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EdTech Industry Overview: Bangladeshi EdTech Startups

In 2019, the market size of Global Education Technology was around 75 billion dollars which will exceed 318 billion dollars by 2027 with an increasing rate of 20% every year. However, this market did not exist even a decade ago. People are more allured to developing skills than traditional degrees depending on the current demand for skill-based work. As a result, people are more interested in online-based education, and that way, education technology or the EdTech industry is growing. According to the experts, one of the contributing factors behind the recent growth of the EdTech industry is Asia’s Growing Millennials. Several EdTech start-ups have been established even in India, and some of them are already competing with US-based EdTech start-ups.

According to Statista, the market size of India’s EdTech industry was 2.8 billion dollars in 2020, which will exceed 10 billion dollars by 2025. Besides, the Indian start-up app BYJU’s is currently the most valuable EdTech app, with a valuation of about 16.5 billion dollars.

India's EdTech industry was 2.8 billion dollars in 2020
India’s EdTech industry was 2.8 billion dollars in 2020 | Source: Statista

History of EdTech

In the 19th century, technology paved its way in the education sector. In the 1920s and 1930s educational films were used to instruct people and explain things, some of which took the form of “Explainer Video” today. The State University of Iowa introduced the first instructional television program in 1932. In World War II, instructional media were used for military training and individualized instruction. First instance of using instructional media in academia dated back in 1959 in the elementary school in New York. University of Illinois, USA introduced online learning in 1960, at the University of Illinois, USA. Later in 1963, the Vocational Education Act was introduced to fund technology inclusion in academia. In 1971, a computer game named Oregon Trail was invented to teach History and Math.

In the 1980s, Apple computers gained popularity in educational institutions. Teachers used software solutions to introduce activity-based tasks for the students. University of Toronto takes the credit of introducing the first ever wholly online course in 1984. Five years later, in 1989, the University of Phoenix launched the first ever completely online collegiate program, offering both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. In the later years, technology continued to complement education with smart tools and solutions, digital curriculum, learning management system (LMS), online certifications and courses, distanced learning, etc.

A Brief History of EdTech infographic | Source: Medium

Foundation of Khan Academy

Though personalized learning was not invented by Salman Khan, he surely popularized it. He conceptualized the formation of Khan Academy by helping his cousins and family members by tutoring them online. He recorded and posted videos on YouTube. Later in 2008, he formally started Khan Academy by incorporating it as a non-profit. Since then, it has been running with grants and donations from different philanthropists and organizations. Google, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network are some of the donors of Khan Academy.

Khan Academy‘s online materials cover Math & Finance to History & Arts, in other words, ALMOST EVERYTHING. In 2018, 70 million people used Khan Academy’s platform. Over 2 million people used its materials for SAT preparation. In July of that year, the organization launched Khan Academy Kids, an app targeting kids of 2-6 years of age with no in-app purchase and ads which gathered 1.4 million downloads by the end of 2018. Till today, the non-profit organization has been doing amazing innovations to democratize free education but has not raised any Venture Capital (VC) funds, and has not gone and (probably) will not go for any IPO.

Rise of MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs have been revolutionizing the distanced learning space for 10 years now. In July 2011, a Stanford course named “Introduction to AI” was published online for free. Within a few months after that, Stanford University offered more free courses and MITx, Coursera, and Udacity went live as online course providers and raised funds. Due to this frenzy, the New York Times declared 2012 as “The Year of MOOC”.

The MOOC providers followed the CLASSIC internet formula – Lure a big audience, figure out the business model later. In doing that, the providers grappled with challenges to establish the business models however attracted a lot of venture funds. Udemy raised over 300 million dollars and Coursera raised over 440 million dollars so far.

Udemy raised over 300 million dollars and Coursera raised over 440 million dollars

Over the years, the MOOC providers adapted through trial & error nevertheless failed to grow sustainably as few of the learners actually completed the courses. At last the pandemic boosted the distanced learning space and propelled the traction with many folds. From January to August 2020, Coursera clocked 20 million registered users whereas the number was 8 millions in the whole year of 2019. Students and professionals sprang to the platforms to spend the leisure upskilling themselves.

Global EdTech Landscape & Revenue Model

Education Technology or EdTech is not Only About Online Curriculum Learning; it comprises several verticals like skill enhancement, job placement through implementing career track, software & hardware solution etc. There are several segments where today’s EdTech startups are operating. They are – Pre-kindergarten or Pre-K, Kindergarten to 12th grade or K-12, Higher Education or HE, Skill Enhancement, B2B, B2C, B2B2C, P2P Services & Solutions.

