We have been at the forefront of the edtech evolution in Southeast Asia, closely following the industry and some of the startups that are pioneering the changes.

One of the main stakeholders is the edtech accelerator EduSpaze, which has been an advocate for the region’s edtech industry. In this piece, we speak to their current portfolio companies, Indonesian educational platform, FAMMI which is designed to help modern schools and families provide the best practices for students and HoloTracker, which enables educators to easily record contextual data on day-to-day learning behaviour.

Henny Irniawanm is the Co-founder and CMO of FAMMI and Ng Aik Yang is the Co-CEO of HoloTracker, both of whom were kind enough to share their thoughts on the industry in Southeast Asia.

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Why did you choose to join the EduSpaze accelerator programme?

Henny (H): I chose to join the EduSpaze accelerator programme for several reasons. Firstly, our product, Fammi, has already matured in Indonesia and we believe that the pain points we identified in Indonesia are also applicable in other countries. Therefore, we were keen to explore the potential of expanding our product in other markets.

As an EdTech accelerator, EduSpaze has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the education technology industry that we were eager to tap into. We wanted to understand how far the industry could go, how big the market was and how far its impact could reach. EduSpaze’s reputation as a leading EdTech accelerator made it an attractive option for us to learn more about the industry and expand our own knowledge.

Additionally, we saw the value in EduSpaze’s extensive network. We were interested in seeing how our company would be valued by other countries, how sustainable our business strategies are, and how we could take feedback from these networks to improve our product. We also wanted to explore the available opportunities moving forward, and having access to EduSpaze’s network would undoubtedly provide us with easier market access to expanding outside of Indonesia. We believe that taking advantage of this network will help us take our business to the next level.

Aik (A): I felt that it was the right time for our start-up to grow from an “exciting geeky project with positive demand” to a solid EdTech company that can capture our upcoming traction and make an impact in a serious way.

Frankly speaking, the turn of the year into 2023 was hectic for our team. Many schools were starting to adopt our product, and the recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence not only opened opportunities for us to make leaps in technological improvements, but its virality helped us explain our product to the mainstream market more easily. When we were invited by MOE to propose a nationwide implementation in January 2023, we knew we needed to start finding a method amidst the madness. EduSpaze provided us with just the right platform to do so: blending “do good” with “do well”, pedagogy with business, and bridging vision with execution.

When I first heard about EduSpaze’s inception in 2019, I was excited to see that Singapore and Southeast Asia would finally have an education-focused accelerator to take educational innovation in the region to the next level. Having worked very closely on the ground as an educational entrepreneur for the last decade, I was very privy to the tangible gap between talk of the “future of education” and the real practice in schools and classrooms. There was a lot of chatter and vision about what education can be, but not many stakeholders were able to push the needle to turn that into reality.

I faced many problems myself: I was constantly needing to educate all stakeholders I worked with, whether it was schools or investors. When all the stakeholders in the ecosystems are not in the same tune, it can be difficult for innovators to thrive. EduSpaze fills that ecosystem-level gap well, by bringing together people with the right problems and the right solutions so that we are all greater than the sum of our parts.

How would you describe the problem you are solving in the education industry?

A: How do we evidence the growth of students beyond using traditional academic grades?

By now, it is probably cliché to say that today’s students will grow up in a world that is unrecognizable to us (adults, and to some extent, youth, and children) by the time they enter the workforce. Everyone talks about how we need to prepare them to discover and grow their skills and character traits in dimensions such as their social-emotional competencies. With due credit, learning institutions around the world are already going through a major restructuring of their resources to bridge that gap.

Children today go through all kinds of new teaching and learning pedagogies in and out of school.
Yet, there exists an elephant in the room: how do we know that our students are really growing in these “new” domains? Grades are not enough, but it’s all the education industry has at present. Speak to any school leader, teacher or parent about their student’s performance, and academic grades are still the main means by which they speak about student growth. It doesn’t matter how much they believe in a “better”, more “holistic” way of education. Without a systematic way of measuring and articulating whole-student growth, all our investments into new teaching and learning methods don’t count for much.

I said earlier that we were looking for a method in the madness when it came to running our business. At the ground level, it is the same for schools and articulating student growth. The pressure to evidence whole-student learning progress comes from all directions – parents, institutes of higher learning, businesses, and the ministry. Unfortunately, teachers now take the main burden to plug this gap, by writing endless reports of how they are fulfilling “21st-century competencies” or “mental well-being” in their lessons. It can take them weeks to do. Depending on where you are, April/May and September/October are now times when no teacher is found having fun outside: they are just swamped with report writing!

To summarise, I would say we address problems at two levels: at the systems level, helping schools adopt a systematic way to communicate whole-student progress, and at the ground level, relieving teachers of their onerous report-writing tasks.

H: Based on our survey, we found 98% of parents struggle with being a parent and raising their children well, becoming increasingly prevalent and causing severe mental health issues for parents. In fact, 68% of women and 57% of men who have mental health issues are parents.

