Meet 5WIN, the startup aiming to be China’s Udacity

Online education giant Udacity launched its business in China last month, causing a stir in the Chinese online education scene. Whether this giant can succeed in China is yet to be seen, given the  complex and unique nature of China’s online education market. 5WIN, a company like Udacity, wants to take full advantage of its local knowledge to grab a large share of China’s already huge online education market.

Based in Beijing, 5WIN primarily focuses on IT skills training by adopting a mixed online and offline (O2O) model. This model involves online instruction from high level professionals in other cities, as well as tutelage from local teachers in a brick-and-mortar setting.

Additionally, 5WIN guarantees some sort of employment to all their students provided that they have successfully completed their courses. The company tailors their training for the Chinese IT industry, meeting the rapidly growing demand for technical talent.

5WIN recently spoke to AllChinaTech about their company and their plans for the future.

Qie Xiaoye, the CEO of 5WIN. Photo provided by 5WIN.

Why IT training ?

Qie Xiaoye, the CEO of 5WIN, has 10 years’ experience in IT training. Disappointed with his college education – which provided him with abstract theories, but few practical skills – Qie then used his savings to buy books, educating himself on Linux Systems Administration. He spent hundreds of hours learning the trade. Six months later, he found a job with a much higher salary than the average college graduate. Given the transformational effect of self-driven education for his own career, the idea of creating a IT training system became clear.

Qie said that as China’s economy cools, the technology sector remains red-hot, with skills in development, coding, and data analysis in fierce demand across industries.

“I am a strong supporter of vocational training for modern professional skills, and I’m also a firm believer in the power and potential of the internet in fulfilling this mission,” he said. ” I want to equip my students with the practical skills and the real knowledge they need to succeed working in teams, completing projects, and even leading others, ” he said.

Business model

According to the China Internet Education Trend Report released by Baidu in March, the online vocational education market accounts for 36.6% of the overall online education market. People in China’s third and fourth-tier cities are more eager to get  online education due to a scarcity of quality local education resources. Almost 60% of online learners live in either smaller, lesser-known cities, or even in rural areas.

The best teachers and the most sought-after professionals flock to the first-tier cities where opportunities are abundant and pay is higher. That leaves a gaping hole for people outside these cities who nevertheless hope to learn from world-class  professionals,” Qie said.

He added that they will connect students anywhere with the country’s most talented IT professionals, giving them access to expertise that would previously have been unthinkable.

The company has expanded to 15 new study centers across the country. The centers have piloted a blended-learning format that allows learners to attend in-person classes with tutors who track their progress and offer immediate feedback, while simultaneously having remote access to the nation’s best teachers and a thriving online learning community.

5WIN now has 400,000 active users, and the number of registered users has now reached one million. It offers two offline courses, iOS Development and Java, and a full suite of 5WIN’s online courses, featuring more than 10,000 hours of content and 300 study tracks.

The company has built relationships with Oracle, Cisco, ARM, Red Hat and Huawei to provide certifications for learners.

The future

In 2014, 5WIN landed RMB 35 million (USD 537,000) in Series A financing from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Venture Capital . In 2015, the company landed tens of millions RMB in a Pre-B financing round, led by Shanghai Dingfeng Asset Management Company.

“We will work in a down-to-earth manner to help students gain IT skills,” Qie said.”We will always put education quality in the first place.”

Qie added that China has a huge online vocational training market and that they will try to tap into it by expanding their business in the second and third-tier cities.

He also disclosed that they will launch their Series B financing this year.

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