Aiming to be India’s Quora, Unacademy, an online platform for free education has raised $500,000 in its first round of external investment led by Blume Ventures and marquees angels such as Rajan Anandan (Google), Sumit Jain (CommonFloor), Aprameya Radhakrishna (Taxi4Sure), Sujeet Kumar (earlier Flipkart), Phanindra Sama (RedBus) among others.
The funds will be used for product development and scaling the platform for thousands of educators. Product development will happen both on the educator and the consumer side, wherein the startup will work on developing more tools for educators as well as making the content more interactive for users. Users will also be able to track courses on the platform.
Gaurav Munjal, Co-Founder and CEO, Unacademy stated, “Unacademy’s vision is to distribute knowledge of the educators and innovators in the form of mini-courses having lessons of not more than 10 minutes each. The platform makes the discovery of these courses easy which the learners can then take and track their progress.”
The startup founded by Gaurav along with Roman Saini, Hemesh Singh and Sachin Gupta, started as an educational YouTube channel in 2011 and was launched as a free learning platform Unacademy in January 2016. It has grown to be one of the most subscribed educational channels in the country, boasting of over 15 Mn video views so far. The platform has more than 1600 lessons ranging from learning a new language to cracking government examinations and is aiming to grow to 1 Mn registered users by the end of 2016.
Karthik Reddy, Managing Partner, Blume Ventures said, “Unacademy is a manifestation of the team’s vision to make all forms of educative material so intuitive and accessible that learning becomes extremely interesting and scalable. Whether it’s the brightest kid in class summarising course material for his fellow classmates or someone getting tips for a civil services exam or a first-time traveller to the US getting life tips, these were non-scalable in the past. By fluidly weaving them into the content format that Unacademy has, teaching and learning can be truly democratic – at an unprecedented scale. Delivery of education in India needs radical shifts and Unacademy is a bet to deliver that objective.”
Unacademy allows educators to create courses on the platform. All educators go through an interview process and selection is based on their experience. The company helps educators create these courses which are then available on the platform for free. Currently, the educator list consists of around 100 educators which include IITians, CAs, IAS officers, teachers, who have contributed to more than 1500 free lessons on the platform on a wide variety of subjects. Recently Kiran Bedi made a course on Time Management and Productivity.
Unacademy aims to disrupt the education space in a big way, by addressing the grassroot level issues. There are others in the fray too such as Khan Academy, an US-based non-profit educational organisation known for revolutionizing the way school children learn math and science in the US, which is endorsed by the likes of Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp
Last year, it also entered into a strategic not-for-profit partnership with the Tata Trusts, promoted by the $108 Bn Tata Group to leverage technology to provide free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere in India.
But the sector is also fraught with challenges. Recently, Purple Squirrel, a Mumbai-based ed-tech company, backed by Matrix Partners shut down its operations in lieu of continuously dipping sales and increasing cash burn rate. That too despite raising over INR15 Cr in funding. Interestingly, while online education market is pegged to grow to $40 Bn next year, however, still there has not been seen much interest from VC’s to invest billions in this category. Data from venture capital analytics firm Tracxn shows that ed-tech has received less than one percent of the venture capital flow into India this year, pointing out to the fact that building a sustainable ed-tech business in India’s largely immature and unorganized market is not an easy ball game.
In the first week of May, Delhi-based iDreamCareer.com, raised an undisclosed amount in funding in Pre-Series A funding from media house BCCL’s (Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd) strategic investment arm Brand Capital. Earlier this year, ed-tech startup Byju’s raised $75 Mn from Sequoia India and Belgium-based investment firm Sofina, while Mumbai-based edtech startup, Testbook raised an undisclosed amount of funding from publishing house S. Chand and Company.
This month, Blume Ventures itself invested an undisclosed amount of funding in Pre-Series A round of Prepathon, a learning app for competitive exams. Other recent investments of Blume include Bangalore-based health and fitness app HealthifyMe, loyalty and marketing platform m.Paani solutions, contacts management app InTouchApp, and online wedding planner portal, The Wedding Brigade.