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The EduTech sector has strongly grown over the pandemic — even public schools started to use an online format. What is it: a hype, a temporary solution or a steady trend? Today, investors are investing in EduTech projects with pleasure. But is everything so rosy? What are the problems in this area? Grigory Avetov helps to answer all these questions in the Angel Talks video podcast of Sergey Belyaev and Ivan Lomakin.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Grigory Avetov is a Candidate of Economic Sciences, the author of numerous scientific publications and monographs on the formation of entrepreneurial ecosystems and interethnic communications. Since 2014, Rector and General Director of the Synergy Business School, organizer of a variety of business events: Synergy Global Forum, Big business Forum “Transformation”, “Reset” (Kazan), Synergy Insight Forum, Synergy Art Forum, Synergy Digital Forum, Synergy Women Forum, “Territory of Business”. Since 2019, he has been a co-founder of Megacampus.
I had experience of learning on various online platforms, which was inconvenient. So I had a hypothesis about creating a single platform that would cover the needs of people in online education in different areas. This is how the Megacampus was created: based on the concept associated with educational anarchism. We can say that we are an anti-university, because we claim that in a number of professions the classical education is not necessary, for example, game design. That’s why we started with professions that are not taught in the universities. On our subscription platform, there are both author’s courses and professional ones, and perhaps even good strong academic courses, soft skills, hard skills will appear.
We are developing the concept of our platform in an absolutely original way: no one does this; we go against the rules of the educational market.
Standardly the entire educational market goes in the direction of increasing checks and payments before the start of the course itself. It is believed that paying in advance will help a person to be more motivated and go through training, but if they stop studying it is not so important anymore. Thus, universities are getting money from the number of students, not from attendance. The whole world of education exists like this: money is taken forward, and what comes next does not affect business indices in any way: a person can miss the classes, the income from this will not fall.
We went the other way, deciding that we would not take money for tuition in advance, we would not push people to take loans for education. The initial subscription on our website costs $30 per month, then every quarter the cost decreases and in a year it will be $10 per month. So long, there is only a web version of our platform, but work is already underway to develop the application.
Megacampus is headquartered in Los Angeles, while the company itself is registered in Denver. The platform has Russian and English interfaces — Arabic one will be added soon. All courses presented on the platform will be translated from Russian to English and vice versa. Foreign speakers and companies will also be represented — there are already two global corporations with which we are currently producing courses. We are also planning to develop in the Indian market, and in the near future, Hindi will become the fourth language of our platform.
We are romantics, and we have a romantic idea. It is about creating affordable education all around the world. How and whether it is possible to make money on this — is not clear yet…
Economically, we have not calculated our “bright future” yet, most likely there will be no earnings in the upcoming and next year. Initially, we wanted to fundraise, but then we decided to move on our own. The main thing now is to stick to the stated mission: high-quality, inexpensive, multilingual education.
Today, there are a lot of online universities. We are still very small to compete with such large players in the Edu Tech market, but they will not be a problem in the future with our growth. Online universities are definitely not our competitors: we want to catch the attention of the mass consumer, who has a subscription to Netflix, to the UFC, and I want him to have a subscription to Megacampus in the near future.
I would like to believe that the future of education platforms lies in new business models, because Megacampus is a representative of such a system. I have a dream that a person from Bangladesh, who has an average income, could remotely get an education in the specialty “chatbot architect” on our platform and continue to earn more and more with this. In this way, thanks to our platform, MegaCampus can help similar people who don’t have another educational tool.
Undoubtedly, all educational processes will not go online, but this kind of market is already growing by more than 30% annually: today it is $180 billion and is projected to reach $230 billion by 2025. Offline will not die, but there will definitely be more online, because narrow technical specialists have received great development, and it is more convenient to study a number of professions remotely. I think that a complete replacement will not happen — there will be an opportunity to get both offline and online education on an equal basis.
First problem of online learning is that a person does not learn well on their own: they are registered, pay money, sign up, but do not study. Online learning does not involve, especially children — it is very difficult to keep their attention. Another reason is the lack or weak socialization. And it really matters, because it gives a sense of community: to learn together, to have a certain regime, a stimulus to move and develop. And here I see a number of possible solutions: gamification, cool prizes for additional motivation, group dynamics, the introduction of offline elements. It is also useful to invite star experts.
LMS (a learning management system in the form of a software application for the administration of online training courses — Startup Jedi) has a huge potential and an active market now. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in online learning: there is no artificial intelligence, LMS are mostly inconvenient. In Russia, I consider Skillbox and GeekBrains to be the best in this area. Skyeng has a very good ecosystem and IT infrastructure. I really liked Yandex praktikum. The workshop is very cool and very expensive, the team really did it best. Mindvalley, Khan Academy has the best educational platforms in the world. The leaders in star courses are definitely Masterclass, and one of the coolest educational platforms now at Harvard Online Courses. In general, I think such large universities will continue to create their own LMS, and it will be really difficult to compete with them, because they produce great content. However, it should be noted that such content will still be severely limited due to the specifics of educational programs offered by universities.
In Russia, as in other CIS countries, the main tasks in the field of education are solved by the state. But since the world’s largest players in the market of online services are private, I doubt the creation of a full-fledged online education at the state level. After all, the private corporate market is not about state diplomas. That is why we position ourselves as an anti-university, which is not about the “educational crust”, state standards and accreditation. The concept of accreditation of any educational institution is based on the division of education into good and bad, but state expertise is not always objective and correct. It often happens that the state claims that it provides a good education, and companies on the contrary say that the specialists with such an education have a lack of knowledge. The accreditation is state-owned, but the company consumes it, and this is not how it should work. We create professions together with employers, which, in fact, is an accreditation by a company that is actively involved in the development of the educational process.
Apart from the Megacampus, I’m not investing anywhere yet. In January 2020, in my digest, I predicted Slack and Zoom growth, trends are quite clear now. But there are also things that have surprised me, like the rise of Airbnb. In general, the post-market is growing in the direction of second-tier companies doing the same thing, which has greatly increased the capitalization of the first tier, the same as Zoom.
Finally, I want to say a few words about the power of the information field. When I started to work on my startup, I realized that I need venture analytics, so now I read TechCrunch and other technology publications around the world. The bottom line is that if you’re at the start-up stage of a company, then you should pay attention to your consumption, because it affects your thoughts throughout the day. For example, if a company has the characteristics of a venture, then you need to consume only this content, disconnecting from the content of Instagram stars.
Video podcast with Grigory Avetov: