The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked a surge in virtual learning – some schools have stayed away (and have stayed there), others have incorporated significantly stronger online components to help communities maintain more social distance. This, in turn, has spurred an increase in the use of tools to help home learners do their jobs better, and today one of them is announcing a round of growth pointing to the opportunities in this market.
Brainly, a startup from Poland that has built a popular network for students and their parents to give each other advice and help with homework questions, has raised $ 80 million. This Series D will use both to further build on the tools that it offers students and to drive expansion in some major emerging markets such as Indonesia and Brazil. The news follows dramatic growth for the company, whose user base has grown from 150 million users in 2019 to 350 million today.
The funding is being led by former financier Learn Capital with previous investors Prosus Ventures. Runa Capital, MantaRay and General Catalyst Partners are also attending. The company has now raised around $ 150 million, and while the valuation will not be disclosed, CEO and co-founder Michał Borkowski confirmed that this is "definitely" a boost for the company. For more context, Pitchbook estimates the company was worth $ 180 million on its most recent round, a Series C of $ 30 million in 2019.
This C-round was raised specifically to help Brainly Growth in the US There are currently around 30 million users in this market and it happens to be the only one where Brainly monetizes users. Everywhere else, Brainly is currently free to use.
"Brainly has grown into one of the largest learning communities in the world and has achieved significant organic growth in over 35 countries," said Vinit Sukhija, partner at Learn Capital, in a statement.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Brainly found an audience with students – especially between the ages of 13 and 19, Borkowski said – who turned to the service to get in touch with people who could help them with their homework, if they found themselves at a dead end B. a math problem or the sequence of events that led to the revolutions of 1848. The platform is open and looks a bit like a Quora for homework, in which people can find and answer questions they are interested in and ask questions themselves.
However, with the switch to virtual learning, this platform has taken on a whole new dimension of importance, said Borkowski.
"In the western world, online education wasn't a huge investment area (before Covid) and that has changed a lot as students, parents and teachers have gained wide acceptance," he said. "But this major transition from offline to online has got kids into trouble because teachers are so busy that they can't get involved in the same way."
With “homework” becoming “all work,” this has resulted in the need for more help with home study than ever before. And while many parents tried to be more involved to make up the difference, “it was difficult to have parents as teachers,” he added. They may have been taught differently than their children are learning, or they may not remember or have no answers.
One thing Brainly began to see was that with the pandemic, more and more parents were using the app with the students to work out answers together or to get help themselves before helping their children, some of which were from parents from children under 13 years of age. He said that 15-20% of all new registrations are currently from parents.
So far, Brainly has mostly focused on how to create more tools for the students – and now the parents – who use it, and it has so far been about growing organically for these communities.
However, there is clearly the possibility of extending this to more educational actors in order to better organize what kind of questions are answered and how. Borkowski said the company has indeed been approached by educators, curriculums, and others in order to make the answers better fit the questions they are most likely to ask students, although for now the company wants to "keep the focus on getting students and parents stuck." . "
With regards to future products, Brainly is looking for ways to bring more tutoring, video, and AI into the mix. The AI aspect is very interesting and will indeed result in wider curriculum coverage based on more local needs. For example, if you ask for help with a certain type of quadratic equation technique, you may be asked many of the same practice questions to better learn and apply what you have just learned, and you may even be given suggestions on related topics that will appear alongside in a broader math exam appear. You may be offered the opportunity to meet with a tutor for further help.
Tutoring, he said, has already been quietly piloted by Brainly and has conducted around 150,000 sessions to date. Having such a large user base, Borkowski said, helps the startup run services on a large scale while still effectively keeping them in test mode.
"It will be about seeing what students are studying and how they can fit that into the curriculum in the country and what we can do to help with that." Said Borkowski. "But it's going to take a heavy lift and machine learning to locate the students" for it to work properly. This is one reason it hasn't been rolled out more widely, he added.
Tutoring and more personalization aren't the only areas where Brainly is actively testing new services. The company also creates more space for adding videos to demonstrate various techniques (which I think is especially good for something like math, but equally helpful for an art technique, for example).
"Thousands a week" are already being added, but as with tutoring, "this is a testing phase for us," added Borkowski. There should be more about new products in the first quarter, he said.