Several segments where today’s EdTech startups are operating.

In their 2021 Global Learning Landscape report, renowned education intelligence platform HolonIQ mentioned 10 verticals where global EdTech startups are currently operating. They are –

1) Knowledge & Content

2) Education Management

3) Traditional Models

4) New Delivery Models

5) Experiencing Learning

6) International Education

7) Learning Support

8) Assessment & Verification

9) Workforce & Talent and

10) Skills & Jobs

2021 Global Learning Landscape
Source: HolonIQ

So far, the Most Popular Revenue Models for EdTech Startups are – Freemium + Pay as You Go, (Only) Pay-as-You-Go, Subscription, and Enterprise Sales. Industry experts believe that new revenue models will emerge in the EdTech space. Success-based revenue model can be the next one to emerge where revenue of an EdTech will be linked to the success of the learners. Through this, EdTech startups can be more relevant in the Impact Investment space. Also the income-sharing model is expected to be popular after some years where there will be a partnership between the students and the educational entities for EdTech programs. Under the partnership, educational entities will provide services in exchange for a certain percentage of income of the students upon completion of the programs.

EdTech Venture Capital (VC) Investments started the 2010-2019 decade with just $500 million and ended 14x higher at $7B. At the starting of this decade (2020-2029), HolonIQ projected $87B VC funding in the next 10 years. Till 1st half of 2021, EdTech VC funding already clocked $26B with $10B in the 6 month of 2021. So the initial forecast of $87Bn might even cross $200Bn by 2030. 

According to HolonIQ, the Global EdTech Market will be Valued Over $10 Trillion in 2030. On the basis of fundraising, Chinese EdTechs are leading the global landscape, with more than 50% of the VC funds raised, followed by USA and India. India’s Byju’s became world’s most valuable EdTech ($16.5bn) with their recent $350 million Series F fundraising.

CompanyCountryClusterLast Round DateLast Round TypeValuation
ByJu’sIndiaTutoringJune 2021$350M Series F$16.5B
YuanfudaoChinaTutoringDec 2020$300M Series G Top Up$15.5B
ZuoyebangChinaTutoringDec 2020$1.6B Series E+$10.0B
VIPKidChinaLanguageSep 2019$150M VC/PE Round$4.5B
ArticulateUnited StatesCorporate LearningJuly 2021$1.5B Series A$3.75B
UnacademyIndiaTest PrepAug 2021$440M Series H$3.4B
UdemyUnited StatesOnline Post Secondary/SkillsMar 2021Series F Top Up$3.3B
EmeritusIndiaOnline Post SecondaryAug 2021$650M Series E$3.2B
ApplyBoardCanadaInternational RecruitmentJune 2021$300M Series D$3.2B
Global EdTech Market will be valued over $10 trillion in 2030 | Source: HolonIQ

EdTech Trends

Exit Strategies:

Global EdTech ecosystem has seen two most common exit strategies – Initial Public Offering (IPO) and Merger & Acquisition (M&A). Among these  two, M&A is expected to be more prominent, especially in the South Asia and Southeast Asia regions. India’s EdTech Decacorn, Byju’s is already eyeing multiple acquisitions to scale its business to other markets. 

Deep-tech Inclusion:

For a long time, education was limited to classrooms. There has been a whole paradigm shift in the education industry. It is no longer confined within the classroom and got shifted to Smartboards. The inclusion of technology is certainly not over. Immersive technologies like – Augmented Reality (AR), Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, etc. will pave their ways to the EdTech landscape and will gain more interest from investors. And for everything there is, there is a Blockchain for that. Entrepreneurs will never stop searching for ways to improve the status quo and to attract more VC investment.

India Scenario

The Indian EdTech ecosystem has passed its initial phase. According to KPMG, there are more than 3500 EdTech startups operating in India. Some of them may not survive, but Indian EdTechs have already had a fair share of footprint in the global EdTech landscape. Bengaluru-based Byju’s became the third decacorn from India in 2020 and became the highest valued unicorn with $16.5bn valuation in just 10 years of its foundation. Like Byju’s some other Indian EdTechs are on acquisition spree.

Indian EdTech startups

They are acquiring both local and global startups to expand into different verticals and to pave the way of foraying into international markets. In coming years, some of them may opt for IPO and offer their investors desirable exits.

