I’ve already shared my personal list of biotech startups to watch in Eastern Europe, and I want to keep introducing you to bright and fast-growing projects. So today’s article is dedicated to an equally interesting industry: EdTech.
According to Grand View Research, in 2019 the EdTech industry was valued at $76.4 billion, and it’s predicted to grow by 18.1% every year over the next seven-year period. Rather than slowing things down, the pandemic has triggered a growth spurt in this sector, as distance learning has taken off and education has shifted online for all.
So with that in mind, here are my top 10 companies to follow — not only on the Eastern European market but also worldwide, due to their active spread.
An online assistant helping students answer homework questions about any subject
The problem: Not being able to find information about a subject on the internet; struggling to understand personal notes, or the teacher’s explanations while at home.
How it solves the problem: An online community of teachers and students that are willing to answer questions on any subject, from business to the arts.
Location: Krakow, Poland
Lukasz Haluch, Michał Borkowski and Tomasz Kraus started Brainly together in 2009. According to the founders, asking questions is a great opportunity for learning and reflection, while answering questions helps to consolidate knowledge and to remember information better. Helping each other also strengthens communities and social ties.
In 12 years on the market, the company has gained 200 million unique users, expanded its team to more than 130 people, and cumulatively raised $148 million, according to Crunchbase. Brainly’s investors include General Catalyst, Prosus & Naspers, Kulczyk Investments, and Learn Capital. The company’s founders haven’t shared their future plans yet; however, it’s clear that the startup will continue to expand its geographical reach, increase the size of its community and gain international recognition in the EdTech market.
An online English language learning platform for children between 4 and 12 years old
The problem: Not enough qualified specialists and native speakers with the skills to motivate and make kids fall in love with the English language.
How it solves the problem: Through a digital platform that can deliver English lessons from anywhere in the world, and a program for kids based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, with gamification practices.
Location: San Francisco, USA
The NovaKid startup was founded in 2017 by Max Azarov and Dmitry Malinin as an early English learning platform for new generations. The company aims to engage kids in the educational process with AI-powered games that are optimally timed to empower learners to absorb new information. NovaKids classes last for 25 minutes and use interactive methodologies to make children interested in a new language.
According to Crunchbase information, in January 2020 the company received $1.5 million as seed funding from South Korean VC BonAngels and Russian VC Leta Capital. Previously NovaKid got $777K from an undisclosed investor. In December 2020 the startup raised $4.3M in series A funding, with LearnStart and PortfoLion Capital Partners as leading investors. The company continues to expand geographically with an eye to the future: now it operates in 23 countries, including Russia, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.
An online survey tool for pupils, parents, and teachers
The problem: A lack of learning feedback between kids, parents, and staff; clunky and outdated approaches to schooling and organization of the learning process.
How it solves the problem: Through regular online questionnaires for different stakeholders in the educational system.
Location: Riga, Latvia
Edurio appeared on the educational market in 2014 with the help of Ernest Jenavs, Janis Gribusts, and Janis Strods. The platform aims to improve the learning and working experience in schools through regular surveys, data collection, analytics, and data visualization. Currently, the startup works with over 1,500 schools across England and around the world.
Open sources state that from 2014 till now, Edurio has already raised €2.7 million to support business development. This money includes not only venture capital investment but also grants; for example, the company received almost €2 million from the EU Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME). Edurio regularly publishes reports and educational studies based on the data it collects. The company’s ambition is to expand geographically and strengthen the analytical side of its products.
Online platform that connects students with funded opportunities for international study
The problem: Finding suitable study programs overseas that don’t cost the earth; knowing how to apply for a scholarship successfully.
How it solves the problem: With an online platform that helps users to apply for funded study programs and grants all over the world.
Location: Delaware, USA
In March 2019 Dasha Kroshkina, an entrepreneur from Russia, launched a SaaS company to make the university application process easier and more convenient for future students worldwide. Depending on the subscription chosen, StudyFree users can get access to programs and scholarship databases, document samples, and exam material. A separate package includes a mentor to assist with the application process.
StudyFree’s team of 50 people has already helped 50,000 students get enrolled into different educational institutions and to receive $10.3m in grants for their studies, according to Crunchbase. Among the project’s advisors are the former CMO of Ozon and ex-CEO of Google Media, Bas Godska, and Dutta Satadip, who works in Global Customer Success and Operations for Pinterest. The company’s plan is to continue conquering the EdTech market and to expand databases and opportunities for school and university graduates.
An app that helps teachers to tailor their classes and make them more engaging across their whole study group
The problem: Lack of engagement in learning processes; students struggling to master the learning material, with inconsistent performance across the class.
How it solves the problem: With a private social media platform for teachers and students.
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
The Clanbeat app was developed by Agu Suur, Janika Liiv, Kadri Tuisk, and Ragnar Sass in 2016. Their mobile solution allows teachers to manage classes, prioritize their activities, analyze student performance and design personalized interventions to help students achieve better grades. Empowered with real-time data and quick communications facilities, the startup also helps to build a strong community within its chatrooms.
According to open sources, in December 2019 the company received $1.2 million during the seed round led by Mistletoe. From January 2021 the Clanbeat app became available in Estonian and Russian. The company’s team has not yet shared its plan for the future, but it’ll definitely continue to enhance its engagement tools and deliver further localization for different regions.
