S’pore edtech uses software, AI to innovate and prosper, Business News & Top Stories
How do you help children of different cultures become addicted to math and allay parents’ concerns about learning the subject? Local e-learning provider KooBits seems to have the solution.
Since 2014, the company has offered an online math program, KooBits Math, to primary schools in Singapore and the region.
The program combines animations, daily challenges, and other game-like features to encourage children to learn math concepts and solve related problems.
What makes the program unique? It allows children to learn math at their own pace in a fun way that promotes independent learning and thinking.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year, the company seized the opportunities offered by the home learning hub to expand its online math curriculum.
KooBits founder and CEO Stanley Han, 40, launched a new version of the program in April last year, to which parents could subscribe directly.
The new version contained more and simpler explanations of the concepts in case the children did not learn them in class, among other changes.
The product became available as parents around the world searched for ways to keep their children occupied at home.
âIt turned out to be a very good solution,â Mr. Han laughs.
In December, KooBits’ mainstream program’s subscription revenue exceeded that of its school program.
The company now has nearly 200,000 users in 56 countries. It doubled its turnover last year compared to 2019 and is on track to break that record this year.
Today, nearly 400 schools in 13 countries, mostly in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, the Philippines, and Cambodia, use KooBits Math, which is tailored to each country’s math curriculum. In Singapore, almost half of all primary schools use the program.
But the company’s success has not been easy. When Mr. Han co-founded the company in 2007 while graduating in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National University of Singapore, she began to develop interactive e-books in English to help children improve their writing skills. .
He went on to develop other educational technology products, including KooBits Math, but these were slow to take off.
âWe came very close to folding. At one point we only had $ 7,000 left and we wondered whether to sell the office furniture to support us for another week or close the business, âhe recalls.
âFortunately, the very next day we received five orders from schools for KooBits Math, and that was the turning point for us. “
A game-changing innovation
To grow and prosper, the company has invested in software innovations to make KooBits Math accessible to more people. The enterprise development agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG) contributed to this effort.
âLanguage barriers are one of the biggest obstacles to the spread of quality education, and we wanted to find a technological solution to this problem,â says Han.
The company launched a research project with ESG in 2019 to create a program that can quickly and automatically translate its content for different markets.
The program also had to recognize and localize a variety of terms relating to math, culture, money, and other references. The development of the revolutionary program took 15 months.
âNow we can translate our entire content store, from videos and questions to stories, into another language and localize it in three months,â says Han.
KooBits launched Bahasa Indonesian versions of its school and consumer programs in Indonesia in August, and Traditional Chinese versions in Hong Kong last month.
The company is working on traditional Chinese versions localized for Taiwan and has other online marketplaces.
âOur project with ESG is a game-changer for our scalability. We can make our content relevant to children around the world, no matter what language they speak.
Diversify to grow
Mr. Han has other plans to help KooBits grow, including the introduction of a science product in the near future. Inspired by his five-year-old daughter, he also plans to expand math curricula to include preschool math.
âI started my daughter on KooBits Math a few months ago because my wife found it difficult to teach her math. I tried to get started, but I have an unpredictable schedule, âhe says.
âI have seen this incredible transformation in my daughter’s interest in math, but I think the content in Primary 1 is not really suitable (for her age). So now we are thinking about what we can do to help preschoolers.
Meanwhile, KooBits continues to upgrade its flagship school and consumer math programs. This includes strengthening their ability to personalize learning.
Exploit expertise to develop abroad
Seeking expert help is crucial for growth, especially overseas. When KooBits wanted to enter the Philippine market in 2017, they contacted ESG for advice.
âThrough ESG, we have met and spoken to several people in the Philippines to understand the local market and the general operating environment. With their contribution, we were able to personalize our product and start generating revenue in six months, âsaid Han.
From 2017 to last year, the company took a similar approach, exploring markets such as Indonesia, Dubai, Australia, UK, US, and China.
âWhen you’re a small business, it can be difficult to do your due diligence with potential partners overseas. But if a trusted entity like ESG recommends certain partners whether or not the partnership works, at least you know you’ll be working with people who are above the bar. It is very important to enter a new market.
This is the second in a six-part series called “Keep Growing” in partnership with