Index Ventures recently backed the computing education-focused hardware startup Kano — via one of its partners, Saul Klein. Today the firm is putting some money behind a more mainstream education startup, called Gojimo, that’s targeting mobile as a delivery and engagement platform for learning.
Gojimo started life back in 2009 as a single education app built by a 17-year-old U.K. schoolkid called George Burgess (with a little help from his geography teacher to come up with the content for the first app).
That one app spawned a business, called EducationApps, which in turned spawned scores of standalone education apps — more than one hundred in all, covering various subjects and qualifications, which collectively garnered a quarter of a million downloads.
That piecemeal approach obviously presents scalability challenges to a startup. So Burgess, now 21, is consolidating all those apps into a new single platform approach to mobile education — and launching a new mobile education business to house it.
Call it a pivot from multiple app management chaos to single unified platform order, although the focus of the business remains unchanged — allowing Burgess to transfer some of the content previously used in EducationApps and, more importantly, the relationships it built up with education providers over to his new venture.
“For us it’s a complete restart, it’s a refresh, it’s a rebrand, and it also takes into account everything we’ve learnt — for example from our users, from students, from teachers, and even from publishers we’ve worked with over the past few years,” Burgess tells TechCrunch.
“We have a bit of content which we’ve made ourselves, back in the day, some of our early stuff, but [the content in Gojimo is being provided] pretty much all from major publishers,” he adds.
The platform is launching with content from Oxford University Press and McGraw Hill, with negotiations to add additional content from other “major” education publishers at an advanced stage, says Burgess.
“We expect, half way through this year, to have every major U.K. academic publisher on there,” he adds.
The Gojimo platform will offer (initially U.S. and U.K. — but with a longer term plan to expand into developing countries) students a one-stop-shop for easily locating relevant content for the particular subjects and qualifications they are studying, packaging up quizzes and study guides for a mobile form-factor, initially as an iOS app.
Gojimo plans to support more types of content in future, such as multimedia content, but is initially focusing on ebook-style content formatted for mobile, and is initially positioning the platform as an “exam tool” centred on revision, rather than general learning.
“Longer term we definitely want to move into broader learning — whether it’s the core text-books or life-long learning, because I think the technology we’re building positions us quite nicely for that. But certainly now the focus is on exam prep,” he says.
The platform is also going to get more sophisticated in terms of its feature-set later this year, with “interactivity” and “gamification elements” planned to increase stickiness and user engagement, including a student leaderboard so learners can quantify their progress against their peers.
“We’re looking at how we can build really interesting interactive functionality… which helps students learn better, helps them engage more and makes this sort of content more interactive,” says Burgess.
Future functionality will also include allowing teachers to assign work via the platform — such as reading a chapter, or taking a quizz — with the teacher then receiving notifications when students have completed work and/or receiving details of the student’s score. Burgess says these teacher tools will launch in March or April.
While the Gojimo app itself is free to download, students (or schools) pay for the specific content they’re after — buying study guides and other educational content as in-app purchases, which gives Gojimo its business model.
Selling bulk content licenses to schools is a key plank of Gojimo’s business strategy here. Burgess says it spent a lot of time building its own online volume selling system to allow schools to bulk buy content for students — to get round restrictions with trying to implement bulk purchasing via Apple’s App Store.
‘We’re now in a position where we can volume sell to schools, which is why we’re starting to market that ability,” he adds. (Gojimo was at the BETT fare earlier this month to start trying to drum up interest).
Burgess’ experience with EducationApps and his education publisher connections has attracted Index as lead investor in a $1 million+ seed round, being announced today, along with Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright — the trio behind Innocent Drinks. They’re investing in Gojimo through their consumer venture fund, JamJar Investments.
Commenting on the funding round in a statement, Saul Klein, partner at Index, said: “By reimagining education for the smartphone and tablet-native generation of students, George’s ambition is nothing less than to change the way we teach and learn. At Index, we believe his impact will be felt far beyond the classroom walls and we are thrilled to be working with him.”