Online education has definitely been one of the hottest topics in the Chinese tech industry during 2014. More than 100 education startups pocketed funding over the year, according to ITjuzi.com, a Chinese online database for startups. TAL Education Group (NYSE:XRS), a K-12 focused Chinese education company, invested in more than 30 online education startups during the year to expand beyond its core business. In April, Tarena, an IT training company, went to IPO on the NASDAQ. Several more digital and online education companies went public in the domestic market this year.
Almost all big Chinese internet companies have tapped into online education. Tencent and Alibaba added functions onto their existing platforms, QQ IM and Taobao respectively, to enable the delivery of online video courses. YY launched 100.com, a site focusing on English tests for studying abroad, to complement its existing online teaching platform YY Education. Almost all of the major Chinese internet companies have acquired or invested in online education startups, or established joint ventures with traditional private education companies, during this year.
There have been several failed online education projects too. Fortunately we’ve seen Chinese online education startups becoming more mature this year. Here are ten online education startups we think have potential or are worth noting.
1. Hujiang, one of the most popular language-learning sites in China, launched CCTalk, a mobile app for live courses, this August. Recently it announced a partnership with smart TV and online video company LeTV, where it provides educational content. Hujiang announced US$80 million Series C funding from Chinese search giant Baidu in April.
2. XSTeach, formerly Xswlpx.com, provides courses in IT skills. XSTeach’s teach team joined YY’s education platform and rapidly became popular. YY invested RMB15 million (about US$2.5m) in the company last year. This year the company raised another US$30 million. It has been reported that its annual revenue will reach RMB1 billion (about US$160mn) this year and the company is said to be planning a 2016 IPO.
3. Guokr, starting as an online community for sharing scientific knowledge, launched an online course platform in 2013 that provides courses from partners Coursera, edX, and udacity (with Chinese subtitles). Recently the company announced US$20 million in Series C funding led by TAL Education Group. Guokr claims the online course site has 800,000 registered users.
4. Babytree, a site for early education and development founded by former Google China exec Wang Huainan, announced RMB150 million (US$25 million) Series C funding from TAL Education Group early this year. Recently Babytree invested in Jiliguala, an English learning app for kids (0-6 years). As well as web and mobile offerings for early childhood education, the company also provides a variety of products, from the children’s app market to a smartwatch for pregnant ladies.
5. 17Zuoye is an interactive platform for primary and middle school teachers, students and their parents for after-school activities. Funded by two of the co-founders of New Oriental Education and Technology, the largest private education company in China by market cap, and with a former exec at New Oriental as COO, 17Zuoye has had more than 7 million students doing homework and interacting with their teachers and parents on it. The company announced US$20 million funding in July.
6. Yuantiku provides a test practice system and question database. Founded by former senior NetEase executive Li Yong, the company behind Yuantiku pivoted from Fenbi, a social service for students and teachers. Yuantiku raised US$15 million this year.
7. Sharkpark teaches kids science with self-made videos. It was co-founded by Zhang Yongqi, former president of GEDU, a private school for IELTS preparation. The company announced Series A funding last month.
8. Jikexueyuan wants to be China’s Lynda. Most of the content on the site is created by its own team. Instead of charging individual video courses, the site charges a membership fee. The company raised Series B funding this year.
9. VIPABC, an online English tutoring service, raised more than US$100 million from Alibaba and a group of investors in early this year. Since the investment, VIPABC has set up a store on Alibaba’s Tmall and launched an English learning service through smart TV which is available in the Tmall set-top box and the Haier smart TV model which runs Alibaba’s operating system. The OS supports payments via Alipay.
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)