The novelty around edtech has diminished, but that is a good thing for an industry that is looking to become the norm rather than a potential option. With the wide adoption of edtech solutions around Southeast Asia, the question lies within the real impact of edtech rather than the viability.
There is also the potential for a region like Southeast Asia, which is still being discovered poses a lot of opportunities for startups looking into the region. It is still early days for edtech in Southeast Asia, so mature market companies maybe well placed to step in and provide solutions that fit the current needs of the region.
We speak to two edtech entrepreneurs that are exploring the opportunities in Southeast Asia. From North America, both STEM Minds (Canada) and Edorer (USA) are now part of the EduSpaze fourth cohort, which started in February 2022.
We look back at the state of edtech in the second half of 2021
Anu Bidani founded and runs Canada-based STEM Minds, which provides parents, schools and educators with cutting edge STEM content and learning experiences for children ages 4-18 that prepares them to be the next generation of global STEM leaders.
Edorer was co-founder by Saurabh Gupta, who is also the CEO. The company uses AI-driven edtech to empower digitalisation and global credits exchange through CredX. Edorer through CredX will be empowering students to choose a parent university and then pick courses from global universities on their partner CredX network.
Here’s what they both had to share.
Could you share more about your startup?
Anu: STEM Minds is a BCorp certified social enterprise with a mission to empower the next generation of global leaders. We provide cutting edge STEM content and learning experiences for youth ages 4-18. Our advanced STEM curriculum includes an evolving range of dynamic in-person programs, virtual classes, and on-demand courses designed and delivered by certified teachers and STEM professionals. STEM Minds approach to learning helps to break down barriers, empowering the next generation of future-ready kids.
Saurabh: It’s a digitally-driven world, but still partnering with universities globally is an exhausting process and involves months of efforts from universities on either side. Also, seamless acceptance and exchange of credits is a very cumbersome and manual process. Edorer aims to solve this challenge by empowering faster university to university collaboration. Our AI-driven solutions first digitize educational institutions thereby bridging any digital divide between universities and then facilitating a smoother flow of courses and programs among them. This helps them strengthen their academic curriculum, facilitate global student mobility, enhance students’ global exposure, enter global markets, empower hassle-free credits transfer on our blockchain-based CredX and most importantly – share revenues.
Also in a fiercely competing environment from online learning platforms and plummeting bottom lines, universities have realized that their age-old business models may soon be irrelevant or need remodelling and hence there is a need to build more contemporary and sustainable business models for universities, together.
Edorer is on a mission to empower this global collaboration. This is truly revolutionary for students too. Through Edorer, students can choose a parent university and then pick courses from global universities on their university’s partner CredX network. This is similar to choosing a pizza base and then adding different toppings to build your own pizza. We, at Edorer, envision this as the future where students will create their own global program and chalk out their own learning path.
Why Southeast Asia? What are the opportunities available here for edtech?
Saurabh: Every western university and EdTech company understands that the larger consumption of their programs and products lies in Asia. Southeast Asia being the jewel of the crown. There are many reasons for it – huge digital push at the government levels, higher number of digitally inclined youth, prevalent digital literacy, openness to embracing new tools, an unending growth vibe and hunger for action. For EdTech, it’s the place to be.
Countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam lead this digital intent. Even Indonesia has a big digital vision for education. So opportunities in K12 or Higher Education are plenty. However many EdTech companies have failed to focus on making their solutions affordable in these markets. Also understanding the local beat and willingness to tweak the solution to accommodate local preferences, is critical to success in these geographies.
Anu: South East Asia is a very exciting opportunity for us. We see this region in three major markets: China, India and the rest of Southeast Asia; at 4.5 Bn this represents half the planet. Each region has large pools of youth and fast-growing economies. While this region has a variety of differences such as language and culture, the region has demonstrated faster adoption for new technologies, and strong cultural importance is placed on education as a priority at all levels, so the younger generations are tilted to STEM. The global Edtech community is leading a fantastic opportunity to close the gap in access to high-quality learning via digital media. We want to be part of this journey and bring STEM Minds to youth across the entire SEA region.
Could you share some of the main differences between the edtech industry in North America compared to Southeast Asia?
