10 Educational Startups Changing Academics

While conventional education has its advantages, today’s most innovative minds have devised new and more exciting ways to teach fresh skills to children and adults. For example, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi of Ras al Khaimah has made education one of his top priorities for citizens of the region, even creating a non-profit, quasi-governmental foundation to further education and research.

Of course, not everyone lives in a state or country with such dedicated, government-supported educational opportunities. That doesn’t mean that people can’t find ways to boost their education through other means. Following are some innovative ways individuals and companies are revolutionizing the way people can access and further their education, whether they are working adults or students looking to ace their standardized tests. Using the latest technology and cutting-edge ideas, these startups are leading the way to a brighter future.  

1. Skillshare

After check-in app Hot Potato was acquired by Facebook in 2010, Michael Karnjanaprakorn was looking around for a new idea. Malcolm Ong, a developer at Razorfish, decided to help him launch a startup in New York that would offer classes to students ready to learn everything from public speaking to website design. Chris Dixon, the co-founder of SiteAdvisor and Hunch, was an early investor in the company. The company grew rapidly after it pivoted to online-only courses, raking in over $50 million in investments. Today, Skillshare has more than 3 million users and makes $132 million in revenue per year.  

2. Unacademy

Gaurav Manjal was working for real estate startup Flatchat when he got the idea for an e-learning platform geared towards Indian students. Together with three friends, he launched Unacademy in 2015. The Bangalore-based company quickly attracted interest from investors like Blume Ventures and Nexus Ventures. The company’s educational videos are taught by 10,000 educators, ranging from well-known instructors to small-town teachers. Unacademy’s website and app have around 3 million users, many of whom use the service to prepare for India’s important CBSE high school exams.

3. Galvanize

In 2012, three American entrepreneurs opened the first branch of Galvanize in Denver. Geared specifically towards training data scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, Galvanize caters to the startup teams of the future. Within three years, Galvanize had opened five locations and partnered with Google to offer courses in the UK. The company quickly snapped up fellow tech ed startups Zipfian Academy and Hack Reactor. Investors like ABS Capital and University Venture Fund have pumped more than $124 million into Galvanize’s coffers. Most recently, the startup completed a $32 million Series C funding round.   

4. BYJU’s

Named for founder Byju Reveendran, BYJU was originally designed to help students study for India’s standardized CAT test. However, Reveendran soon switched BYJU’s focus to grade school children, starting with fourth graders and moving all the way up to twelfth graders. With improvements in video technology, BJYU’s was soon helping over 4 million Indian schoolchildren prepare for mathematics and science tests. Reveendran’s modern approach to education has snared a wide range of interested investors. Along with longtime supporter Aarin Capital, the startup has garnered investments from big names like Sequoia Capital, Tencent Holdings, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg.

5. Goodwall

The social media app was started in 2014 by brothers Omar and Taha Bawa. Raised by parents who worked for the UN Refugee Society, the brothers wanted their startup to have a positive effect on the world. Goodwall helps connect high school students ready to graduate with universities looking for the best students. The company also helps university students find internships and jobs as their academic tenure winds down. Goodwall has proved popular with investors; Swiss VC firm Investiere has led several funding rounds for the company, and Randstad recently raised $10.8 million in the startup’s Series A funding round.

6. Guild Education

With a background working for Teach for America and masters degrees in education, Brittany Stich and Rachel Carlson seemed like the natural entrepreneurs to launch an educational startup. Designed for busy working adults, Guild Education’s platform helps employers provide educational courses to their employees. Guild Education has partnered with companies like Walmart, Lowe’s and Chipotle to give employees access to free online classes and tuition assistance. The startup recently completed a $40 million Series C funding round led by Felicis Ventures.  

7. VIPKID

Cindy Mi and Jessie Chan decided in 2013 that there was an untapped sector in the Chinese market for online English-language tutoring services geared towards middle class Chinese students. They launched VIPKID with funds from Northern Light Venture and Sinovation Ventures and quickly found that demand for their company”s services outstripped supply. The startup now has over 200,000 students and employs more than 30,000 native English speakers from the United States and Canada. In 2017, they became China’s latest unicorn when they were valued at 1.5 billion; to date, the tutoring service has raised over $800 million.  

8. RaiseMe

As the first member of his family to go to college, business strategist Preston Silverman knew how crucial financial aid can be to low-income students. However, it wasn’t until he was volunteering at a school in Bangalore that he came up with a solution. Partnering with George Kirkland and Dave Schuman, Silverman launched RaiseMe in 2012. The company provides incremental scholarships to high school students; the more academic accomplishments a student has, the more money they are able to collect. The company’s innovative approach to college scholarships has earned them over $30 million from investors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

9. Udemy

Udemy was founded by Turkish mathematics champion Erin Bali in 2010. Bali, who learned math and science skills online, was inspired to create a more sophisticated version of the internet math forums he enjoyed as a child in Turkey. His e-learning startup offers around 80,000 online courses on subjects as diverse as web development, Chinese and cosmetology. Udemy has been a runaway success, attracting an impressive array of investors, including Norwest Ventures, Founders Circle Capital and Naspers.    

10. ApplyBoard

Iranian student Martin Basiri wanted to go to school in Canada, but it took him almost two years to complete the application process. Years later, after he earned a degree in engineering, he decided to launch a startup to help other international students more easily navigate the application process. Together with his brother Meti, he developed an easy-to-use service that matches students with Canadian and American universities and provides visa assistance. With the support of government grants and investors like Artisan Ventures, ApplyBoard has raised over $13 million.

Whether they are offering helpful online courses or connecting students with academic opportunities, these startups are transforming contemporary education one idea at a time. From video tutorials to scholarship assistance, these companies are giving students of all ages the boost they need to ascend the ladder of success.  

Peter