Malaysian EduTech startups primed for regional growth

While the effects from the Covid-19 pandemic were grim, the imposed lockdowns provided the necessary boon for education technology (edutech) companies worldwide.

Learning across all ages, from pre-school to corporate trainings, move almost instantaneously online as classes were conducted remotely.

John Danner, managing partner of Dunce Capital, a Palo Alto based venture capital firm believes the edutech ecosystem and solutions “accelerated by five years” owing to the growing acceptance of edutech across students, organisations and even educational authorities.

For starters, edutech startups may focus on either hardware or software designed to enhance the learning and education experience. Be it open massive open online courses (MOOC), learning centric apps, or classroom management software, the key focus remains in empowering both tutors and students to converge on a single platform.

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporate (MDEC) as the lead agency of the digital transformation of the economy has been working closely with local edutech startups through various programmes to help them scale up.

In 2021, edutech startups such as Pandai Education, Anak2u and Evulx were kept busy as their solutions help students to cope with shifting changes of the Malaysian education landscape.

These companies took part in various MDEC entrepreneurship development programmes such as GAIN programme, Digital Maker Movement and Founders Grindstone Bootcamp among others.

Pandai Education, for starters, has been a beneficiary of the edutech boom. They were accepted to the prestigious Y Combinator for the Summer 2021 batch.

(From left) Mohd Suhaimi Ramly, COO; Mohd Akmal Akhpah, CTO; and Khairul Anwar Mohamad Zaki of Pandai.

Earlier this year, Pandai raised over US$2 million (RM8.3 million) in its pre-seed and seed rounds, which saw participation from Y Combinator, Global Founders Capital, 500 Global, Soma Capital, and Harvard.

“We founded Pandai before Covid-19 hit and did not specifically build Pandai to be an alternative to schooling.

“Pandai was developed as a complementary tool to what students are already learning at school,” explained Khairul Anwar Mohamad Zaki, co-founder of Pandai Education.

The Pandai app was launched in 2020 to help students through their educational journey, from learning, assessing, and tracking their performances. To date, they have more than 300,000 users.

The content in Pandai is available for all major subjects, for students in Year 1 to Form 5. The content is developed by educational experts and is aligned with the Malaysian national curriculum.

“Pandai also introduced extra-curricular materials such as contest preparatory materials for students who would like to join national-level science and mathematics competitions, such as the popular Kangaroo Math Competition from France,” explained Khairul on Pandai’s unique selling point .

Beyond students, edutech startup Anak2U took the opportunity to deploy complementary products and services during the pandemic. Founded in 2019, the startup offer administrative solutions to teachers, freeing up teachers from mountains of paper work to focus on teach.

As schools were closed during the pandemic, their usage of their application hit a roadblock as it was focused on school management functions.

“We took this opportunity and added new features related to our school management application. These features include including online class management, online class with integration to Zoom, and the function for teachers to share notes and exercises with their students.

“These features allow schools to continue conducting classes online during the pandemic,” said co-founder Wan Muzaffar Wan Hashim.

Meanwhile, eVULX takes a different approach when it came to learning. They pride themselves as a digital unorthodox experience company that specialises in providing immersive and gamified learning simulations to business-to-business (B2B) organisations.

Arun Nagarajah, CEO of eVULX.

While their products are at a minimum virtual in nature, many organisations were focused on reducing expenditure in order to tide over tough times.

“The lack of spending on learning and development by organisations was a big barrier for us in 2021 as they were cautious on where to allocate funds.

“That said, some organisations were interested to explore new innovative learning solutions such as game-based simulations as engagement and learning retention in the new normal has become very important,” said Arun Nagarajah, CEO of eVULX.

Moving forward, these startups have set their sights on expansion come 2022. Pandai aims to initiate another round of Series A funding by the end of 2022.

Anak2u has signed a distribution deal with a Dubai partner to export a white label version of app to the MiddleEast.

While eVULX is only 1 year old, they aim to grow their presense in key ASEAN markets such as Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam. They will also be launching 3 new digital products in 2022.

The future remains bright for edutech startups as more people are embracing hybrid learning that incorporate both physical and virtual modules.

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