3 Successful Growth Hacks From European Edtech Startups
Getting your company off the ground is not easy for any education entrepreneur--especially for those in Europe and, in particular, Germany, which has its own specific set of challenges that can make the startup life rather difficult.
But fear not, savvy entrepreneur: there are plenty of ways to crack the industry, despite obstacles that may be out of your control. Here are three notable edtech growth hacks from European edtech startups.
1. The international growth hack: Bettermarks
Foster partnerships with edu-innovation friendly countries
Founded in 2008, Bettermarks, a “living maths book” for years 4-10 filled with explanations, calculation examples and student resources, launched itself onto the German education scene. Despite winning multiple awards and proving the effectiveness of their learning system, the company had a difficult time implementing the platform on a nationwide level due to the lengthy decision-making processes and a fragmented German education system. Today Bettermarks is used in just 100 classrooms in Germany--and this small success is largely thanks to the initiative of teachers themselves.
So the company decided to focus its attention abroad. It found a great partner in Uruguay, where the government made a big commitment in 2007 with Plan Ceibal, a nationwide effort to improve technology access and IT infrastructure for all schools. (Here’s a TEDx talk about the latest efforts.) Bettermarks’ online learning system is currently being implemented in all of the country’s public schools. The company, which so far has raised close to $30M, is now piloting in schools in Mexico and India.
Of course, the overseas markets are also enticing when your domestic one is small. Just take a look at the popular Finnish company Rovio, which has decided to introduce its new educational program, Angry Birds Playground, in big countries like China and Brazil.
2. The local growth hack: qLearning
Use local “ambassadors” to spread the word
Instead of focusing on overseas markets, Berlin-based qLearning, which has a mobile test prep app for college students, decided to grow and scale locally with a “Campus Ambassador” program.
Selected “ambassadors”--usually college students--create multiple-choice tests for their individual fields of study and add it to the qLearning platform. (They get paid for each test, too.) They then spread the word, evangelize about the app and provide qLearning with input from students about what content those students need. “By being students at the respective universities, they understand best which channels to use in order to reach the target group that we are offering content for,” says Frederik Hagenauer, co-founder of qLearning.
As the content is created via the ambassador program, the company is in a position to offer university-specific test preps, in some cases based on the requirements and preferences of specific teachers.
3. The hype growth hack: Quizzduell
Get on TV (and make a mess out of it)
The Swedish company Quizduell has around 30 million users in 11 countries worldwide. The app allows players to compete with their friends on quizzes that span many different subjects.
The mobile startup managed to pull off a big televised stunt. Attracted by Quizduell’s user numbers, Germany's largest news channel, ARD, wanted to use the platform to host a competition between its four studio contestants and the German viewers. Unfortunately, a hacker disabled the company’s 15,000 servers, effectively ruining the plan. (The TV station then made the in-studio audience compete against the candidates and distributed the price of €22,000 amongst them.)
Despite the setback, the publicity was worth it. Leading up to the show, the Quizduell app was downloaded 187,000 times.
In education, there’s no single “how-to” blueprint for growing a company. The savvy European edtech entrepreneurs above show that there are many creative and unconventional business strategies that can lead to growth and company success.