Top 10 Korean EdTech Startups Transforming Education – Best of 2020

Korea is passionate about education, mainly English education, as it is a required subject for all University entrance as well as employment. With the advancement of technology, the EdTech sector has grown rapidly in Korea. There are many Korean EdTech startups that are creating new ways of educating. In 5-10 years it is quite possible that Korean schools and Universities will no longer use textbooks but rather online platforms. The young generation in Korea becoming experts at using their smartphones to find the right answers and learn. There are now digital classrooms and online courses for students to learn anytime and anywhere.

Technology might not replace teachers anytime soon. However, many Korean EdTech startups are now offering a range of tools to enhance education for students. Therefore they are allowing students to have more avenues for learning. Furthermore, enterprises across the world are providing employees with online platforms to improve their skills. Korean EdTech startups are working hard to create innovative products and services that can hopefully transform the future of education in Korea.

The rankings were comprised by the Seoulz staff and are based on 4 factors:

  • Funding
  • Market Opportunity
  • The innovation of service or product
  • Growth Potential/Scalability

Here are the top 10 EdTech Startups in Korea to watch for in 2020

1.  Riiid

Korean EdTech Startup RiiidKorean EdTech Startup Riiid is an AI tutoring platform that uses machine learning technology. Instead of workbooks and teachers, Riiid has an AI tutor. Therefore it can provide each student with a private AI tutor.  Furthermore, Riiid is continuing to develop its AI technology as a B2B solution called “santA.Inside”. It is an AI-based tutoring engine for the growing global test-prep market. The first application of the engine focused on TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication). TOEIC is a popular test in Korea and it is designed to measure achievement in using English in a business setting. Riiid stated that after 20 hours of training, their product called Santa TOEIC improved a user’s test score by 124 points. Their focus for 2020 will be on the SAT which is a standardized test widely used in the United States.

In addition, Riiid was the first Korean startup to present a research paper on AI technology at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), the world’s top AI conference. They currently hold over 70 registered patents and patent applications.

$41.8 Million in Series D Funding

Riiid raised over $41 million in Series D funding ($70.2 million to date) led by Korea Development Bank, NVESTOR, Intervest, and IMM Investment. They will use the funds for R&D and improve sentA.Inside. The goal is for companies to create their own AI educational service brand through sentA.Inside. One of the main products Riiid developed has been Santa TOEIC. It has over 1 million members. In addition, the funds will be used to bolster Riiid’s expansion across the U.S., South America, and the Middle East.

“Riiid will transform the paradigm of the educational industry from a content-centered one to a technology-centered one. By entrusting the operation of complicated AI technologies to us, the educational companies that partner with Riiid will be able to focus their energy and attention on developing outstanding content,” said Riiid CEO, Young-Jun Jang.

2. SmartStudy

Korean EdTech Startup SmartStudyKorean EdTech Startup SmartStudy is the creator of the global kid’s educational hit Pinkfong. They have become so successful not only in South Korea but also in the United States that they are looking to go public in 2020. Since 2010, they have produced videos that featured characters in different languages. Furthermore, these educational videos are available through their mobile apps or they can be watched on YouTube. Their hit song “Baby Shark” alone has over 4.6 billion views on Youtube. In addition, their sales reached over $23 million in 2018 and surpassed $33 million in 2019.

SmartStudy’s plan for 2020 is to become the Pixar of South Korea. They plan to launch an animated TV series based on their PinkFong characters. Furthermore, they are also in works to produce a live musical tour of “Baby Shark” in 2019 with a movie version of “Baby Shark” in 2020.

“If one would have to define us, we would be somewhere between Disney and Sesame Street. Disney provides imagination and entertainment. But in addition to those, we try to each of our viewers about nurturing good values and habits,” said Ryan Seungkyu Lee, Co-Founder of SmartStudy.

3.  Mathpresso

Korean Education Startup MathpressoKorean EdTech Startup Mathpresso is the creator of Qanda which is a tutoring app for students that need help with math and science. The app is available in Korean English, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Indonesian. It helps students search for solutions to math problems just by taking a picture of the math problem. Furthermore, users can ask direct questions to school tutors. The queries are then added to the app’s database so that other users can find the solution through the app’s search engine.

Mathpresso has raised over $21 million in funding from Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Legend Capital, InterVest, and NP Investments. For focus for 2020 will be to continue to be active outside of Korea, in countries such as Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

“Our mission is to provide equal opportunities for education through technology. We plan to bolster our presence in the Asian market beyond Korea and Japan,” said the CEO of Mathpresso, Jongheun Lee

4.  Fast Campus

Korean EdTech Startup Fast CampusKorean Educational Startup Fast Campus provides close to 2,000 module-customized one-on-one lessons. These lessons are with native-speaking instructors that have more than five years of lecturing experience. They focus mainly on practical business lessons and higher education services targeting Korean adults. Some of their classes include data science, marketing, programming, finance, and foreign language. They have also launched “Coloso” which will cover classes in regards to hairdressing, cooking, cartoon drawing, and fashion design.

