When investing, capital is at risk
Educational inequality is rife, and students already at an advantage are further boosted by private tuition as they prepare for key exams. In fact, 1 in 4 children are now privately tutored for their exams, spending on average £800 a year for a market worth £2b annually.
SchoolOnline is democratising access to high quality tuition from expert examiners through a scalable EdTech platform. SchoolOnline’s mission is to offer an alternative to this traditional private tuition market by harnessing the power of technology.
We sat down with founder Eddy Chan to find out more.
We’d love to know about your career before SchoolOnline and where you first found that entrepreneurial spark.
I previously enjoyed a lengthy career in the financial markets, but I have always wanted to found a business which can disrupt a sector, and that’s exactly what SchoolOnline does. I am passionate about addressing the huge educational inequalities that exist for the majority of children not just in the UK, but also globally, and Covid has only made these issues even more apparent. It’s a very exciting time for SchoolOnline and the possibilities that now exist for us to make a difference.
What motivated you to start School Online and how does the platform help with education inequality?
When my eldest daughter started secondary school, we were looking for a tutor for her and were horrified by the prices! Up to £75/h in London! We were fortunate to be able to afford it and could see what an enormous difference it made to my daughter, but it really highlighted how unfairly the system was stacked against those kids who didn’t have the resources to pay for this extra help. That’s where I got the idea for developing our unique approach to the market – delivering high quality tuition in a highly scalable format so more students can access the benefits.
With so many different online resources for students, how does SchoolOnline differentiate itself?
There are two key points that differentiate us: 1) our quality assured, TV production level content. While the market is well served with LMS platforms and tech, it is definitely lacking in quality content. Given our platform provides both, it puts us in a strong position. 2) Our focus on revision support rather than curriculum teaching.
What can you tell us about the market and how you are positioning yourself for success?
The EdTech market has exploded in recent years, with many new products coming to market. However many of these are AI, infrastructure or hardware based, and there is a serious lack of highly credible, quality content. We have spent the last 5 years building our core library of content and the supporting EdTech ecosystem rich in functionality, to serve this market with that reliable, quality assured content they are looking for. Not only have we built an outstanding, award winning product, we are also approaching the market across a range of verticals to maximise our revenue opportunity, and therefore have a strong team that is capable of serving the UK schools market, International schools market, Corporate Partnerships, Football Club Trust Partnerships, Domestic B2C and International B2C.
Could you tell us about some of your biggest achievements to date?
There are 3 real highlights that stand out for me. Firstly, achieving our Tesco Clubcard partnership and other corporate partnerships. For us, being a young company, this is a tremendous success and a huge opportunity for exposure to a market at very little up front cost.
Secondly, our pilot results and subsequent partnership with Charlton Athletic Community Trust. Considered by many in the FA Trust world to be leaders in their community education work, CACT chose our platform for their educational delivery based on its credibility and quality. The pilot results, which showed 100.7% English and 76.7% Maths average improvement in just 6 weeks really underscored this. With 92 football clubs in the UK, each with significant reach into schools and the local community this is a huge opportunity, both in scale and the ability to impact exactly those kids who need help the most.
The last achievement that really stands out for me is being finalists in 3 categories at the BETT awards this year. This is a massive achievement for us, as competition for these awards is fierce, and being finalists in 3 categories is quite unusual.
What are you most excited to see SchoolOnline accomplish in the next few years?
Establishing our footprint in the UK market and growing our international reach through our partnerships. We know we have a fantastic product, with strong accolades and awards, and a growing loyal customer base. After many years of hard work, we’re now on the precipice of seeing the snowball effect with the major growth that will accompany it.
What is your favourite feature of the SchoolOnline platform?
It has to be the teacher tools and auto-marking functionality. Teachers spend hundreds of hours marking papers every year, particularly the SATs past papers they use for benchmarking. Being able to set these through the platform with most questions auto-marked (in their original format, not converted to multiple choice!) is a huge time saver for them and allows teachers to focus on what they do best: teaching.
Why do you think right now is the best time for SchoolOnline to grow?
Over the last 2 years, there has been a seismic shift in how teachers, schools, parents and students view online education and “blended learning”. Pre-pandemic, EdTech was considered somewhat of a luxury, or an add-on. That has shifted entirely now, where all schools will have provision and plans in place for blended learning, and ensuring they are able to rapidly shift to online delivery as soon as is needed.
Add onto that the huge learning gaps many students are still carrying from all of those lost hours in the classroom, and the need for our platform becomes even greater. Plus, as we are heading into a major cost of living crisis, many parents are going to be priced out of the traditional tutoring market and will be looking for alternatives to help their kids achieve their best outcomes. We are perfectly poised to help.
What do you plan to do with the money you raise?
Having just finished a major round of development to deliver our SchoolOnline Classroom product and major enhancements to our B2C product, our clear focus is on taking the product to market now. We intend to utilise the money we raise largely on marketing – both in person school events and trade shows as well as direct digital marketing and SEO to consumers. We also intend to continue our work with our other B2B partners to broaden our verticals, including international agents, content distribution partners, and virtual classroom providers amongst others.
What do you love to do in your free time?
I love to cook, spend time with my family, and cook for my family! I am constantly on TikTok following the cooking accounts – it’s addictive!
If you weren’t building SchoolOnline, what do you think you’d be doing?
Most likely still trading FX, as this was where I spent the first 25 years of my career and what allowed me to have the capital to build SchoolOnline in order to give back.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building SchoolOnline?
Understanding our customer and what their pain points and needs are, is absolutely vital to building a successful business. We have had a strong focus on that over the last year and are seeing the fruits of that now, where we are establishing a very clear product-market fit.
SchoolOnline is a great opportunity to invest in a scalable platform in a growing market. Check out their pitch here.