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Target Global leads $3.5M pre-seed in Nigerian online learning platform Edukoya

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Target Global leads $3.5M pre-seed in Nigerian online learning platform Edukoya

For years, offline test preparation centers in Nigeria have provided after-school guidance and tutoring to students who seek to pass entrance examinations. Edtech platforms such as Edukoya have sprung up with the intent to take these models online and maintain affordability for students.

Today, the Lagos- and London-based startup, which builds online education content and offers online tutoring for students and their parents, raised $3.5 million in pre-seed funding led by European VC firm Target Global.

The platform offers a range of features such as a 24/7 exam preparation and homework help, a question bank with step-by-step workings and personalized performance tracking systems.

Edukoya was founded by CEO Honey Ogundeyi in May. She told TechCrunch that the platform, launched this month in beta, plans to go live fully in 2022.

Nigeria’s education system is a stark representation of what exists in most countries in Africa: poorly equipped classrooms, few high-quality teachers, terrible infrastructure, irrelevant curriculum, and ridiculous student-to-teacher ratios (it’s been as high as 46:1 in Nigeria for the primary level).

As a result of these challenges, the average parent seeks after-school classes for their kids. Ogundeyi experienced this during her schooling days in Nigeria, and she said she started Edukoya after contrasting K-12 experiences in the West African country and the U.K.

“Sometimes, even the most brilliant students can be let down by the system,” she said. “If my parents hadn’t made the sacrifice for me to go abroad, all the successes that I’ve had in my career would have been completely different. Now, I have two kids, and seeing that same problem of going to school and struggling with some subjects made me look into getting after-school teachers. And it just struck me that this thing hasn’t changed pretty much for the last 50 years. If we look at all the innovation across different industries, Africa’s education system has remained untouched for 50 years; it’s been stagnant.”

At the end of every K-12 education, the goal of most students is to get into a university. Like in the U.S., where the SAT is the standardized test for college admissions, the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) and West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) are the equivalents for university admissions in Nigeria.

Students typically practice for these exams with materials containing previous test questions. Edukoya bundled these practice tests for both entrance exams (about 20,000) into its mobile application. Edukoya said it provides step-by-step solutions to “solve tough problems on past examination papers,” and students can connect to experienced tutors to help them out whenever they are stuck.

The platform then provides insights with scores, time spent per question and other stats to help students identify their strengths and areas for improvement.

In the few months that the platform has been in beta with a handful of users, Edukoya claims that 96% of students using its platform received higher marks during recent tests than when they didn’t use Edukoya.

Edukoya isn’t the first edtech startup to have launched an online learning or test preparation application in Nigeria. So many similar platforms cropped up in the last five years that it seemed it was the only brand of edtech that could be built in the country.

A lot of them have closed or achieved little or no scale. Edukoya has yet to do either. But after raising the largest pre-seed round in Nigeria and on the continent, the startup is poised to achieve a grander scale than its predecessors, which only secured paltry sums of VC money.

Furthermore, Ogundeyi believes Edukoya’s approach to learning makes it stand out from its competition and previous platforms.

“This model is unique in that we are reaching parents and learners 100% online and supporting them not only across exams but also the day-to-day learning, homework, support, etc.

“Edukoya goes beyond exam prep. First, it’s an educational partner to parents and learners in primary and secondary school. We’ve seen people tackle smaller pockets in different ways, but not in a holistic way that we’re thinking about it,” she said.

Image Credits: Edukoya

Most edtechs that play in this space tend to launch their platforms for grades 1-12. Edukoya is looking at it differently. Its platform is only available to students in grades 10-12, the segment taking exams into tertiary institutions.

Ogundeyi said that once the company tests with this very tight segment and five core subjects, it will open up to cover more subjects and other grade levels.

