SMATOOS Inc. today announced it has raised nearly US$3 million (3 billion Korean won) in the latest round of investment for its BeNative business English learning service. The service, which centers on video samples featuring entrepreneurs from the U.S., provides web-based learning tools using materials developed through unique data mining techniques.
The latest round of investments comes from Korea Investment Partners, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, and Partners Investment, and will allow SMATOOS to continue its international expansion into China, Japan, and Taiwan. In total, SMATOOS has now raised approximately US$6 million (6 billion Korean won) from Series A and B rounds. Of note is that investors who had previously invested in CEO Alan Moonsoo Kim’s previous company ETOOS have invested in SMATOOS. “It is quite meaningful that many of the venture capital firms who invested in ETOOS have once again invested in SMATOOS,” Kim said. ETOOS was sold for nearly US$30 million to SK Communications, one of the largest companies in South Korea.
“One of the main issues in the education market is providing a global service that merges technology and education. We have targeted the global market from the start and strive to cater to student needs. We believe our investors have acknowledged our efforts,” China corporate director Junyoung Yoon said.
Earlier this year, BeNative entered into a contract with Benefit One, the largest e-commerce business in Japan, along with several other clients such as Samsung, LG, and Sony. In addition, the service is being provided as a course credit at local universities. “There have been many requests from educational institutions like Beijing University to provide our service to their students. We are looking to provide a high quality business English service to China’s education market and to cooperate with the country’s educational organizations,” Yoon said.
BeNative features CEOs, executives, and managers from companies such as Box, Dreamworks Animation, Lift Labs (recently acquired by Google), Roku, and NestGSV, a venture accelerator sponsored by Stanford University. Using authentic videos of professionals and unscripted footage of checking into hotels, office small talk and other scenarios, BeNative is able to provide premium-quality educational content. “All the videos are shot and edited by our company. It was not easy to deliver one on one interview to Silicon Valley business people, but our founder and teams kept on asking them, claiming that it will greatly help and benefit Asian entrepreneurs’ global capacity. We finally got the answer ‘yes’ from them.” Yoon pointed out.
BeNative was named one of the Top 100 Global private companies in 2014 by Red Herring, and was recently nominated one of 2015’s top innovative companies by the Edison Awards. “The biggest factor we were able to be listed in these international ratings was that it was a common problem that rating agencies could agree on. When we presented our demo on the expression ‘from scratch’ in U.S. and showed them the demo, people nodded in delight and agreed on it. Since we selected a frequently used phrase to make the video, I think it interested them. They said ‘we didn’t realize we use that expression so frequently’,” Yoon noted.
SMATOOS is a global educational technology company with branches in Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The company is about to open a new office in Beijing. “Beijing is China’s historical and political capital. We try to learn the country’s history and culture when we penetrate a new market. We’ll be based in Zhongguancun to share the innovative energy of local startups,” Yoon said, adding that, “We support China’s courageous and intelligent founders. We hope BeNative could be of help to young Chinese entrepreneurs.”
SMATOOS is planning to develop the same BeNative service for learning Chinese and Spanish.
Image Credit: BeNative
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)