TechChill Baltics continues to live up to its educational reputation – the winner of last week’s pitch contest is Latvian edtech startup Edurio. The company is building a web-based self-evaluation tool for schools and universities. Drawing on substantial academic and field experience of its team members, exceptionally active collaboration with its customers and key stakeholders from the very early stage, Edurio has won the title in a fierce pitch battle with RingBe, SportID, Furnny and UpSteem.
Edurio was started in June 2014 and is since then showing rapid development. Just two months after starting up the company received a €50,000 soft loan from Imprimatur. In September 2014 they had already closed partnerships with Latvian Ministry of Education, as well as Iespējamā Misija, Latvian branch of international teacher organisation Teach for All. Shortly after that, the test of their first tool ‘Edurio Feedback’ was launched. Now the team is analysing more than 25,000 surveys collected in 17 schools in Latvia, while forging partnerships in 4 more countries for their next testing phase already in May 2015.
“The most useful thing we did that moved us forward so fast was going to potential partners very, very early,” Edurio strategist Ernest Jenavs tells with excitement. “We did not sit in our office and wait until we had built it – we went and asked them ‘hey, what do you want it to be like?’. We made it clear from the start that we did not want to come up with a tool that teachers use because they have to. We wanted to build a tool they would use because they want to. Ministry of Education, Teach for All, Union of education employees were all very open to us and happy to get on board of our work-in-process and adapt it to schools’ true needs rather than receive something complete and adopt to its functionality.”
Edurio is dealing with a pressing problem. Most schools face an increasing sociopolitical pressure to improve, while 71% admit that they lack the time and resources necessary for systematic continuous improvement. Moreover, most public schools cannot afford additional expenses. In these challenging market conditions Edurio sees potential selling its product to schools as a cost-reducer, time-saver and process optimizer.
The company has a strong team to address this complex issue. Kristaps Ozoliņš has graduated from Cambridge with a degree in Education and has built a notable base of academic knowledge in the field. Janis Strods is expert in number crunching and provides valuable insights both from data collected by other researchers, as well as pilot survey results. Gatis Navišs supplements this knowledge with 5 years practical experience as a teacher and 3 years as teacher development leader at Iespējamā misija.
The team understands challenges related to selling an educational product to schools. Their plan to optimize the lengthy process is to partner directly with municipalities once their product has been fully approbated in schools. They are also looking at partnerships with school management solutions that provide excellent technical support but are open to content partnerships. Currently there are several plug-in type integration negotiations under way.
“There are tons of valuable research about what makes a good school out there,” Ernest explains. ” However, school heads do not have the time to go through it, let alone build a comprehensive continuous improvement framework with this information. We do a lot a lot of research around best practices in teaching and best practices in asking questions and surveying. Using this research and insights of school heads and teachers we are working together in order to collaboratively define education quality. We are now crunching through 28,000 surveys to get as insightful as possible, we event had our server crash in December when it just started.”
Edurio has just finished its first beta testing in 17 Latvian schools. Next test is scheduled for May 2015 with 100 schools in 5 countries. Because Edurio feedback is currently only available in English and Latvian, the team focuses on English-speaking countries or schools for this milestone. There are already pretty concrete negotiations with potential partners in UK and India. Moreover, the free beta version for individual teachers is still available, with an option for them to translate it in their native language and use as much as they need.
Edurio feedback will be commercially launched over summer 2015. The next step will then be adding teacher self-evaluation, parent feedback and student self-evaluation functionality. Individual teacher version will still be free, while school version will be priced below the cost savings it generates. According to Edurio press materials, pricing is planned as a fixed fee of $100 and an additional variable component linked to the number of students surveys. Potential add-ons include action tools like best practice sharing and milestone setting.
Edurio face two types of competitors: (1) large academic consulting type quality assessment services like IQES and University of Chicago Impact and (2) scalable standardized school assessment tools like Panorama Education and Bloomboard. The former provide deep insight solutions to a limited number of high-value clients. The latter provide standardized assessment tools that are more broadly available, yet provide limited insights. Edurio promises to combine the best of both by delivering a continuous improvement tool for schools that is both insightful and scaleable. They are currently looking for about €250,000 in angel funding.
Edurio team is satisfied with TechChill. Ernest says:
“Yes, of course, it was fantastic! We won the pitch competition, are going on a trip to Israel in May and have collected loads of extremely useful feedback, fundraising tips and valuable contacts. We have also been to Pioneers, Slush and other big events, but I have actually noticed that small conferences like TechChill that have a clear focus and where you can approach everyone, including the speakers, are more valuable than big events that try to cover everything for everyone.”