As the startup ecosystem is already swarmed with EdTechs, it is grappling with many challenges. One of the challenges is higher Customer Acquisition Cost or CAC. It has become quite acute for the Indian EdTechs as they use similar methods to reach out to customers and retain them. Common acquisition and advertising channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube have already been saturated and thronged with similar offerings and promises. Some of the EdTech startups are offering too much discounts to stay in the game thus deteriorating their Net Burn Rate. It is expected that CAC will keep increasing for more years and if the cost keeps increasing, the unit economics of some of the EdTech startups may never work out. Along with the high CAC, the Life-time Value or LTV – average revenue earned from a customer throughout the period of his/her engagement with a startup, is also low. So one of the most important startup metrics, that is – LTV/CAC ratio – is deteriorating for Indian EdTechs.

Also flooded with VC money, especially in pandemic, many Indian EdTechs are set to go for different verticals and expand into other regional countries, even into the USA. To foray into the USA and compete with the EdTechs there will be a different ball game as some of the Indian EdTechs may have to modify their established business and quality control model. But going global will pave the way of gathering high paying customers so EdTechs in India are expected to take that chance.

Bangladesh Landscape

Coaching Business in Bangladesh

Though there were few coaching centers in the ’90s, they spread like wildfire after 2000. So many policies and guidelines have been published to restrict the dependency on coaching business in the last decade (2010-2019) but all eventually failed. In 2020, the Government drafted an Education Act, legalizing coaching centers however putting several restrictions such as banning daytime coaching, disallowing tuition of teachers without the permission of respective institutions, etc. 

According to the Education Household Survey 2014 by BBS, almost one-third of total education costs goes to coaching centers or house tutors, which is the largest share of the education expenditure pie. We did not find any definitive research on the market size of coaching business in Bangladesh. Assumptions from different organizations span from $0.3-$6 billion. It is too early to claim EdTech will replace the coaching business in Bangladesh, but at least we can say local EdTechs will catapult the education landscape of the country.

Bangladesh’s Transition to EdTech

10 Minute School is the pioneer in the Bangladesh EdTech landscape. The company demonstrated the proof of concept of an EdTech operation in Bangladesh. Its founder, Mr. Ayman Sadiq, started the company as a YouTube channel. Soon it grew to be an online learning platform and became the most popular EdTech company in the country. Also many EdTechs have emerged till now; some of them raised funds, gathered good traction and started expanding. According to Tracxn and Crunchbase there are around 90 EdTech startups operating in Bangladesh.

there are around 90 EdTech startups operating in Bangladesh
There are around 90 EdTech startups operating in Bangladesh.

According to a research on Bangladesh EdTech sector titled  as Making Sense of Bangladeshi EdTech Ecosystem (Part 01) by Mr. Shazzad Hossain Mukit, Head of Data, Analytics & Emerging Frontiers at Innovision Consulting, based on the Go-to-Market or GTM strategy, there are two ways of categorizing business models of the local EdTech startups. They are – Formal & Informal Model. Institutions that offer Government-recognized degrees and certifications can be placed into the formal sector. Products like Learning Management System or LMS and Enterprise Planning Resources or ERP for educational institutions also fall into the formal sector. The for-profit organizations or the non-profit ones that do not offer Government-recognized degrees and certificates such as tuition and test prep providers, job-portals, training providers etc., are in the Informal sector. By going deeper, Mr. Mukit divided the informal sector into different verticals such as – Pre-school, K-12, Test Prep – School to University (Phase Change), University, Test Prep – University to Jobs (Phase Change), Employment & Continuous Learning. He listed more than 50 local EdTech startups in his research. Some of those startups opt for the B2C model, some are B2B, and some are following the B2B2C model. Some of them are operating as marketplaces, some are part of the content economy and some of the EdTechs are offering courses on Coding, Language, Music/Dance etc. which educational institutions do not offer usually.

Source: Bangladeshi EdTech Market_Oct 2020

Most local EdTech founders find it hard to figure out whether to go for scaling first or monetizing first. The most popular Bangladeshi EdTech, 10 Minute School, seems to find the “Scaling First then Monetizing” more suitable. Most other local EdTechs seem to believe in having a monetization model from day one.

EdTechs operating in multiple verticals such as, operating in K-12 and providing test prep to go from college to Universities or offering both pre-employment and post-employment & continuous learning courses & training, are in a sweet spot to strike a balance. They can determine their core, monetize that and conversely, spend money to scale up the other vertical/s. This can be true for platforms like bohubrihi. On the other hand, local EdTechs with low-ticket product/services can go for scaling first before monetization and the ones with high-ticket product/services can opt for having a sustainable monetization model from the very early stage.

