Standing on the 43rd floor of Wangjing SOHO, a Beijing landmark designed by star architect Zaha Hadid, you get an amazing bird’s-eye view of a city under a vast sky that lets your imagination wander. These are the offices of an online education startup, Knowbox, and the feeling here is a bit like a big classroom full of young creative university students.
Knowbox seems different than the average office. But it’s not just their creative workplace that makes them stand out, it’s their unique insights and courage to set foot into China’s public primary and secondary education market that makes them different. It’s not easy to get into this market, because local governments impose strict constraints on it.
Founded in 2014 in Beijing, Knowbox targets Chinese K-12 online education, which includes all primary and secondary education, by creating an online collaborative space where teachers can assign and correct homework and students can do homework.
In addition to bringing homework online, the platform also offers data-driven analytic reports on student performances in key knowledge points, which help teachers design a syllabus and teaching process in a bid to further improve the efficiency of teaching methods.
The platform received USD 10 million in Series A financing last July. The fundraising was led by tutoring services provider TAL Education Group, followed by the CEO of China’s second largest e-commerce website JD.com, Liu Qiangdong, and his wife Zhang Zetian.
Focus on improving products
“Our core R&D team members are mainly from Alibaba and Baidu, so we have advantages over other online education startups,” CEO Liu Ye told AllChinaTech.
Besides Liu, who has a lot of experience founding internet companies, there are two other core members at Knowbox: COO Wang Ke, the former manager at Baidu’s strategic cooperation department, and CMO Jia Xiaoming, the former director of Intel China.
Liu said that the team brings core competitiveness to the table and that they will only focus on the K-12 online education scene.
Knowbox is not like other Chinese online education startups that rush to launch products in order to occupy the market. It has only two mobile apps to date. One is for middle and high school teachers and students in various subjects and the other focuses only on primary mathematics.
Liu said they will concentrate on improving their products rather than blindly developing new ones.
There are around 200 million elementary and high school students in China; moreover, Chinese parents are known for their willingness to invest heavily in the education of their children.
“Our business has expanded more quickly than we could imagine and this is mainly because our products benefit teachers,” Liu said. “Our apps alleviate the burden on teachers in assigning and correcting homework.”
Knowbox has established relationships with many public schools and local governments to promote its products and services.
The platform now covers more than 20,000 elementary and high schools in 400 major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Harbin, and its user-numbers have reached 3.8 million.
According to a report by research firm CCW Research, China’s online education market exceeded RMB 82 billion in 2014.
“The K-12 education market is a one-trillion-dollar market and we are making efforts to build a smart database and improve our products,” Liu said.
He said that they wants to build their platform into a hybrid of Google Classroom and Knewton in the future.
“Our platform will form a closed circuit for K-12 online homework including assigning homework, collecting homework, correcting homework and providing guidance for homework,” he said.
Liu disclosed that they will launch their Series B round of financing in 2016.
China’s K-12 education sector is attracting lots of startups as online education is in full swing in the country. Some notable players in the sector including Yuantiku, 17zuoye and Afanti.com.
(Top photo from Baidu.com)