest to drive higher returns and to build a more durable competitive advantage?”

3 tips for CEOs planning to take parental leave

a childrens room in a classical style

Image Credits: Frank Rothe (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The U.S. is one of only six countries in the world that lacks a paid parental leave policy.

Combine that with the fact that startup founders are praised for sleeping under their desks, and it’s easy to see why many tech workers don’t even take the 12 weeks they have coming their way after having a child.

Before giving birth, Cory Siskind, founder and CEO of Base Operations, created a plan that would let her take time off while keeping her business on track.

“Taking time off is a personal decision, but it should be just that: a decision,” she writes. “It’s an option for everyone, even CEOs.”

Your MVP doesn’t need to be perfect; it needs to be stage appropriate

Illustration of a businessman launching a light bulb from a cannon.

Image Credits: Nuthawut Somsuk (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

If you recall the movie “The Social Network,” Facebook didn’t launch as a place for family and friends to keep in touch: Its first iteration scraped photos from Harvard’s student directory so users could rate their looks.

When it comes to finding the MVP “for a pre-seed company, you don’t need perfect design and scalability; you need to build enough product and traction to get user feedback,” writes Haje Jan Kamps.

‘From there, you can iterate and create value for the customers.”

TechCrunch+ roundup: Optimizing acquisition, parental leave tips, riding the downturn express by Walter Thompson originally published on TechCrunch

Edtech reacquaints itself with fintech

Amy Jenkins left her post at Outschool, a marketplace for live online classes for kids, when the company decided to focus more on consumers and less on the enterprise — a shift that included numerous rounds of layoffs at the richly backed education unicorn.

Now, Jenkins is the COO of Meadow, a platform that aims to make it easier for college students to pay tuition and for universities to stay compliant with financial transparency requirements. Meadow recently announced that it raised $3.5 million in venture funding — a round that Jenkins said, to her surprise, came together pretty quickly over six weeks. Plus, the round was three times the size of the founding team’s original target.

Part of the startup’s win may have been in the framing of its vision beyond traditional edtech.

“I think a lot of our investors would look at us as an edtech company that is in the higher education space, and that there’s an incredible opportunity there to think about,” Jenkins said. “When students are entering college, they’re really at the beginning of their financial life. And we can support them and prepare them from the beginning.” The company’s early products help students better calculate the cost of attending college, balancing different factors like housing and financial aid.

Jenkins said that being a hybrid company, toeing the line between edtech and fintech, did help with closing investors. Many of Meadow’s investors cut checks in the fintech space, “but also consumer, and also social impact — so we were able to hit all of those themes for these investors in terms of high potential working in this fintech space but really having a consumer lens because we’re thinking so deeply about what students need.”

Meadow isn’t alone in balancing two sectors as a competitive advantage in fundraising: Once-crypto-specific companies are shifting their pitch to be more fintech-focused, and some health tech companies are leaning on well-known financial instruments as a disruptor. “Every company is a fintech company” is a common adage, but in today’s environment, the reasoning behind that shift may be more around survival and savviness than serendipity.

Edtech reacquaints itself with fintech by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

Pitch Deck Teardown: Laoshi’s $570K angel deck

Most of the pitch deck teardowns to date (here’s a handy list of the more than 30 we have published so far) have been for institutional funding rounds, typically in the millions or tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars raised.

Those are interesting to look at, of course, but I also know that many of you will be much earlier in your journey. I’ve been looking for a good example of an angel deck to share with you, and I found just that in Laoshi‘s angel deck. The company tells me it raised $570,000 at a $5 million cap for its very early-stage language-learning app, explicitly targeted at Chinese tutors and their students.

The deck ain’t fancy, and it isn’t perfect, but the company claims it was successful, so let’s take a look at what it got right — and what could’ve been improved.

We’re looking for more unique pitch decks to tear down, so if you want to submit your own, here’s how you can do that

Slides in this deck

Laoshi’s deck consists of 11 main slides and four appendix slides.

  1. Cover slide
  2. Problem slide
  3. Market slide
  4. Solution slide
  5. Competition slide
  6. Road map slide
  7. Team slide
  8. Teacher growth slide
  9. Teacher retention slide
  10.   Summary slide
  11.  “Contact us” slide
  12.  Appendices cover slide
  13.   Appendix I: Viral effect slide
  14.   Appendix II: Business model slide
  15.   Appendix III: “The ask” slide

Three things to love

The deck is sparse and simple, which is pretty refreshing — a lot of early-stage decks don’t seem to have much of a story woven into them and try to cram way too much information (that isn’t really relevant) onto the slides.