Explaining why the company adopted this strategy, the CEO said, “I think that’s from my core focus — one of the things I got from Google, which is to make a core group of people love you first. We are working with the last three grades, which are very important in Nigeria because that’s where people take those exams. And we think this is a good sort of test bucket to work with a really core group of people who need an intervention in that space. Once we have proven that it works here, it’s easier for us to expand it across other curriculum years and grades.”

Edukoya is free now, but Odukoya said the company would explore a freemium model where premium products are used to upsell students or parents.

Ogundeyi noted that Edukoya would need to keep sourcing experienced teachers to provide tutoring services for this to happen. For new-age edtechs, including YC-backed Kenyan startup Kidato, Tencent and Owl Ventures portfolio company uLesson, targeting these three communities (students, teachers and parents) is paramount from day one.

This isn’t the CEO’s first spell at running a startup. In 2014, she founded Fashpa, a Nigerian fashion e-commerce store. Her professional career spans consulting and managerial roles at McKinsey & Company, Ericsson, Google and UK-Nigeria Tech Hub.

She was also the founding CMO of Kuda, the Nigerian neobank founded by her husband, Babs Ogundeyi. He is one of the angel investors in this round; others include his co-founder Musty Mustapha, Paystack CEO Shola Akinlade, Stash founders Brandon Krieg and Ed Robinson, and Aux Money CEO Raffael Johnen.

Lina Chong, the investment director at Target Global, confirmed her firm’s investment, saying, “Edukoya’s mission to provide better quality to millions of African students, combined with the team’s ability to execute on this ambition, left an immediate impression on myself and the whole team at Target Global. Their business has the potential to unlock learner potential and improve lives across generations.”

Ogundeyi mentioned that a bulk of the pre-seed funding would expand its team and learner base and build out the technology for its learning platform, including support for its pan-African and European developer hubs.

The CEO was one of the earliest female founders in Nigeria. Seven years after her first startup, she has now raised the largest round at this stage in this “minority class.” Though she’s impressed by the quality of female founders springing forth and the check sizes they are commanding, she said it’s still early days for her clique.

“I’ve been in this space for a long time and I’m particularly passionate about female founders and expanding the scope of what we can do. I don’t make that segmentation so much. Given the right opportunity and the right experience, female founders can build big valuable businesses. This is just day one for us as part of that journey.”

Source: Tech

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Crypto.com expands venture arm to $500 million to back early-stage web3 startups

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Crypto.com, a popular cryptocurrency exchange, has extended its venture arm’s fund size to $500 million as it looks to more aggressively back early-stage startups to help the nascent ecosystem grow, following similar moves by rivals Binance, Coinbase and FTX.

The broadening of Crypto.com Capital comes less than a year after the Singapore-headquartered firm unveiled its maiden fund of $200 million. The fund, unlike those of many of its rivals, has no LPs (meaning, it’s fully financed by the firm’s balance sheet.)

The maiden fund, whose individual checks run up to $10 million in size, has been so far deployed to back about 20 startups including YGG SEA, multi-chain crypto portfolio tracker DeBank, cross-chain token infrastructure Efinity and Ethereum scaling solution Matter Labs.

Crypto.com will continue to focus on backing early-stage startups, said Jon Russell, who joined the firm as a general partner this month, in an interview with TechCrunch.

With the fund, Crypto.com is broadly focusing on gaming, decentralized-finance and startups innovating on cross-chain solutions. But he cautioned that the industry could change and expand, as it has in recent years, to areas “we don’t know about,” hence the firm is keeping an eye out on everything.

Tuesday’s announcement also further illustrates the growing involvement of cryptocurrency exchanges in being the rainmaker – and beneficiary – of the ecosystem which encompasses the industry in which they operate.

FTX, which has backed over 15 startups, last week announced a $2 billion crypto fund. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, also owns Alameda Research, a venture firm that has backed close to 100 web3 startups.

Coinbase Ventures, the investment arm of the only crypto exchange that is publicly traded, and Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, are also among the most prolific investors in the web3 space.

