Finnish Startup Gets Seed Backing For Its Online Education Platform Play, Eliademy

Finnish startup CBTec, maker of Eliademy, an online education platform offering free cloud-based tools for teachers and learners which launched just over a year ago, has taken in its first significant tranche of external funding from early stage Finnish VC firm Inventure.

The exact amount of seed funding isn’t being disclosed but we’re hearing it’s just over €200,000.

A larger funding round is planned for later this year. CBTec CEO and Eliademy founder, Sotiris Makrygiannis, told TechCrunch: “We will be looking to a 4 million min Series A round by Dec 2014.”

CBTec positions Eliademy as ‘education as a service’ (EaaS) — saying it combines characteristics of MOOCs (massively open online courses) and learning management systems (LMS) and virtual learning environments (VLE). So yeah, online e-learning acronym soup. (Erk.)

Eliademy is based on the open source Moodle learning platform but has been designed to be far cleaner and simpler to use.

“MOOCs providers currently they offer a closed, pre-selected set of courses. You cannot democratize anything if you don’t use the wisdom of the crowds. In addition they cannot be used as LMS within an enterprise domain,” says Makrygiannis, clarifying how Eliademy sets itself apart from other categories and players in the online learning space.

“Mainly EaaS differences are related to how content is created and how is used, we are offering the most open, deployable education as a service.”

In practice, that means individual users of Eliademy (such as teachers) are able to freely create and edit online courses, forums and quizzes, share documents, embed multimedia content, access educational calendars, and access a controllable LMS where they can share course content with students.

That’s the freemium play. Eliademy also has a b2b offering which includes additional business-focused features, such as the ability to create private learning environments, and content management admin interfaces. This service carries a fee, with pricing set between €6 and €10 per year per license.

Eliademy also has a catalog of online courses on its website to pull learnings into its orbit — which is where it starts to resemble a (very small) MOOC. Although not all those courses are free.

So far, Eliademy says it’s localised its offering in 10 languages, and has close to 50,000 registered users. It’s gunning for one million users by summer 2015.

“There more than 50 ongoing localization projects from our community members and around 22 solid published localized variations of our end user interface,” adds Makrygiannis.

“We have around 2,000 users per day, with a steady 10% increase per month of our user base. Over last 365 days from the 1st day we see totaly organic growth since we haven’t invest a penny into paid registrations.”

CBTec has previously been bootstrapping Eliademy from revenue generated from various consulting and mobile software work. It’s also been supported by the Finnish government’s TEKES funding agency, along with local digital business support organisation DIGILE — which collectively provided around a third of its early funding.

The new funding will be used for accelerating its international growth, according to Makrygiannis, with more hires on the cards to drive expansion in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

“We wanted to ramp up faster and expand with a stronger international sales team. Our global reseller network of 25 partners that promote Eliademy for business need more support,” he says.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Sami Lampinen, MD at Inventure added: “The historically slow to develop education industry is ripe for disruption over the next several years. We believe in more effective, personalized and relevant education – the learner has to be in control of the context, pace and timing. Eliademy will have a great impact on the industry, providing a platform for meaningful training and professional development.”

As with many a Finnish startup these days, members of CBTec’s founding team previously worked at Nokia. In fact they worked on MeeGo — the platform Nokia ended up abandoning in favour of Windows Phone. And tomorrow Nokia’s entire mobile making division will become the property of Microsoft.

Makrygiannis refers in an email to the “Nokia disaster”, noting that its hope as a Finnish startup is to offer the sparks of rebirth after such a high profile national business failure.

“I believe we are brilliant example of the aftermath of Nokia,” he says via email. “We never give up on our idea to create something that is loved and helps billions of people on daily basis. We are constantly creating new jobs here in Finland and education as a market is 3 times bigger than GSM so we are on the right track and with the right focus.

“Finland is the hot spot for start ups, innovation and very soon will have 20 global tech companies to cover the emptiness of Nokia. Rovio, supercell, Thinglink and soon hopefully us we will regenerate a more powerful European high tech export focused ecosystem.”