The overarching thing you have to remember for an angel deck is that your investors know they are in the business of high-risk investing. So, make clear why your company is a good bet, that you have a path to solving a real problem and acquiring a huge market and that you have the team to pull it off.

Team slide is A+

[Slide 7] A team slide should convince investors that you’re the right folks to build this company. Image Credits: Laoshi

In an early-stage company, it’s often said you need a hacker, a hustler and a hipster (H3) to build a good founding team. The hacker is the person with the technical know-how to build the first couple of versions of the product. The hustler is the person who hauls in sales and investment and understands how the market works for this company. And the hipster is a person who can put designs together so the product looks fresh and cool and is easy to use.

I’m not sure if I’m 100% on board with the H3 ethos of founding team building — it’s far more important that you have the right, deep domain knowledge and drive (often expressed as “founder-market fit”), but you also need a breadth of skills to build a good startup. I do admit H3 often is a good template to check out a team’s skill set quickly and to determine whether there are major gaps in the team.

This team slide does two things: It shows that the team is international and distributed. It is diverse and experienced. And it manages — in the box at the bottom — to show that the team has market-relevant experience. Now, I would still need a voice-over to find out:

  • How did the team meet?
  • What are each team member’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • What’s missing from the team?
  • Why can this team deliver in a way that nobody else can?
  • What is the hiring plan for the current fundraise?

But as a base-level team slide, this ticks a lot of boxes. What it doesn’t show, however, are past successes in startups, and I’d want to dig into that a bit more as well. It certainly is a much better slide than many of the previous ones we’ve covered in these teardowns — you know, the ones that basically stick a Stanford and Tesla logo underneath a picture and call it a day.

The thing you can learn from this slide as a startup is that your team slide is up there with the most important slides, and you’ve got to make it count. Use it to tell your story and to convince us your team is part of the reason to bet on you.

Good summary slide

[Slide 10] A good summary slide can be a great way to remind investors why they should be excited. Image Credits: Laoshi

A summary slide is a great way to engage investors, and I probably would have put this slide somewhere toward the beginning of the deck rather than right at the end — it really helps fix the company’s progress and stage in time. It shows that yes, this company is small and finding its feet, but it’s also making real, measurable progress.

Almost as important as the numbers themselves are which numbers the company is measuring. It shows monthly and daily active users (MAU/DAU), which are crucial metrics to see how sticky an app is. It shows the number of teachers and how long they are staying on the platform, which again speaks to stickiness and the reach the company has. It talks about active user engagement, which shows that people are using the app actively.

For perfect marks, I’d love to have seen these numbers as graphs rather than just as collated numbers. I’d also have liked to see dollar figures here. It’s great that there are 200+ paying subscribers, and that’s impressive for a pre-funding company. But even though the revenue numbers probably are very small, seeing a graph of those, too, is important. If you don’t put it on the slide, the investor will be suspicious about why and ask for it anyway — you may as well skip that conversation and give ’em what they need right off the bat.

The thing you can learn from this slide as a startup is to be deeply aware of the metrics that are going to help you build and deliver your business.

Business model front and center

[Slide 14] It’s always a good idea to show that you understand the levers in your business. Image Credits: Laoshi

Gotta say, I don’t love the dark-gray-on-light-gray design, and it’s curious to me that this is in the appendix rather than in the core deck. As an investor, I think this would be one of the more important slides. I’d love to see where the business is now, as well. For example, when the company says its TAC (tutor acquisition cost) is $50, what is it actually seeing as its TAC right now? If it assumes that each tutor has five students, how is that showing up in practice?

Having said that, these numbers are super important in your conversations with your investors; essentially, you’re showing how you are thinking about your business and your market and that you understand the levers in your business. In other words: What if every tutor had 10 students instead of five? What if every tutor cost $100 to acquire instead of $50? By plugging all of that into a model and running experiments to increase your trust in the model, you can get a long way toward building a great picture of your business in numbers.

In the rest of this teardown, we’ll take a look at three things Laoshi could have improved or done differently, along with the company’s full pitch deck!

Pitch Deck Teardown: Laoshi’s $570K angel deck by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

Indian edtech giant Byju’s changes sales strategy in key revamp

Byju’s has made a key change in its sales strategy, moving away from a business practice that attracted the edtech giant criticism over the years.

The Bengaluru-headquartered startup, India’s most valuable, said on Monday its sales people no longer visit students’ homes to pitch to their parents. Instead, the entire sales workforce now works from inside the office and reaches out to those parents whose children have shown a clear interest in subscribing to the platform.