Venture investment in crypto / web3 in 2021 by category (Image credits: Galaxy Digital)

The funding activity in the space, even as most of the aforementioned names often co-invest in startups, is at an all-time high. VCs invested more than $33 billion in crypto/web3 startups in 2021, more than all prior years combined, Galaxy Digital, another prolific investor in the space, wrote in a recent report.

“Valuations in the crypto/blockchain space were 141% higher than the rest of the venture capital space in Q4, highlighting a founder-friendly environment and the intense competition among investors for deal allocations,” the report added.

Scores of venture capital firms have also raised new funds for their crypto investments. Just last year, Andreessen Horowitz added a $2.2 billion crypto fund, Paradigm unveiled a $2.5 billion fund, and Hivemind Capital Partners announced a $1.5 billion fund. Katie Haun, who co-led a16z’s $2.2 billion crypto fund, has left the firm to launch her own crypto-focused fund.

Russell – a former journalist who previously had stints at TechCrunch, The Next Web, and The Ken – said Crypto.com is backing startups to help the ecosystem grow.

“If you’re in the industry, it’s in your interest to help companies grow in the ecosystem and the ecosystem itself to grow,” he said. (Worth pointing out that Solana, Avalanche, Polkadot — as well as some of their major investors — are also aggressively backing startups that are building applications for the native blockchains.)

The startups Crypto.com backs are under no obligation to list their tokens on Crypto.com over any of its rivals or offer the exchange any other preferential treatment, he said. The exchange team similarly doesn’t have a soft spot for the investment arm’s portfolio firms, he added.

(What’s up with the career move? “I’ve been crypto curious for a number of years but I wasn’t gasping to dive in full-time. This project appeals to me because Crypto.com is ambitious but yet it does things the right way. There’s certainly a lot of hype and hot air in crypto and web3 right now, but it’s impossible to ignore the talent that’s pouring into the industry,” he said.)

Crypto.com, which started its life as a blog of professor Matt Blaze (who sold the domain to the crypto exchange), has aggressively expanded in the past year as it looks to court more users. The Singapore-headquartered firm last year agreed to pay more than $700 million for the naming rights of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The downtown Los Angeles complex has been rebranded as Crypto.com Arena for the next 20 years.

The firm, which bills itself as the “fastest-growing” crypto exchange, said at the time of the announcement that the move is positioned to make cryptocurrencies mainstream. Crypto.com, which processes trade volumes of over $2.5 billion every day, also teamed up with Hollywood star Matt Damon last year to promote the brand and cryptocurrencies.

The Damon-starring ad equated buying crypto tokens and NFTs to one of the greatest and boldest accomplishments in the history of humankind. Hyperbole, to be sure, but having the most mainstream American actor as Crypto.com’s celebrity sponsor has certainly helped bring the trading platform, and all that it sells, into the mainstream. The ad went viral and also attracted criticism for being cringeworthy.

Source: Tech

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Focused on smaller cities, Vietnamese social commerce startup Mio raises $8M Series A

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Mio, the Vietnamese social commerce platform, has raised an $8 million Series A, less than a year after announcing its seed round. The funding was led by Jungle Ventures, Patamar Capital and Oliver Jung, with participation from returning investors GGV, Venturra, Hustle Fund, iSEED SEA and Gokul Rajaram.

TechCrunch first covered Mio at the time of its $1 million seed funding in May 2021. Founded in 2020, Mio is a group buying platform that focuses on selling fresh produce and groceries in Tier 2 and 3 cities in Vietnam. The company is able to offer next day delivery because it built a logistics infrastructure that enables it to send produce directly from farms to customers.

The Series A brings Mio’s total raised to $9.1 million, and will be used to expand its logistics and fulfillment system, enter new areas in Vietnam and add new product categories like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and household appliances.