Fast Campus was able to secure an $8.3 million for its series B round. The money will help in their plans for their spin-off subsidiary Fast Campus Language which will focus on their Chinese home-study materials. They will also expand to Jongno to go along with their centers in Gangnam and Yeoksam. The reason for Fast Campus’s success has to do with its focus on enhancing foreign language communication skills rather than raising foreign language scores.

5. TagHive

TagHiveEdtech startup in Korea, TagHive offers clicker-based classroom response systems and AI-powered at-home learning apps under the “Class Saathi” brand in India and under the “ClassKey” brand elsewhere. They were accelerated by Samsung C-Lab and they now cater to over 400 schools in South Korea. Last year they were able to enter the Indian Market by collaborating with the Indian Government.

“In India, we have already onboarded close to 50 schools in less than a year and are looking at expanding our operations across 10,000 schools by 2022.” said the Founder of TagHive, Pankaj Agarwal.

After a Series A investment from Joon Hyon the Managing Partner at Korean VC Firm Complement Capital. The valuation of the EdTech startup stands at $10 million. Joon Hyon saw that going forward teachers and students will need to embrace e-learning due to social distancing measures since COVID-19. Class Saathi is intuitively designed to create an interactive and immersive learning experience for the students, making them confident about their subjects.

6.  Classting

Korean EdTech Startup ClasstingKorean Education Technology Startup Classting uses AI deep learning technology and big data to create an education social community platform. Therefore their app allows for easy communication between students, parents, and teachers. The platform supports study management, effective communication, and personalized service that offers tailored information and functions. The Classting app is now a common app in the public education sector in Korea. They currently have over 4.5 million users in over 15,000 schools and educational institutions worldwide.

Classting has partnered with UCLA, Boston College, and the University of Washington on using AI and big data for better-personalized education for students. They have already raised over $5.5 million dollars and is looking to expand into other Asian markets such as Taiwan in 2020. Furthermore, the Classting app supports 12 different languages and will look to add SEA countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. They will focus on the Asian market before moving on to the United States and the European market.

“Classting uses IT technology, including Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, to create a new educational service that connects teachers, students, and parents. We will continue efforts to create a more pleasant learning environment and a more reasonable education market as an ed-tech company in Asia and beyond,” said CEO of Classting Cho Hyun-gu.

7. elice

Coding skills are regarded as essential abilities of the 21st century. As technology became a huge part of our lives, technical & digital literacy are key components of competitiveness. Therefore, Korean EdTech startup elice focuses on bringing coding skills to students, job seekers, and employees. The startup provides an online coding platform “elice” and an online learning platform called “elice academy.” Users can select from a wide variety of subjects, including programming basics, data analysis, deep learning, and more. What sets the online learning platform apart from traditional learning, is its strong emphasis on interaction. The platform guides students through classes and exercises while analyzing their learning progress. Furthermore, all training sessions offer real-time chats with instructors who check your answers and can respond to questions immediately.

The Founding of elice

The CEO, Kim Jae Won who graduated from KAIST with a Computer Science degree, founded the company in 2015. During his research at KAIST, he saw that students faced a lot of difficulties and limitations in coding classes. Classrooms were crowded and usually lead by only one instructor which made it hard for them to ask questions or receive critical feedback. The learning process was slow due to the lack of interaction and refrained students from enjoying their studies.

Kim introduced his idea of an online learning platform to his fellow students who liked his idea and helped him establish the company. Since then, the company has received recognition and attention from various institutions and universities for its innovative platform. Schools like KAIST, DGIST, and Yonsei University have implemented the online learning platform into their curriculum. Additionally, reputable companies like SK, Hyundai Card, Netmarble, and many more have been using elice to provide software education to their employees.

After receiving investments from KAIST Ventures and Naver D2 Factory, the business secured a $2.8 million investment from Altos Ventures last year.

8. Eggbun

EggbunKorean Education Startup Eggbun focuses on using chatting to teach Korean. Not only will users learn the Korean language but they can also learn about Korean cultures such as K-pop and K-Drama. It offers a real-time chatbot called Lanny that offers vocabulary lists, quizzes, and even step-by-step curriculums. The app is great for beginners as well as advanced language learners. They have over 1 million users from all around the world that are interested in learning the Korean language. Users can learn in English, Japanese, or Chinese. They have raised over $1 million during their seed investment to date.

“It is not enough just to teach a language. Teaching cultural aspects along with the language is very important. We are trying to offer cultural aspects to the current version. We plan to upgrade with more interactive features,” said the CEO of Eggbun, Fernando Moon.

9. Jaranda

Korean EdTech Startup JarandaKorean EdTech Startup Jaranda is a platform that offers one-on-one private teaching for children in Korea. Jaranda uses data analysis to make sure they have the highest quality instructors on their platform. In addition, they have over 17,000 after school instructors called “Jaranda Planners” who teach kids ranging from 4 to 13 years old. Customers arrange a time for the instructor to come to their home for private one-to-one teaching.

Just under 80% of their customers are repeat customers. They were able to get $750,000 in funding from Kakao Ventures and 500 Startups putting their total funding to $2.5 million for their series A round.