Our goal is to help parents overcome these issues and ensure they don’t have to struggle with their relationship with their children. Using our CARE approach (standing for Consult, Assess, Relearn and Empower) for the whole family, our focus is to provide a holistic approach to equip parents with the right tools and resources to raise a better generation of individuals. Our approach is designed to help parents build better relationships with their children by assessing the issues and relearning how to communicate effectively. This will not only benefit the parents but also have a positive impact on the children’s mental health and well-being.

Furthermore, we recognise that schools, teachers, staff, friends, and society as a whole also play a critical role in shaping a child’s growth and development. Therefore, we aim to collaborate with these stakeholders to ensure that our approach is as effective as possible.

In summary, our company is solving a crucial problem in the education industry by helping parents build better relationships with their children. We aim to provide a holistic approach through our CARE methodology to ensure that we make a positive impact on the children’s mental health and well-being, which will ultimately lead to a better generation of individuals.

What is the biggest challenge facing your company right now?

H: Currently, the biggest challenge facing our company is how to scale up our operations and shorten the approval process for us to sign contracts with the schools due to the time it takes to validate our solutions. We are still figuring out how to replicate our success stories in one area to other schools or even countries, to make the process more efficient and to achieve faster growth.

Another challenge we face is validating our unique value proposition (UVP) to potential customers. It’s essential to make people aware that our products are unique and can’t be found elsewhere. However, we struggle to maintain higher retention rates, even though acquiring customers initially is not that difficult. To address this, we believe that we need to conduct more A/B testing to improve the user experience and ensure that our products meet the needs of our customers.

Overall, we recognize that scaling up our company will require us to address these challenges and find effective solutions. We are continually reviewing our processes and experimenting with new approaches to ensure that we can grow our company and provide our services to more customers efficiently.

A: The education landscape is shifting ever so quickly. Responding to that isn’t the difficult part. In fact, that’s the exciting part. It’s the other side of the equation: our stakeholders, who are becoming more present to those shifts with every passing day, require solutions that work well, work fast, and work in a scalable way. Dealing with this trilemma and delivering optimally as a resource-limited start-up is a challenge.

For example, we’ve recently been able to integrate AI features that help to automate teacher reports that massively save time in their workflow – we’re talking 10-20 hours of work into just a couple of hours, or even less than an hour. However, launching a feature like this while trying to balance all three areas: making a positive impact (we don’t want to create a product that creates a lot of charismatic nonsense), and making sure we can handle the new interested schools, all while making sure we validate that these features are fit-for-scale can be a challenge that we hope interested investors can help us to solve.

What is the biggest challenge facing the whole edtech industry at the moment?

A: Filtering out nonsensical solutions, while making sure the ones that work don’t get swept away too. I like to think that education as a whole is going through a reflexive moment: we hear on a daily how the investors are cooling down especially on early-stage EdTech investments, at the same time we have our end-consumers hitting an existential crisis with the proliferation of AI: what are the roles of teachers going to be when AI essentially replaces much of the tasks like content creation, delivery, or marking? The challenge the industry faces is finding impactful solutions that really make a difference, because the problems are clearer than before, and the opportunity is great to make a real impact.

H: The edtech industry is currently facing several challenges. One of the most significant challenges is the intense competition within the market. As more and more companies enter the industry, it’s becoming a red ocean where companies need to find unique ways to stand out in the market.
Another significant challenge is the limited budgets of schools (despite government sponsorship or aid) and the low willingness to pay by parents. This presents a barrier for edtech companies to provide their services to these groups.

The market is growing rapidly and, as a result, solutions need to be more dynamic and development needs to be faster. For instance, the emergence of AI-powered tools such as ChatGPT has changed the industry significantly. Companies need to keep up with the latest technological developments to remain competitive.

Finally, edtech companies need to keep their information up to date and accelerate themselves to remain relevant. The pace of change in the industry is fast, and companies need to continually adapt to new developments and advancements to provide effective solutions to customers.
Overall, these challenges present significant obstacles for edtech companies, and addressing them will be crucial for the industry’s growth and success in the future.

What’s next for your startup?

H: The future of our startup involves taking our CARE approach to the next level by making it as seamless as possible for our users. We want our platform to be easily accessible and intuitive so that users can fully understand the importance of having our platform to help them improve their family relationships.

We plan to provide more professional experts who are certified to offer guidance and support to our users as well as attract more parents to join our community so that they can empower each other and share their experiences.

Our goal is to make our B2B2C platform easily accessible for the B2C part so that we can influence parents and make them aware of the importance of having support in managing their family relationships. We aim to achieve a higher engagement rate for our users, by providing a personalised AI-powered experience.

As part of our expansion plans, we want to pilot our projects in other countries, especially in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. We are excited about the future and are committed to providing innovative solutions to help families build stronger, healthier relationships.

A: I’m really excited for us to finally hit the ground running in the region. It has always been our ambition – to create a tool that stands for educational equity and that means working beyond the very privileged system Singapore has. It seems that this year we are likely to hit our milestones locally with MOE inviting us to propose a nationwide solution, and that means we can really look towards the region and start making our impact at scale. We’re also launching a new AI module in May, as I mentioned earlier, that I think is a real game changer for teachers around the world!