Vision Education received runner up recognition in the 2020 EdTechX Startup Awards category. Manfred Kastner, Founder of Vision Education, spoke with EdTechX about challenges amidst COVID-19, what’s next for the company and how he envisages the ‘New Normal’ will be in education and EdTech.
What was the inspiration behind starting Vision Education?
Our aim is to design resources and enjoyable experiences which make language learning more fun and highly motivating, to ensure that learning really works. Rather than dumping content onto the learners “the old way”, we want users to enjoy learning together and thereby learn in an effective and relaxed way. Fun and play in our view are just other words for learning. We use competition elements as well as areas of passion such as football, music, beauty to stir emotions and give people a chance to experience a new way of learning in their favourite environment — “Learn where your passion is”.
What would you like everyone to know about Vision Education?
Our vision is to provide the best possible motivation for language learning. We use a scientifically proven approach of gamified learning enriched with high-quality content, personal and relevant. People all over the world with a smartphone have access to our technology. We provide solutions for B2C and B2B/Business and also work with some of the major NGOs, engage in various charitable causes, and provide language packages for free for people in need.
Currently, we are working with a partner on launching a really special music video-based course for children 5–12 which is fully aligned with the English A1-A2 curriculum. The course includes conversation/pronunciation/grammar videos and provides specific support for teachers. I cannot think of a more effective and joyful way of learning English for children.
What are you looking to achieve next?
Since we believe that motivation is absolutely key for successful learning and that fun and play are the best drivers for learning, we are constantly expanding our technology to include videos, stories, immersive activities and competition elements. We are currently in the process of building a new architecture to optimise the learning journey and integrate video and audio materials. This will enable our users to learn with, for example, the lyrics of a music video or podcast in an effective, personal context. We are also building a gamified football app for one of the top 12 football clubs in the world where the club’s players are represented as avatars in the app and motivate learners with short video clips. Our LiveMatch challenge — a fun and easy way for learners to play against each other and learn at the same time — constitutes a unique challenge for sports fans around the globe with team sports as a perfect metaphor and ingredient for fair play and team spirit.
Looking back to the day you started, what would you have done differently?
Any startup with a vision and innovative products undergoes experimental discovery and quite a bit of risk-taking. Discovery means seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.
However, during discovery, it is never possible to calculate all eventualities, let alone control them, particularly in the context of a startup. If we want to learn swimming we have to jump into the water — and do our best to swim and learn to swim better day by day. We can only understand certain developments looking back, but the mission and decision-making must happen whilst moving forwards. The only truth about the past is that it is over and that we should learn from it as much as we can. I have had many learnings on my way and would rather look forward than speculating about what I would/could/should have done.
5. What piece of advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
There is no single way — you must make and live YOUR way and vision. Try to build a good team and spirit and encourage feedback because in the end success is always the product of a team working together to achieve goals on an ongoing basis. As an entrepreneur, you have to be optimistic and fast-moving. If you have everything under control in a startup you are probably not moving fast enough. However, real life and our “system” normally include resistance to the new, and innovation needs quite a bit of time to be successfully implemented. Therefore, you might want to calculate 2x the liquidity you think you need going forward and be prepared for additional capital rounds in-between.
How do you think the support and ecosystem in your country has helped you to launch and grow Vision Education?
In Austria, we have a good ecosystem in terms of promoting startups with the private and public sector providing many valuable services, grants and advice. We are grateful and have benefitted in various ways in terms of consulting and grants.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have seen with Vision Education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?
We were in talks with many B2B clients and brands before the pandemic to close deals in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Understandably almost all companies suddenly had completely different priorities and could only speculate about what would happen to their business. Unfortunately, this is a time where it is difficult as never before to plan for the next 6 to 12 months.
How to envisage the EdTech landscape to change as we go into the ‘New Normal’?
We believe that the “New Normal” helps established specialised players in the sector to grow even faster. There is no doubt that EDTech, in general, will benefit from the latest developments because many new users have come in during the “new online world” and behaviour will change going forward. However, particularly for a new B2B business, the negative economic consequences in most sectors will mean lower budgets and a challenging business environment.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, we are grateful for all your work here and would like to thank you and your team for the opportunity to participate.
You can learn more about Vision Education on their website: https://learnmatch.net/en