Baidu is taking a further step to expand to online education industry by investing in a third online education company this year. The Chinese search engine has joined Round C in test prep service Wanxue Education in July and acquired Chuanke one month later.
Innobuddy, the operator of online education sites of SmartStudy and SmartPigai, announced that it has secured US$10.6 million of Series A financing from Baidu at a valuation of nearly US$100 million. The company has previously received 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) of angel investment from undisclosed investors.
Launched in Feb. this year, SmartStudy is an online education platform engaged in offering preparation courses that help students to pass standardized language tests before they get enrolled in foreign universities. The courses are mainly dedicated to exam-oriented testing strategies for popular tests like TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, IELTS, etc.
SmartPigai is a personalized writing and oral language improvement site with similar test-oriented focus like SmartStudy. Users can submit their articles or speeches on certain topics prepared by the platform. Language experts with the site will then give personalized suggestions for improvement based on student’s writing patterns and pronunciations, etc.
Innobuddy is co-founded by Wei Xiaoliang and Zhai Shaocheng, two former execs from leading Chinese private education company New Oriental.
After this round of financing, Innobuddy plans to shift the focus of both sites from PC to mobile terminals. Wei Xiaoliang, co-founder of the company, mentioned that they are experimenting with applying smart wearable helmet in the learning process in a bid to create better learning environment. Wei added that they are considering to use Baidu Eye.
The proceeds will be used in team construction, marketing, contents, and algorithm development, noted Wei.
In addition to traffic and technical supports from Baidu, Wei expects to find more cooperation opportunities will all the services under Baidu, like Baidu Wenku (document sharing site similar to Google Book), Baidu Brain (an artificial intelligence project), Baidu Zhidao (a Q&A style site with social features), among others.
Similar to the case of Wanxue, Baidu’s investment in Innobuddy seems to be mainly driven by its crave for quality education contents.
image credit: SmartStudy