Koobits, an edtech startup, has to turn off its servers between 10pm and 6am to stop its students from doing work past their bedtime.
“We received complaints from parents,” remarks Stanley Han, the CEO and founder of KooBits.
The secret to their popularity? Unlike other digital tools used in education, KooBits isn’t built for adults. It’s built for children.
The online learning platform uses a combination of gamification and community-based learning to make learning fun. Children log onto and use the platform of their own accord.
To date, KooBits has also served over 361 schools from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The edtech startup has one of the highest traffic rates in its product category — at least 200,000 users visit it monthly.
But it wasn’t too long ago that Stanley was contemplating selling off their furniture just to make ends meet.
KooBits Doesn’t Require Adult Supervision
KooBits started off building English e-books to help children improve their writing skills in 2007.
Despite early traction, issues with the business model and marketing strategy meant that the edtech startup didn’t take off.
“We misunderstood the market dynamics in Singapore,” Stanley admits.
By 2014, Koobits had to wind down its operations for their e-book. The team went on to restructure the company and build a suite of other edtech products.
However, Koobits soon burned through investors’ funds and S$300,000 worth of personal savings raised to keep the company afloat.
Then, surprise orders worth S$87,000 came in for Koobits’ math program from five primary schools. The next day, S$25,000 in purchase orders came from another two schools.
Within two months, KooBits received close to S$250,000 in purchase orders. They had inadvertently uncovered the right product-market fit.
A principal told me that every morning, at least 50 companies would be trying to pitch products that teachers could use in lessons.
But a teacher’s time is limited — companies (that pitch products which require time-investments) won’t get through.– Stanley Han, CEO and founder of KooBits
Unlike other edtech startups, KooBits built a math product that didn’t require adult supervision, where children could work independently.
KooBits Is Gamifying Homework
“Today’s textbooks are built for teachers to teach, not students to read,” Stanley explains.
To empower self-directed learning, KooBits “redesigns content in the language of children,” repackaging Singapore’s internationally-ranked maths syllabus in a format that incentivises independent learning.
KooBits is an online learning platform that students can use in school or at home, and is available for both schools and individuals on a subscription-based plan.
KooBits currently costs just S$12 per child in Singapore, with 35 per cent off on its annual plans. The plan provides users with an unlimited access to Primary 1 to 6 syllabus.
Students gain access to worksheets and video tutorials, rewards and events, and a syllabus derived from top schools. Parents are also able to track their children’s learning progress in-app.
The platform personalises the learning experience by using AI and big data to conduct diagnostic assessments on students.
Higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills are also cultivated through KooBits’ colourful retinue of practices and video lessons. The key is to groom the next generation of independent thinkers.
The platform also relies on gamification to incentivise students to practice math of their own accord. Students are given rewards for completing tasks and tap on peer-to-peer learning networks.
The edtech startup encourages students to approach each other to form teams or spar on math problems in friendly online competitions.
During the June school holidays, KooBits held an open competition, with over 5 million questions submitted during the event.
Covid-19 Is Accelerating The Edtech Industry
Edtech startups like KooBits is becoming increasingly crucial in an era where children are deprived of their education during lockdowns.
According to UNESCO, over 1 billion learners worldwide have been affected by the outbreak of the pandemic, with 132 country-wide school closures. Many schools in Southeast Asia remain closed or only partially open.
Edtech solutions could turn remote learning into the “classroom of the future.”
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the growth trajectory of edtech is expected to triple within the decade, from US$107 billion in 2015 to US$325 billion in 2025.
KooBits got off to a rough start, but has been growing at 200 per cent year-on-year for the past three years. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated their expansion and Stanley expects the edtech to break 200 per cent in 2020.
However, edtech startup has to compete with other popular industries.
“There’s a lack of funding, and a lack of venture capitalists compared to sectors like e-commerce,” Stanley observes.
For an edtech startup, that capital injection is a pre-requisite for hiring top-quality talent to build programs and platforms.
“We need the equivalent of Google and Facebook (software) engineers. My own engineers are paid twice my own salary,” he comments.
Resolving The Teacher Shortage
Despite the capital and talent shortfall, KooBits has declared that it is looking into overseas expansions.
Such a venture requires “starting over” in every market they enter, in order to cater to localised education needs, says Stanley.
KooBits will be launching localised content in Bahasa Indonesia and Mandarin Chinese to cater to foreign language speaking audiences. The startup will also be expanding the suite of subjects taught on KooBits.
In spite of the variance in market dynamics, Stanley seems confident that KooBits will be well-received, stating that the problems the startup addresses are homogenous across markets.
“Every school lacks good teachers. Sometimes, training or hiring one is impossible — even with good money. Good teachers are not mobile.”
“If we can create something for students that don’t need adult supervision … and give that data to teachers (wouldn’t that be ideal)? People didn’t believe us. They thought kids would slack off, but it worked.”
Featured Image Credit: KooBits