Mio co-founder and chief executive officer Trung Huynh said that since TechCrunch first covered Mio seven months ago, it has achieved 10x gross merchandise value growth, a 10x increase in agents, or resellers, and grew its team from 60 people to 240. It now fulfills more than 10,000 pieces of fresh produce per day, operating in Ho Chi Minh, Thu Duc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An, with plans to expand into northern Vietnam.

The numbers “strengthened our conviction in this model and its potential,” he said. “We need fresh capital to accelerate hiring, product development and supply chain to keep up with the pace of growth as we deepen our presence in existing geographies and expand to new provinces.”

Mio is able to offer next day deliveries because its vertically integrated mayor layers of the value chain, including procurement, warehousing, order sorting and bulk delivery. The startup owns the majority of its logistics infrastructure and uses its own fleet of couriers. Its ability to delivery fresh produce directly from farms to customers in less than 16 hours contributed to higher customer retention and growth, Huynh said, and it will continue to shorten delivery times. .

Mio resellers are called Mio Partners. Huynh said one of the driving factors behind Mio is targeting the right people for the program, or “housewives and stay-home-moms in lower income regions who love sharing value-for-money products to their social circle of friends.”

They aggregate orders, usually from friends and family, and orders are delivered to them in batches for distribution. The startup claims Mio Partners can make up to $400 a month, including a 10% commission on each order and additional commissions based on the monthly performance of other resellers they referred to the program.

“There is a strong possibility” that Mio will expand beyond Vietnam, Huynh said, “but will only be considered at a more appropriate time after we successfully built our playbook for Vietnam.”

Source: Tech

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South Korean HR automation platform flex raises $32M Series B at a $287M valuation

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South Korea-based human resources management platform flex announced today it has closed a $32 million Series B round at a valuation of $298 million. The latest funding, which brings its total raised to $42 million, was led by Greenoaks, with participation from DST Global Partners.  

The startup’s mission is to enable corporations to automate and streamline manual human resources work processes and focus more on people. Its automation tools optimize the employee experience to ensure seamless data flow across groups for use in payroll, e-signature support, on/offboarding and people analytics. It also plans to launch performance review and talents relation management tools in the first quarter of 2022. 

“At flex we define HR as Human Relations, not Human Resources. We believe HR teams deserve world-class software to manage and service their employees, but today it’s clear that many organizations still use spreadsheets or legacy products to make ends meet, said Haenam Chang, CEO of flex.

The two-year-old startup will use the proceeds to scale operations to meet demand, advance its HR automation and SaaS products and increase its headcount.

The Series B funding comes on the back of growth in revenue of almost ten times, compared to last year, driven by a number of product launches and new customers. The startup has primarily been serving SMBs in the IT sector. However, flex plans to expand the addressable market by targeting new industries in the SMB space this year. It did not disclose any user or customer numbers when asked. 

Currently, flex is focused on growing in South Korea by offering a SaaS solution that modernizes the HR functions and processes, which have been slow to adapt to technical progress over the past 20 years. The company said its deep understanding of cultural nuances in people management and the HR regulations in the country help flex to be well-positioned to offer a set of products tailored to South Korean businesses.  

“While some companies have adopted solutions to track and improve how they manage their employees, most still rely on gut instinct or insufficient data to make ad-hoc decisions on employees. At flex, we empower customers with a reliable source of employee data and a rich set of tools to manage their people, maximizing individual and organizational performance. Our goal isn’t just to provide a great HR software solution – it’s to empower companies to better track and manage their most important assets, their people,” Chang said. 

“Korea is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies but has historically lacked a native solution for companies to manage and pay their employees – leaving businesses frustrated and left to develop their own homegrown solutions,” said Josh Cho, principal of Greenoaks. “Now, flex is rapidly building the country’s first next-generation human resources information system and payroll platform. We are excited about their vision for an end-to-end product that will let companies handle all their HR functions in a single place, from performance management to recruiting to payroll and more.” 

Source: Tech

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