The firm, which employed its early practice in 2017, made the change in October last year and said that the transition brings more accountability and transparency to its workforce and it’s better for both sides of the equation.

The new sales tactic is also allowing Byju’s to expand its reach in the country and is already returning a higher conversion rate, said Mrinal Mohit, the chief executive of Byju’s India business, in an interview with TechCrunch.

“The Covid helped increase the category awareness of online education learning and brand awareness of Byju’s. Plus we now have multiple products. That’s why we are moving to ‘inside sales,’” he said.

“The sales journey now begins only after you have downloaded my app and used it multiple times and for long periods of time. If you don’t download the app, or like our product, we are not going to reach out.”

The Indian edtech has been criticized over the years for its aggressive sales tactic with allegations that some of its personnels made misleading pitches to the parents. Byju’s offers a range of learning platforms to students from free content and classes to hybrid lessons at its centres across the South Asian market.

Mohit, who took over the India chief position last year, said the revamp is bringing more transparency with the parents and what its sales people are telling them.

“I had 120 offices, my download comes from everywhere but I was able to reach only 20% of these users. With inside sales, location is not a barrier. All these calls are recorded, so we know what is being pitched to the parents. We have more transparency with parents,” he said.

If an individual doesn’t know how to precisely answer a parent’s questions, the startup is able to pull more experience and relevant personnels in real-time, he said.

Sales is a key part of Byju’s success. The startup’s classes operate on a two-teacher model, where the lessons are taught through a pre-recorded video while an on-site or live teacher tackles students’ questions.

The startup’s philosophy from the beginning has been to bring the best education to students and this means relying on lessons from certain teachers as the base of its offerings. Sales people are tasked with explaining the benefits of this model.

Indian edtech giant Byju’s changes sales strategy in key revamp by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Career Karma’s latest layoff underscores edtech’s new challenge

Learning navigation platform Career Karma has laid off another 22 people across its global and domestic workforce, less than five months after it cut 60 staff members, according to sources. CEO and co-founder Ruben Harris confirmed the workforce reduction to TechCrunch.

The cut shows that even as many edtech companies attempt to right-size their staff, there’s more work to do. Harris’ e-mail to remaining staff underscores the tension of today: once eager enterprise customers are still making up their minds on whether or not to sign up for new tools, leading to extended sales cycles and uncertainty.

“Last year, we made the decision to right size the company so that we can orient Career Karma towards working with employers and now that we have started to sign customers it’s clear that we made the right decision,” Harris wrote in the email. “What’s unclear is how Fortune 1000 companies will be responding to the macroeconomic environment and it’s important for us to give ourselves time to work with them to figure that out.” As the market evolves, Career Karma’s service of matching employees or professionals to tech bootcamps is being put in a difficult place. Just last month, BloomTech, a coding bootcamp previously known as Lambda School, cut half of staff in pursuit of profitability.

During Career Karma’s last cut, Harris emphasized that the layoff and its previously-closed $40 million Series B would extend the startup’s runway to three years. After laying off staff this week, Career Karma now has five years of runway.

As TechCrunch has discussed in the past, the strategy of “extending your runway” always comes into vogue whenever investors slow down investing. Career Karma’s shift from the basic three-year rule of thumb to five years shows how that rule may become even more conservative as the downturn continues. Over email, Harris tells TechCrunch that he “always [wants] to have the option to raise, I just don’t want to be forced to raise.”

With 80 staff now remaining at Career Karma, Harris confirmed that no C-suite executives were impacted by the layoff. Those impacted were offered two months of severance as well as extended benefits. The career navigation platform also, fittingly, offered career navigation support to its new alumni.

Current and former Career Karma employees can reach out to Natasha Mascarenhas on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 271 0912. You can also DM her on Twitter, @nmasc_. 

Career Karma’s latest layoff underscores edtech’s new challenge by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

Indian edtech Unacademy cuts upskilling service to double down on tests product and LinkedIn rival

Unacademy said on Tuesday that Relevel, its upskilling product, is shifting focus to tests product and the newly launched LinkedIn-rival NextLevel, the latest in a series of changes from the Indian edtech unicorn as it scrambles to aggressively find the next breakthrough.

As part of the move, about 40 people at Relevel will be let go “because of lack of availability of roles,” Unacademy co-founder and chief executive Gaurav Munjal wrote to employees on Tuesday. About 80% of Relevel’s team will be absorbed by other businesses within the Unacademy Group, he said in the note, reviewed by TechCrunch.

Those enrolled in Relevel’s cohorts won’t be impacted and the parting team members will be offered severance pay for their notice period and two additional months, said the Indian edtech, which is backed by SoftBank, Tiger Global and Sequoia India.