Anu: There are several differences between these markets. Demographics, language, and culture are obvious differences. The student base of North American markets is mostly in public school systems with a single format to K-12. The differences in the curriculum are less amplified than in Asia, and tutoring is not as widespread. In SEA, private schools have materially advanced curricula vs the public-school systems. The private schools tend to have large balance sheets and resources and students are heavily dependent on tutoring.
At a macro level, a material difference is the various stages that governments are moving through in implementing changes to their education systems. Some countries have been advancing education with large scale investments and upgrading education policies while several countries struggle with access to funding, the challenges of public vs private schooling systems, as well as inconsistencies in curriculum and skill level of the students.
Saurabh: First we need to understand the end-users. When it comes to B2B EdTech, educational institutions in North America tend to have greater resistance in trying something new compared to Southeast Asia. They may have greater compliances and the process could be very bureaucratic. Though it may not be true for many fast-moving universities. Nevertheless, the process of wooing an educational client is pretty much the same. You need to build rapport, build personal relationships, win the trust of the community, have strong NPS and genuinely have a solution that helps them achieve greater efficacy.
Also Southeast Asia may be a little price sensitive. Undoubtedly, for a B2B there are bigger opportunities in Southeast Asia. But when it comes to newer business models and global collaborations, North American universities are very proactive and show greater initiative to innovate and also adapt faster.
What do you hope to gain from your experience at EduSpaze?
Saurabh: We are growing strongly in markets like India, the Middle East, Malaysia by first helping universities digitize and then helping them partner with global universities from USA, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia to facilitate the exchange of courses through CredX. We seek EduSpaze expertise in helping us connect with the right mentors / experts in countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, and the rest of SEA for gaining market insights and early partnerships.
With EduSpaze we intend to enhance our outreach and impact in these regions. Also, EduSpaze is not just a revered EdTech accelerator but an ecosystem of people who believe in the impact of EdTech. I am aware that EduSpaze not only focuses on fundraising but also true knowledge dissemination on building EdTech products, growth and viable businesses with a vision to impact education at large.
Anu: STEM Minds is excited to join Cohort 4 of the EduSpaze Accelerator Programme. We have a proven product and a fantastic opportunity to bring our K-12 STEM learning platform to students in SEA. We are on a mission to build a world where every child has the opportunity to be STEM literate. The Eduspaze program is a game-changer for startups like us, providing access to expert networks, sales channels, and partnerships, while ensuring we can shift our business models to a trajectory of hyper-growth, setting us up for success with
institutional investors. This program now opens doors for us to explore the Asia region and inspire the next generation of global leaders with meaningful STEM education. We are looking forward to building new relationships, learning from our peers, and making a difference in new communities to support youth in their learning journey. A huge thank you EduSpaze for this amazing opportunity.
What’s next for your company?
Anu: We are laser-focused on achieving hyper-growth across the SEA region through partnerships and licensing arrangements. Our approach to patiently build the highest quality product that will be positively impacting learners around the world positions us to engage with the education community globally. In partnership with the SEA education community and investors, we want all educators to bring STEM Minds to their students. Let’s get on with it!
Saurabh: We are on a mission to make Edorer a go-to platform for educators and universities to build their digital experience. Currently, we empower over 40 institutions and intend to empower over 100 by the end of this year. We are growing very strongly with strong user feedback and we are very excited to take this to the next level. We are helping educational institutions enhance their revenues and outreach through enhanced digital capacities and greater learner, teacher and admin experience.
Edorer supercharges their complete student lifecycle including mobile-ready experience right through admissions, engagement-driven conversion, online courses (like Coursera/EdX), online studio to easily create video-based courses (self and screen recording, auto speech to text transcripts, searchable markers), AI-powered proctored exams (quizzes, written, hands-on coding, video), super engaging live classrooms, online projects, assignments, mentoring, blockchain-based digitally verifiable degrees / certifications, student digital wallet and more.
Once they are ready to offer programs and courses online, we connect them with global universities to offer their courses to other university students as a Host University or offer other university courses to their own students as a Parent University. Currently, we are building the network and have 112 universities from USA, India, UK, Canada, Australia, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia who have shown interest to join the network and implement credits exchange on our blockchain-based CredX. Also with over 250,000 students using Edorer, we are planning to roll out our first pilot for CredX in the coming summer.