An online platform for remote education in finance, business, data analysis, and law, mainly for a “white collar” audience
The problem: A lack of practice-oriented, professionally instructed online programs and short courses in the financial industry.
How it solves the problem: With an online learning platform featuring respected industry practitioners invited as lecturers.
Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia
In 2013, the Russian-born Canadian financier Alexander Maltsev turned an informal community on VKontakte into an online financial education platform. Today, SF Education has three faculties (finance, business, and analytics) and an international certification CFA program (first level). In total the organization offers six professions as long-term programs and 13 professional courses.
With some 4,000 paying clients, the startup has become the “Best Product” in the Netology accelerator and was included in the top 40 Russian EdTech companies according to RBC.
In March 2021, according to Rusbase, the startup raised $500K. Investors included Vershina Capital and an anonymous European venture fund with an educational focus. SF Education plans to use the received financial support to develop its product line, expand its team and multiply its marketing budget.
An online hub for learning English
The problem: Lack of highly qualified language specialists; too few specialists in classroom-based learning facilities; mismatch between language programs and student goals.
How it solves the problem: Through an online platform for different audiences (children, students, adults), gamification-based authoring programs, plus access to more than 11,000 teachers.
Location: Moscow, Russia
Denis Smetnev, George Solovev, and Khariton Matveev started Skyeng in 2012. The company became a visionary in the Russian EdTech market and was one of the first to redefine the experience of online classes: the teacher at the online school is matched to the student, and the program is modeled to their needs, becoming interactive via learning on the Vimbox platform.
According to open sources, Skyeng has raised $330K overall. Crunchbase states that one of its investors is Baring Vostok Capital Partners, with other investors undisclosed. In terms of future development, Skyeng has already launched an online school for children (at the start, the service was only oriented towards teens and adults) and online math courses for children from 1st to 11th grade.
An educational “TikTok” for hungry, self-development-focused zoomers
The problem: The challenge of zoomers’ fragmented attention span; the inconvenience of existing educational approaches for this generation.
How it solves the problem: With a mobile platform that teaches through short, educational, user-generated videos.
Location: Middletown, USA
The company was founded in June 2020 by Yuri Shlaganov. The novelty of the startup’s idea is that it focuses solely on educational content, like Coursera or Udemy, but it uses the principles of TikTok to compete for the attention of the younger generation. EduDo has two offices in Kiev and Minsk, and a team of 10 people. During the pre-seed round in September 2020, it raised $180K from seven investors, according to Crunchbase. This includes Maxim Mikheenko, a founder and COO of 5518 Studios.
In December of the previous year, the startup became a Golden Kitty Award winner on Product Hunt. In five years, the company aims to become a leading platform with millions of users sharing valuable educational content; to successfully compete with traditional time-killers such as social networks, games, or music; and to become a company with a $10 billion valuation.
A global study search platform & marketing services provider
The problem: Would-be students were lacking comprehensive tools to research colleges across international locations; equally, universities were finding it challenging to recruit international students.
How it solves the problem: An online platform that takes the burden of promoting academic programs, scholarships, educational opportunities , and international student recruitment away from universities, allowing them instead to focus on quality leads and engage with prospective applicants in a faster, smarter, and data-driven way.
Location: London, UK
Alexandra Olenina founded StudyQA in 2015. Her company helps universities to identify as many prospective students as possible, and concentrate on the most promising applicants, thus simplifying the student recruitment process around the world. The startup’s key markets are Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia.
Currently, the company has 15 employees across Russia, Spain, Georgia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Belarus, and the United Kingdom. StudyQA hasn’t raised funds; however, the startup has been profitable from the first year. In 2020 it won the EdTech Breakthrough Award as a Social Recruitment Provider of the Year and Alexandra Olenina was included in a list of 100 prominent female European founders (“The Hundert”). As for future plans, StudyQA wants to become the leading search platform for universities and scholarships from developing countries, and an intelligence and insights hub for overseas student recruitment.
A digital K-12 education assistant for students, teachers, and parents
The problem: Routine tasks like checking homework or developing tests can be time-consuming, tiring, and repetitive.
How it solves the problem: Yaklass helps teachers save up to 30% of their time through an online platform that generates multiple test tasks for each individual student, checks homework automatically, and coaches students to improve their results. Yaklass also improves the average grade of the class by 1 point and boosts student engagement and creativity.
Location: Riga, Latvia
Yaklass was founded in 2014. The idea behind the platform is to offer digital solutions to save teachers time when checking homework while helping them to implement interactive teaching materials for classroom and online lessons. Pupils are empowered to consolidate their own learning and to work through any gaps in the syllabus, as Yaklass uses individualized pupil assessments to set tailored additional learning tasks. Teachers can create an unlimited number of tests and tasks to be completed in the classroom to eliminate cheating and improve students’ knowledge.
The company is a graduate of the FRII accelerator, and a resident of the Skolkovo and Microsoft programs. More than 48,000 schools use Yaklass as a supporting educational tool, with 12 million students, teachers, and parents involved from 12 markets including Russia, Latvia, Armenia, Austria, Finland, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. Its ambition is to become a national e-learning platform for schools and to continue expanding its spheres of influence on foreign markets.