Local EdTech Startups

10 Minute School

In mid-2014, the 10 Minute School started its operations associating with Ayman Sadiq. The platform currently conducts online video lectures for students in grades 1 to 12, alongside university tests, IELTS, GRE, and personal skill development. The official YouTube channel of this platform currently has 1.79 million subscribers. Besides congregating all their channels, they have about 20,000 video tutorials and about 50,000 quizzes. In addition, the 10 Minute School’s mobile app has been installed more than a million times in the Play Store since its launch. 

Interactive Cares

Interactive Cares, a virtual e-learning platform that offers online courses based on higher study, job preparation and skill development, alongside masterclasses, career paths and one-to-one mentoring.

Interactive Cares, a virtual e-learning platform that offers many online courses.

A platform that started its journey back in 2019, presently has more than 40 courses and over 30,000 students enrolled. Interactive Cares has enriched students’ e-learning experience by solving various problems combining pre-recorded and live classes. Popular courses of this platform include Python, JavaScript, Django, Full Stack Web Development, IELTS, GRE, etc. Interactive Cares has also introduced the Complete Preparation on ISSB, a course for military preparation, for the first time in Bangladesh. In addition to providing fundamental lessons related to skill development courses, Interactive Cares also connects students to the relevant industry through Career Fair and CV forwarding in the Career Path program. The instructors of the platform include faculty of various universities, senior officials of multinational companies, and renowned entrepreneurs of the country. Recently, Interactive Cares has been able to raise seed funds through a start-up accelerator program organized by Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) Ventures. Following the success of courses related to web development and higher study abroad, Interactive Cares will introduce Digital Marketing Career Path in the future. The start-up is also coming up with an Android app for students very soon. 

Bohubrihi

In 2016, two BUET students in their second year, Yanur Islam Piash and Galib Hassan Khan, launched their e-learning platform, “Bohubrihi”. Afterward, its journey as a marketplace for online courses began in 2016. Since then the platform has started providing paid courses online. As reported by The Daily Star, the platform currently has beyond 60,000 registered students and a total of more than 50 courses. The platform has also launched Career Track as a job market solution. The company will also launch a micro learning platform for mobile users, named ‘Bohubrihi Bytes’.

Thrive EdTech

In 2019, Thrive, the regional EdTech platform started its journey and graduated from the NSU Startups Next incubation program. Thrive’s integrated education platform allows teachers to schedule classes and helps students using low-speed Internet to attend classes. In the Corona epidemic, the platform makes its services free of cost for non-profit educational institutions. This startup also takes its place in HolonIQ’s ranking of 100 EdTech companies in South Asia. Moreover, the company raised a total of 180,000 dollars from the Omicon Group, Quazi Zulquarnain, the former Country Head of Uber Bangladesh, and Mr. Abdul Ghafur Bashir, IoT Industry Expert and Investor. 

Shikho

Shikho started its activities in Bangladesh in 2018. The startup raised a pre-seed fund of 100000 dollars in June 2020 from Silicon Valley-based global ed-tech venture capital firm, Learn Capital, LLC. In October of that year, the mobile app of Shikho was launched on the Google Play Store. At that time, the platform added 80 animated video lessons of 700 minutes, 3500 questions and solutions, more than 700 notes, and 1000 diagrams for the syllabus of SSC General Mathematics.

Shikho published many educational lessons

Since its launch, more than 50,000 downloads of the app have been completed. In December last year, the platform raised 175,000 dollars pre-seed fund, and in July it raised a 1.3 million dollars seed fund; which was the highest fund collection in the seed round for any Bangladeshi EdTech startup. The platform later included a Science Crash Course for SSC and HSC level students. Some of Shikho’s notable investors are Foodpanda Bangladesh’s Co-founders and Managing Directors, Zubair Siddiky and Ambareen Reza, Anchorless Bangladesh, and Wavemaker Partners.

Upskill

In 2016, Upskill was launched as a peer-to-peer skill sharing platform in Bangladesh by Mustafizur R Rahman, Fayaz Taher, and Samad Miraly. The company is serving to fill the technical skills gap between job candidates and industries. A user can access more than 34 video lessons from this platform with an annual subscription fee of 3,000 Taka. Upskill Library currently has more than 22 qualified trainers. According to The Daily Star, the company has filed an Income-Sharing Agreement (ISA) with Chaldal and has plans to have ISAs with two more institutions. In February 2021, the company raised more than a hundred thousand dollars of seed funds.

Joy Bhattacharjee
Joy Bhattacharjee
Financial Product Manager at iFarmer, Former Equity Analyst at IDLC Securities Ltd.

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