55 teams from Africa, Asia, LATAM, CEE and the MENA region have travelled to Lausanne, Switzerland for the Seedstars Global Summit. I flew out to talk with the education focused companies, and meet the team that run it.
Listening to Seedstars’ deal sourcing efforts is exhausting (and exhilarating). The regional managers for Africa, Marcello and Greg, spent 7 months in 16 African countries. They were locating entrepreneurs in a variety of sectors that other, less intrepid, investors might find tricky to find.
I have spent a wonderful few days in the Rolex Learning Centre where founders have been receiving advice from sector specialists and honing their pitch, in the hope they might receive up to $1m equity investment.
We watched 55 one minute pitches. It was a surprisingly beautiful experience; ultimate diversity bound by a common language of innovation. Ghanian shawls, long beards and headscarves adorned people clutching laptops, phones and lanyards. Words like disruption, MVP and traction were uttered in a huge variety of accents. This conference represented the movement of mass experimentation, co-working and autonomy that is sweeping the world. Whether you are a 13-year-old boy from Myanmar or a 50-year-old Bulgarian woman, the world is increasingly your oyster.
Within this melee, I met a couple of edtech startups that particularly caught my eye. Eggbun, founded by the wonderfully named Fernando Moon and his co-founder Mimi based in South Korea. Eggbun is an automated native language teacher in your pocket. The cute design makes you smile and gives you instant feedback and encouragement, allowing you to move from a total novice to conversational writing in a short period of time. Currently there are 30,000 monthly active users who love the product. I peered over Fernando’s shoulder every time his slack channel pinged with another glowing review from the app store.
I was also impressed by an Ecuadorian company called Cuestonarix, who have helped 100,000 students into college. Cuestonarix is a suite of exam prep tools for the 60% of students that cannot afford or access traditional study resources for the standardised university entrance exams.
Sebastian and his team have found innovative ways to reach people that the current infrastructure we take for granted, has not. 30% of Cuestonarix revenues are made online with a credit card, yet 70% of payments are made via a cash deposit in a local shop. Soon the company will also be able to provide each student with a personalised, in-depth study plan based on an initial assessment.
Have a look at the rest of the startups selected for the event here. The past few days have been a special glimpse into a world that might otherwise remain relatively hidden. Mobile penetration has overtaken electricity pylons, and by 2020 eight out of ten smart phones will be found in the developing world. The future is a little more evenly distributed than I thought.