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The top 10 education startups in China

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today,” a wise man once said. Today, 448 million Chinese citizens, or 67% of China’s Internet users, educate themselves online, Baidu’s 2016 report on trends in education revealed. The online education market is growing fast. By 2017 it will reach RMB 280 billion (USD 40.5 billion), and place itself third in the rank of China’s online industries.

It is no wonder then that so many companies are competing for their place under the sun by bringing technologies such as big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality into the education ecosystem. Today we bring you the 10 most promising online education startups in China.


Some of Juesheng’s many products. Photo from Juesheng.

1. Juesheng

Founded: 2012

Founder: Dixon Dai

Users: 35 million

Financing status: RMB 200 million (USD 30 million) in series C in 2015

Founder of Juesheng Education Group and former vice-president of Qunar, one of China’s largest online travel sites, Dixon Dai decided to set up his own education company after his son’s training school ran away with his prepayment. All of the previous companies Dai chose to work in, which aside from Qunar include Chinese online media Sina and ecommerce company Dangdang Inc., were successful, so there was reason to be optimistic from the very beginning. Juesheng, meaning “full victory” in English, targets users ages 3 to 22 and has multiple apps focusing on a broad range of O2O services, including a website on education.


Photo from Zhihuishu.

2. Zhihui Shu

Founded: 2012

Founder: Yuan Shengjun

Users: 10 million

Financing status: RMB 350 million (USD 51.7 million) in series B in 2016

According to its website, Zhihui Shu, or “Wisdom Tree”, is currently the largest platform for sharing college credits in the world. The platform gathers around 10 million college students from more than 1900 colleges and universities in China. Zhihui Shu offers courses to higher education institutions, trains lecturers and offers verified certificates for certain online courses. Its parent company is Able-Elec, a.k.a. Shanghai Zhuiyue Ruixin Digital.


Photo from UMU.

3. UMU

Founded: 2015

Founder: Li Dongshuo

Users: Unknown

Financing status: Unknown

The founder of UMU, Li Dongshuo, said that he got the idea for his company during the Google I/O developer conference as the director of business cooperation in Google Greater China. He was just one of 10,000 participants and he felt sorry he couldn’t interact with either the speakers on stage or with the people around him. This inspired him to develop a website and application for teachers, trainers and speakers that helps them design the framework of their lessons, programs and speakers and interact with their audience. According to Li, 80% of the corporate training institutions in China are UMU users and his products are now available in more than 100 countries.


NetDragon and ARHT showcase a live hologram of Larry King in Hong Kong. Photo from ARHT Media.

4. NetDragon

Founded: 1999

CEO: Liu Luyuan

Users: Unknown

Financing status: RMB 362 million (USD 52.5 million) in 2015

Augmented Reality (AR) is penetrating into education, and game developer NetDragon wants to be at the forefront of this movement in China. After establishing its education division in China, Huayu Education, and acquiring Promethean World, an interactive learning technology company listed in London, NetDragon decided to team up with Canadian ARHT Media in developing AR learning events with global celebrities. The first one was a human hologram of American television and radio host Larry King, broadcast in Hong Kong directly from Los Angeles.

NetDragon and ARHT are currently working on launching more learning events such as this with their online education joint venture. Huayu Education is also developing other forms of online education, including interactive classroom software, social networks, and cloud platforms.


Photo from Yuanfudao.

5. Yuanfudao

Founded: 2012

Founder: Li Xin

Users: Over 100 million

Financing status: RMB 276 million (USD 40 million) in 2016

Yuanfudao, previously known as Yuantiku, has developed three products for China’s K-12 student population. The first one was Yuantiku, a test data pool uniquely adapted to China’s test-oriented education. Mobile app Xiaoyuan Souti, or “Little Ape Search,“ enables students to take photos of a question and find the answer. Their third product, Yuanfudao, or “Ape Tutor” offers courses inspired by the Khan Academy that feature different types of courses. In July 2016 the first two products had 20 million and 85 million users respectively; Yuanfudao now has a weekly average of 150,000 students taking its online courses.


Screenshot from Koolearn’s online course. Photo from Koolearn.

6. New Oriental Education’s Xuncheng: Koolearn and Uda

Founded: Xuncheng was founded in 2000

Founder: New Oriental Education and Technology Group founder Yu Minhong

Users: 30 million+

Financing status: Xucheng secured RMB 320 million (USD 49 million) in 2016

New Oriental Education and Technology Group is China’s largest provider of private education. Its online platform Koolearn, operated by their subsidiary Beijing New Oriental Xuncheng Network Technology, focuses on overseas tests, domestic tests, and K-12 education. The platform offers about 3000 courses covering six categories, and had over 20 million registered users and 30 million mobile learning users, as of November 2015. Xuncheng has also launched an app called “Uda,” designed to compete with Udacity, which targets middle school and high school students learning English.


Photo from Huivo.

7. Huivo

Founded: 2012

CEO: Zhang Kang

Users: 70,000 teachers and 87,000 students

Financing status: 150 million (USD 23 million) in a Series B+ in 2016

With the new two-child policy and rising attention to early learning, the preschool education market in China offers great opportunity, and Huivo is one of the players that aims to seize it. Huivo is a platform that connects students, teachers, and parents by providing them educational resources like interactive teaching systems, smart classes, preschool educational content, and teaching apps. According to the company’s data, since May 2015 it has provided services for more than 5,000 kindergartens, 70,000 teachers, and 87,000 students.


Screenshot from Knowbox app. Photo from Baidu Images.

8. Knowbox

Founded: 2014

CEO: Liu Ye

Users: 3.8 million

Financing status: RMB 100 million (USD 15 million) series B in 2016

According to its CEO Liu Ye, Knowbox is on its way to become a hybrid of Google Classroom and Knewton in the future. The platform is an online collaborative space for K-12 students and their teachers, which enables them to fulfil tasks and get analytic reports on performance. Knowbox has released two apps, it has 3.8 million users and covers over 20,000 elementary and high schools in China’s major cities.


Xinshuai Teach specializes in courses in graphics, images, video, and design. Photo from Xinshuai Teach.

9. Xingshuai Teach

Founded: 2008

CEO: Xing Shuai

Users: 7 million

Financing status: RMB 300 million (USD 46 million) in Series B in 2016

Xingshuai started as a platform for crash courses in areas such as graphics, images, video, and design. The company now plans to expand his 300 curricula and 18 subjects with VR content. It has also announced it will build a chain of online education projects, possibly targeting K-12 education. According to their website, the platform has 8 million users who learn through interactive videos and forum discussions.


Photo from Afanti.

10. Afanti

Founded: 2005

CEO: Chen Lijiang

Users: 20 million

Financing status: RMB 387 million (USD 60 million) in B series in 2015

Afanti was named after the legendary wise man and jokester Nasriddin Afandi and has become the biggest real-person online Q&A platform in China. The platform is used by over 20 million registered students to communicate with teachers and solve problems. The site now has a photo search function that enables users to take photos of the questions. The search engine automatically picks the right answer from its huge database. Afanti can also identify and solve hand-written mathematical formulas in just a few seconds.


(Top photo from Pixabay)

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