10. {W}CODING

wcodingKorean coding education startup {W}CODING aims to make South Korea the leader in the software industry through coding education. They offer a world-class curriculum to create programmers with strong technical programming skills. Their instructors and mentors have many years of experience who not only teach their students how to program but what it means to be a programmer. {W}CODING offers all their courses onsite to make sure learners get the personal attention they need. What separates {W}CODING apart from others is that they actually help you find employment in Korea and abroad. Therefore, they have a strong network of employers and sources of opportunities.

HONORABLE MENTION

wemath

Korean startup wemathKorean EdTech startup the KEII platform are the creators of wemath. Wemath focuses on student-centered learning (peer teaching) for learning math. Their community offers a place for anyone to watch, make, upload, and share his or her own math videos. In addition, they also offer MoTu which is a 1 to 1 video tutoring solution. Their focus moving forward will be to create a VR Creator Studio platform for educators.

Gwatop

gwatopKorean startup Gwatop offers an app that connects Koreans with professional English native teachers. They select teachers with experience in the areas of English business conversation, OPIc speaking testing, and TOEFL. In addition, they can find Chinese and Japanese tutors that have more than 5 years teaching experience. Gwatop pre-screens all their teachers and the app boasts a 90% user return rate. Gwatop was able to get funding from Neoply. They are now planning on opening an offline center with native speakers and expanding their services to categories such as arts, sports, and IT.

CLASSO

ClassoKorean Edtech startup CLASSO offers 1:1 video English tutoring with English and American speakers. In addition, students can learn from a selection of different languages from around the world. Some of these countries include China, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, and Spain. Teachers are paid an average rate of $20 per hour and they can work from their home. They accept students of all ages. Students can speak 1:1 to a teacher straight through their platform.

BeNative

Korean EdTech Startup BeNativeKorean EdTech startup BeNative is a language education platform operated by SMATOOS, Inc. Their BeNative app is free to download on both the App Store and Google Play and it allows users to gain access to their collection of quizzes, study materials, and video lessons. Users can upgrade to the BeNative Pro (Korea, China) or the BeNative Premium (Japan) service which offers users business English courses. Therefore, their focus is on using correct expressions and terms that real entrepreneurs use on a day to day basis.

SMATOOS is also the creator of CashEnglish which is a rewards-based gaming and learning platform. Users can play games while they learn and win cash prizes every week.

Lighthouse

Korean EdTech Startup LighthouseKorean Education startup Lighthouse offers a program to help nurture entrepreneurship skills for students in Korea. Lighthouse is run by Lighting Up Ventures. It is a bilingual entrepreneurship training program that was inspired by top Universities like MIT. Their program is known for its hands-on approach to learning. Students will learn how to set up websites from the moment they join the program. While the program is held online, they hold off-line sessions in coworking spaces in Seoul like WeWork. Therefore, students will not only learn how to build their own website, but also how to build a product, sell it, and recruit people to organize a team.

Lighthouse aims to create an entrepreneurship program that will disrupt the Korean startup ecosystem. Their program focuses on teamwork and the ability to collaborate with other entrepreneurs across a wide range of disciplines. Therefore for 2020, Lighthouse looks to partner with universities and institutions that are seeking to train a larger number of students or early-stage entrepreneurs. They have previously worked with Chungbuk Center for Creative Economy and Innovation, Korea Institute of Startup & Entrepreneurship Development, and Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation.

Inflearn

Korean EdTech Startup InflearnKorean EdTech startup Inflearn is a platform that provides educational content through their online courses in design, programming, AI, and big data. The startup was launched in 2016 and has already gotten over 190,000 users. Their focus for 2020 will be on improving user experience and create stronger personalized course recommendations for their students. Most of their content is in Korean and many consider Inflearn as the Udemy of Korea. Furthermore, their platform consists of industry experts that do a great job of sharing their knowledge in their sector.

Dico

Korean EdTech Startup DicoKorean Education Technology Startup Dico is a Korean language service provider for Spanish speakers. They are focused on expanding into Latin America and target users interested in learning Korean. They offer Korean-language materials using K-drama or other K-pop related video content from SBS. Therefore, thanks to their partnership with SBS, they have over 1,000 videos on their platform. Their focus for 2020 will be to get funding from Latin American investors. Their R&D center will still be in Korea but the learning and testing will be done in the Latin American environment.

CODMOS

CODMOSKorean edtech startup CODMOS is a code learning platform for children. It offers over 500 proven coding learning activities to cultivate problem-solving skills. They offer courses not just for elementary students, but also middle and high school students who want to learn how to code. They have a wide range of levels at an affordable cost.

ROBOTRY

RobotryKorean EdTech startup ROBOTRY teaches people about mechanical engineering through moving paper toy robots. They use these paper toy robots to educate children about robotics. ROBOTRY has a wide selection of robot characters that educates children about not only robotics but also manufacturing, design, and problem-solving. Furthermore, they offer lessons on robot/mechanical engineering concepts, machine design, and even the fundamentals of planning.