Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Valuable Lessons

By Quách Toàn Long | Vietnamese startups are working on more than 150 education projects, and the number is growing. Embracing a culture that values education more than anything else, Vietnamese spend more than 30% of their income on learning and there are more than 22 million people going to school every day. For businesses, this is an opportunity.
Bring Classrooms Online
Since 2010, businesses have been providing online lessons to students. The idea is to record lessons from the best teachers throughout Vietnam, publish them online, and learners have to pay to watch.

Online K-12 teaching is the first e-learning category and now the most popular. Hocmai, one of the earliest companies in the field, has more than 3 million learners from all over Vietnam and is one of the most popular online learning sites for students of all ages.

The biggest selling point for the company is the teachers, who work at the top high schools in Vietnam’s big cities. The lessons prepared and delivered online by those teachers are not only valuable to rural parents in Vietnam, for whom online lessons are the best way to get access to the best teachers and to give their children the best chance of getting to the top colleges, but also valuable to city parents who can’t get their kids into the offline classes that quickly run out of spots.

Another valuable aspect of learning via videos is that students can learn at their own pace. The model, though simple, has worked for a decade and is expected to continue its growth in future.

Moving away from after-school lessons and the big established companies, new players find other niches. Teaching English, giving soft skills courses, and providing college degrees online allow startups to apply the same technology to a much larger market – young professionals who want to acquire extra skill sets but lack the time.

Following the same formula, but this time companies do more than just invite experts to teach – they also work toward better student-teacher interaction and also user interfaces. And the improvements have worked. Those new lessons bring start-ups closer to the massive young mobile users in Vietnam, contributing to an impressive annual growth rate of more than 40% in online education revenue.

Those promising signs soon attract international investors. In 2016, Kyna – an online skill learning platform founded in 2013 – raised US$50 million in funding from CyberAgent Ventures, a Japanese investment firm. The deal is expected to give the startup a boost to catch up with Vietnam’s rising demand for soft skills education.

Outside The Classroom
Online video is not the only way to teach in Vietnam. Other Vietnamese Edtech startups are now looking to dive into another aspect of education.

A review and booking platform, Edu2review, has just received an undisclosed sum of funding from Singapore’s Nest Tech venture capital fund. The investment, as announced by the company, has increased the company value by five times. However, the company is also looking for additional investment for research and marketing activities.

Other startups are working hard on their vision for Vietnamese education. Vietnamese tutor platform Teezi was established in 2016 and aims to connect freelance tutors with students via a progressive app. Despite some initial successes, there are still challenges for the team.

“Ensuring quality in education has never been easy”, says Teezi Co-founder Tra My. “To accept someone from the marketplace, even after careful evaluation, is to take a risk that that person may not perform as well as expected.”

To solve the problem, the team of five works together to create a comprehensive matching algorithm, using manual evaluations and user ratings as benchmarks. The team released the first beta version in 2017 and is working toward the official launch at the end of 2018.

For the EdTech industry as a whole, there is a still a long way to go. The majority of Vietnamese learners are still accustomed to traditional model and learning via technology is perceived as a supplement method.

On the other hand, from an investor perspective EdTech businesses require a long run to make a profit. Apart from Kyna and Edu2review, there are far fewer EdTech startups raising funds from investors. Nonetheless, Vietnamese education business expert Tri Hien believes that once the market accepts the product, it will become a tremendous profit source.

About The Author
Long is Jumpstart’s Journalist In Residence (JIR) for Ho Chi Minh City. He is a young professional with a strong interest in connecting startups and telling their stories. His favorite topics are technology and arts.
[email protected]

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