“We are very grateful for the hard work and contributions of the Relevel team. Their hard work and hustle allowed us to scale revenues quickly but unit economics proved challenging,” wrote Munjal.

“Our culture is to pursue novel and creative ideas but we are also disciplined about holding ourselves to a high bar to continue the projects we start. Again, this decision doesn’t take away from them their positive contributions especially towards improving the learning trajectory and job prospects of our customers.”

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Unacademy launched Relevel in 2021, hoping to bank on the rising popularity of creators by giving them a platform to launch cohort-based live courses. The product, in which the edtech giant invested over $20 million, crossed $10 million in annualized recurring revenue last year.

The startup launched NextLevel, its take on LinkedIn last month.

Unacademy has eliminated about 1,400 full-time and contract positions since last year as the startup has sought to cut costs and become more disciplined.

The Bengaluru-headquartered startup “always raised more money than what was needed” to “continuously experiment and grow our platform without worrying about when we will run out of money,” Munjal told employees last year. “But now we must change our ways. […] Winter is here.”

Indian edtech Unacademy cuts upskilling service to double down on tests product and LinkedIn rival by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Zeraki, a Kenyan edtech providing digital solutions for school admin, raises $1.8M

Zeraki, a Kenyan edtech that has built digital learning and school data analytics platforms, has raised $1.8 million seed funding in a round led by Acumen Fund, for product catalog growth and regional expansion.

Save the Children Impact Investment Fund, Verdant Frontiers Fintech, Logos Ventures participated in the round, as did the Nairobi Business Angels Network (NaiBAN), and Melvyn Lubega, co-founder of Go1, an Australia-based edtech unicorn.

Zeraki co-founder and CEO Isaac Nyangolo told TechCrunch they plan on introducing more administrative tools for schools like timetabling software, in addition to supporting parents with fee loans.

“We’ve built an extensive distribution channel covering almost half of the high schools in Kenya and that means, we have an opportunity to solve other tech needs that schools have,” said Nyangolo.

“We plan on building more administrative tools for schools, and payment products on the parents’ side. We have also brought back focus on [the once dormant] digital learning platform, and also tested a number of products like timetabling,” he added.

Kenyan edtech Zeraki, a scale-up that is building digital learning and school data analytics platforms, has raised $1.8 million seed funding in a round led by Acumen Fund

Zeraki data analytics system helps schools to better manage students’ data. Image Credits: Zeraki

Zeraki is also looking to enter 10 new markets over the next three years, after scaling in Kenya, Uganda and Guinea, where it currently operates.

“We’re expanding first into the regions that we understand and have similar business environments. We plan on first moving into the entire East Africa community and then exploring the Anglophone region,” said Nyangolo.

Co-founded by Nyangolo and Erick Oude (COO) in 2014, Zeraki initially introduced an interactive digital learning platform for high school students, which included quizzes and systems for tracking their performance, but it wasn’t until the Covid pandemic struck in 2020 that it became popular.

“We realized that schools were purchasing the product but not using it because they lacked the appropriate infrastructure, and teachers didn’t know how to integrate it within the school setting. We were bootstrapping at the time, and didn’t have enough resources to do consumer education. But around 2017 we realized that data was actually a much bigger problem in schools,” he said.

Zeraki then embarked on building the data analytics system to help schools to better manage their students’ data. The data analytics platform allows teachers to upload students’ grades from their mobile phones, and gives a performance breakdown for each student, subject or stream.

The platform, which is more popular than digital learning platform, also integrates a bulk messaging service for internal and external communication, in addition to allowing parents an avenue for tracking student performance and fee payment.

“Every child needs a report card at the end of the school term. And the platforms for producing these report forms were offline computer-based platforms. So, teachers had to line up behind two or three computers at a school to do the data entry in order to produce the report forms. By moving this to a mobile-first cloud-based experience, it means that as soon as they are done grading students’ grades at home, the teachers just enter the scores on their phone.”

Nyangolo added that, so far, over 5,000 schools with a total of 2 million students, are using the data analytics platform. He expects the demand to continue growing as they launch in new markets, and as more schools embrace digital tools to streamline their administrative tasks.

“Education is yet to be digitalized across most countries in Africa, and there is greater opportunity for us to build this market. Laying that foundation that introduces countries, schools and parents on how technology can solve the problems we have in education and being one of the companies in Africa that have shown that it is possible to do this at scale makes this an exciting opportunity,” he said.

Zeraki, a Kenyan edtech providing digital solutions for school admin, raises $1.8M by Annie Njanja originally published on TechCrunch