Online teaching came into the spotlight for many students and parents in the last year, and today one of the companies that saw a big lift during that rush of activity is announcing a big round of funding to carry it into what has emerged as a more permanent change of habits for many learners.
GoStudent, a marketplace where K-12 students (and their parents) can find and engage with one-to-one video-based tutors in a variety of subjects, has raised €205 million ($244 million) in a Series C round that values the company at €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion).
The funding is coming at a time of strong growth. The Vienna, Austria-based startup is now live in 18 countries and sees some 400,000 sessions booked monthly on its platform, up 700% year-on-year (and up 15% month-on-month). It says it is on track to double employees to 1,000 and reach 10,000 tutors by the end of this year. The plan is to expand to more countries — Mexico and Canada are next on the list — and to continue growing its lists of tutors and subjects covered.
(As a point of comparison, when it last fundraised in March, GoStudent was booking a mere 250,000 tutoring sessions over its platform.)
DST Global is leading the round, with SoftBank (via its Vision Fund 2), Tencent, Dragoneer and previous backers Coatue, Left Lane Capital and DN Capital also participating. Vienna, Austria-based GoStudent has raised €291 million to date, including a €70 million round only this past March and €13.3 million in a Series A this past November.
The rapid pace of funding and GoStudent’s rising valuation — this investment makes it the highest-valued edtech startup in Europe, the company said — comes amid a streak of funding rounds for edtech companies.
And that may be no surprise: Online and other digital tools in the last year especially felt more relevant (and in many cases were used more) than ever before due to social distancing during the pandemic. (Other recent deals have included funding for Byju’s, Kahoot, Formative, Engageli, Lingoda, Brainly, ClassDojo, Newsela and Yuanfudao, among many others.)
But in the case of GoStudent, it’s also because the startup itself is doing an A+ job in scaling its concept.
The company has been around since 2016 — when it started out initially providing a network for people to help each other answer questions (similar to Brainly), as well as connect with tutors, and for tutors to organize classes — but it was only about 2.5 years ago that GoStudent started to focus more squarely on one-to-one tutoring.
GoStudent provides a fully integrated service, which lets students and their parents select from a range of topics that are typically taught in schools — currently some 30 subjects, including science, math, computing, languages, history, business and more — that they can be tutored on generally or specifically with the aim of taking an exam.
Tutoring comes from people who are tested, vetted and interviewed by GoStudent before they can join the platform; and before engaging tutors, parents and students interview an individual tutor and go through a practice lesson as part of that.
Learning plans are then organized according to students’ schedules and what they are setting out to do (they can send over their homework, or chapters they’re studying in school or even a curriculum outline); and the classes, assessments and payments (based on packages booked), are all handled over the platform, too.
Although there are a number of ways of learning a subject over the internet today — and specifically a number of online-only direct tutoring platforms in the market now (including Brainly, Yuanfudao and others) — Ohswald said that by and large GoStudent’s biggest competition is the bigger in-person business of teaching, and of students and tutors connecting with each other through word of mouth — the “offline shadow market of tutors,” as he calls it.
All the same, while there are tech tools involved in provisioning and running lessons, at its heart GoStudent is also still about humans connecting to help each other, rather than humans connecting with computer programs.
Interestingly, its founders believe that the COVID-19 pandemic effect was not uniformly positive for its business.
“The pandemic had mixed effects,” Ohswald said. “On the one hand there was a natural demand from kids and parents. But with the schools closed, there was less pressure, less exams, less demand for after-school study. That aspect had a negative effect. But more broadly, there was a BIG boost for digital education. So the mindset of the parent and family drastically shifted.”
He noted that many families turned to tutoring to help “support the kids at home, to help them to stop being overwhelmed.” (And I would add, especially in the first part of the lockdown last year when schools were scrambling a little to regroup and teach online, that as a parent, we found it a relief to have at least some consistency with private tutors online at that time.)
What that means, essentially, is that while GoStudent did well in the last year, the company does not want to tie its growth to a specific set of pandemic circumstances that may well become less of an issue in the year ahead.
Indeed, for better or worse, there are bigger factors at play that predate the pandemic. Increasing pressure on students to perform their best competing against others, a continuing focus on testing, and a general level of academic ambition; but also a much easier and cheaper way of finding and connecting with people who can help students feel more supported in their efforts: all of these are also playing a role.
“GoStudent is one of the fastest growing companies that we have ever backed. The company has grown 800% in terms of revenue and 70x in terms of value since 2020 and we are convinced that this is just the beginning,” Nenad Marovac, founder and managing partner, DN Capital, told TechCrunch. “We believe that GoStudent can become one of the top digital schools in the world. By leveraging technology GoStudent democratizes quality education to all at affordable prices.”