Following the recent announcement of the EduSpaze accelerator programme, the nine member first cohort was also recently unveiled. The first batch of the edtech accelerator programme had 200 applications from 25 countries, which were narrowed down to the chosen few. They slot into the categories of Pre-K, K-12, higher education, and corporate learning.
Edtech is a fast-growing industry and there is a growing community fueled by startup innovation. It is likely that 2020 will see considerable growth in the industry in Southeast Asia.
Accelerators like EduSpaze play an integral part within the ecosystem, helping pave the way for the industry to grow and disrupt the multi-billion dollar education machine. The accelerator has claimed that it differentiates itself from typical startup accelerators by focusing on evidence-based pedagogy. The programme places an emphasis on impact by ensuring that edtech products meet the pedagogical needs of educators, trainers and learners.
To find out more about the programme, we had a chance to speak to some of the new cohort. We spoke to Makers Empire CEO Jon Soong, Jamie Tan, Founder at Flying Cape and Dr Woo Yen Yen, Principal at Yumcha Studios to find out what they expect to achieve from the accelerator programme and also a little bit more about their startups and what they do.
The interview was conducted via email and we have edited some responses for brevity.
Can you describe what edtech service you provide and who your customers are?
Jon Soong (JS): Makers Empire provides primary, elementary and middle school teachers with the tools, skills and resources to confidently use 3D design and printing to engage students in Design Thinking and STEM learning. With Makers Empire, students learn how to identify and solve real-world problems and design and prototype solutions using 3D design and 3D printing. We currently work with 20,000 teachers and 1+ million students in 40 countries. Our 3D design software and learning program are designed specifically for K-8 students and made Common Sense Education’s Best Edtech of 2018 List while our accredited Learning by Design professional development course is backed by Australian university research.
Jamie Tan (JT): Flying Cape is an online platform that makes it easy for parents to find and book classes at one trusted location, best price guaranteed. Our diagnostic tool within the platform, backed by validated research, delivers personalised recommendations based on individual learning styles and strengths. At the same time, we have built an online ecosystem, powered by a centralised booking platform, which our education providers can use to transform their marketing and administration processes. We have helped many of our education providers to not only reach out to a broader audience online but also to increase their profitability through the digitisation of their back-office operations.
Woo Yen Yen (WYY): Yumcha Studios’ Dim Sum Warriors Learning System combines silly cartoons, bilingual books, teacher resources, and a mobile app that builds kids’ confidence in reading a second or foreign language fluently and expressively. Our customers are individual parents and also schools and learning centres.
Why did you choose to join the EduSpaze accelerator programme?
JS: We were fortunate to be offered a spot by winning the EduTech Asia Pitch competition and saw it as an excellent way to explore opportunities for Makers Empire in Southeast Asia. We were also excited to be part of an accelerator designed especially for EdTech companies. It’s a very specific industry so learning from other people working in this space was very important to us.
JT: Within 3 years, we have established ourselves as Singapore’s fastest growing children education platform with over 500+ Education Partners in more than 700 locations. We are now ready for our next phase of growth which is to scale beyond local shores. What enticed us to join the EduSpaze accelerator programme was the customised experience designed specifically around the needs of edtech startups. We believe that the programme will enable us to be part of an ecosystem that will provide access to guidance and support needed to help us scale greater heights.
WYY: Our edtech company is premised on both sound pedagogy as well as respect for teachers, and we’d been searching for partners who share these values. When Yen Yen spoke at the Global Education Summit in Beijing last year, the good folks at Enterprise Singapore recommended EduSpaze highly. So far, it has been an excellent match.
What do you hope to get out of this programme?
JS: We are hoping to understand the opportunities in Southeast Asia for Makers Empire, and how best to meet the needs of Southeast Asian teachers and students so that Makers Empire is a truly useful and effective classroom tool for them.
JT: We look forward to leverage EduSpaze’s ecosystem to not only form new alliances and strategic partners but to also identify new market opportunities and conceptualise initiatives that will be relevant to the education community.
We also have plans to raise funding to expand into the Southeast Asian region. Through this program, we hope to gain a better understanding of the context and nuances of our target markets, to validate our value propositions and solidify our expansion strategies.
WYY: We hope to accelerate our strategic planning, operations and customer base rapidly through this program. Starting a company can be a terrifying and overwhelming journey, so we are excited that EduSpaze is able to provide a clear map to decision-making in many aspects of the business, including business strategy, company management, customer acquisition, and most importantly, how to build a sustainable company that is actually good for the world. We are also looking forward to the exciting possibilities for exchange and collaboration with the other teams in the cohort.
Where do you see the Southeast Asian edtech industry moving to?
JS: Probably best if we answer this after this accelerator as we’ve really only embarked on our journey here. But, like everywhere, I imagine it’s about providing students and teachers with the EdTech tools that will help them develop the skills, mindsets and resources they’ll need to thrive in their future careers.
JT: The one-size-fits-all approach towards learning will become a distant memory as we see the rise of personalised education powered by technology. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality are some ways that will help make personalised education viable in a cost-efficient manner. Application of the right technology will help reshape the education scene and change the way that children learn not only in Southeast Asia but in the world.
As we see a change in the way that content is delivered to learners, it remains essential that overall learning is obtained and tracked holistically for the individual. At Flying Cape, we believe that maximising learning potential in our next generation starts with understanding how each child is unique in terms of interests and learning styles. Through validated research powered by technology, we aim to address not only HOW a child should learn but more importantly, WHY and WHAT they should be learning. Our goal is to help parents make informed decisions during the selection of choices for their children’s academic endeavours and general development.
WYY: Currently, a lot of edtech companies are more about applying tech trends from other industries to the learning sector. We’ve heard quite a few companies talk about “Uber-izing” various aspects of the learning industry—private tutoring, for example. Pedagogically, most edtech products have focused narrowly on making teaching and learning more efficient, with scant consideration for the overall learning experience. We have seen many companies whose offerings consist primarily of inundating kids with lots of exercises and reading materials, just faster. I am looking forward to the Southeast Asian edtech industry focusing more on edtech companies with more serious “ed” in it—like our company, whose work is grounded in solid research on deep education concepts such as culturally responsive pedagogy and multimodal learning.
What is next for your brand?
JS: We’re keen to explore the opportunities created by being part of the Eduspace Accelerator. We’re also in the process of gaining accreditation from Education Alliance Finland as well as finishing up an education research project in the US to better understand the needs of US teachers. We’re also expanding our current program with 230+ UAE schools to grades three and five, and our Learning by Design course to groups of schools in Australia.
JT: We envisage Flying Cape to be the Global Distribution System for Education. Our purpose is to shape the future of education. Moving forward, we will work towards establishing our regional presence and build the critical solutions that help connect learners and education providers both locally and globally.
WYY: We are excited to announce that we’re currently piloting the complete Dim Sum Warriors Learning System in schools in Taiwan and Singapore, and it will be ready for sale in 2020. The Dim Sum Warriors graphic novels are now available throughout Asia, thanks to Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher, and we’re also releasing several new Little Dim Sum Warriors bilingual books for younger readers. In early 2021, we’ll be premiering a new Little Dim Sum Warriors stage musical for children! Busy times ahead!