Teachers have long supplemented their incomes by tutoring. And there’s perhaps never been a better, or easier, time to do it than right now. The reason: China-based online education companies are in an apparent race with each other to hire U.S. teachers who’d like to work from home this summer and, using their webcams, “teach cute kids” the English language — in the marketing parlance of one of those companies, Beijing-based VIPKid.
If you doubt that’s true, you haven’t been looking at the classifieds. Just today, five-year-old VIPKid — which reportedly raised $200 million in fresh funding last summer at a $1.5 billion valuation — listed openings for thousands of U.S. teachers, from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, to Saint Joseph, Missouri, to Carmel, Indiana.
Its jobs offensive comes just three days after seven-year-old, Beijing-based China Online Education Group, known as 51Talk, did precisely the same thing.
Both companies are growing quickly and, in the process, trying to outgun competitors. These include 14-year-old, Goldman Sachs-backed iTutorGroup, which operates out of Shanghai as VIPABC and boasts of its $1 billion valuation on its home page, and 15-year-old TAL Education Group, a holding company for a group of tutoring-related companies that went public in 2010 and now enjoys a roughly $17 billion market cap. (51Talk is also publicly traded, having IPO’d in 2016. Its market cap is currently $215 million.)
There’s seemingly plenty of demand for all. According to a recent report from the China-focused consultancy iResearch, online language lessons in China represented a $4.5 billion market opportunity in 2016 and is expected to grow to nearly $8 billion by next year.
VIPKID seems to be winning the war for media attention, however. Back in January, Forbes named the company the best employer when it comes to work-from-home jobs (up from fifth place in 2017). Its founder, Cindy Mi, has also received glowing coverage in Bloomberg, the Financial Times, and Fast Company, among numerous other English-language outlets. (We also featured Mi in a fireside chat at our signature Disrupt event in San Francisco last fall.)
According to one of its job listings today, teachers are paid on average between $14 and $18 an hour and the openings are available to candidates who are eligible to work in the U.S. or Canada, have a bachelor’s degree in any field, and have at least one school year of traditional teaching, mentoring, or tutoring experience.
VIPKid — which is backed by Sequoia Capital, Learn Capital, and an investment firm cofounded by Alibaba’s Jack Ma, among others — says it already works with more than 30,000 teachers. We’ll have to see how much those numbers change after this summer.