People who work with children know how difficult it is to engage them with online learning content. Creative Galileo keeps kids hooked by adding their favorite cartoon characters. Singapore-based edtech platform today announced it has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding from Kalaari
Capital, East Ventures, Affirma Capital and angel investors.
The funding will be used to scale Creative Galileo in Southeast Asia, hiring local teams in Indonesia and Vietnam, the following markets. The app is currently most active in India, where it claims to have seen some seven million downloads.
Creative Galileo’s new funding brings the total amount the company has raised so far to $10 million, including a pre-Series A round of $2.5 million in October 2021.
Founded in 2020 by Prerna A Jhunjhunwala and Nikhil Naik, Creative Galileo describes itself as “the first character-based early childhood platform in Southeast Asia for children ages three to ten.”
Jhunjhunwala told BestFitnessBands that Creative Galileo sets itself apart from other learning apps for kids by offering preemptive skills tracking so that their learning content is personalized based on what they already know. At the same time, it also ties into the Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) curriculum developed by the Ministry of Education in Singapore. The learning concepts include STEM, animation and graphic design, social and emotional learning, and financial literacy.
Jhunjhunwala said she wanted to create an edtech startup because she grew up near jute factories, mainly in Tier 3 Indian cities, and saw how educational differences affected children. “At that time, when I was dealing with children and parents, I came to realize that there was a major learning crisis. There was a huge gap to access education and many of the kids I met couldn’t read and write, or do basic math.”
This is still an issue today, with Jhunjhunwala pointing to research showing that 70% of 10-year-olds are unable to do basic subtractions, and another 70% of 15-year-olds cannot read books that mean are for a nine year old.
“Essentially, these children were and are ready to enter adulthood without primary education,” she said. “I knew from my experience that my mission was to create opportunities for children to access education that would help them for life.”
After moving to Singapore, she realized that the curriculum taught throughout Southeast Asia also fell short.
“Children across the region still follow the same age-old learning methods their parents and grandparents experienced and are not taught skills relevant to today’s world. The education system, with a ratio of 1 teacher to 30, or even 40 students, creates a cookie cutter approach,” she added. “It’s like fast food to the mind.”
Initially, Jhunjhunwala tried to solve the problem by creating a chain of schools called Little Paddington with its own curriculum. But while the schools were successful, she felt they fell short in her goal of democratizing education. So she decided to start Creative Galileo with Naik, a parent in Little Paddington who has experience building direct-to-consumer products and internet ecosystems in Asia.
Localization, especially for languages and intellectual property, is an important part of Creative Galileo’s strategy as it expands into new Southeast Asian markets. Jhunjhunwala explained that the platform is modular so it can handle changes in characters and support cultural nuances, local languages and curriculum.
“Each country in Southeast Asia is extremely diverse, which is why the product is built in such a way that it can be easily adapted to ensure local relevance and support multiple languages, even within a single country,” she said.
She added that the startup is currently in talks to secure some of the region’s most popular children’s cartoon characters for the platform. It has already signed an agreement with EBS Korea, a public broadcaster and one of the largest pre-school content companies, to bring its content to Creative Galileo.
Indonesia is one of Creative Galileo’s next markets because “the challenges children face are similar to those in India,” says Jhunjhunwala. Meanwhile, Vietnam has a strong focus on Anglophone education, giving the startup the opportunity to offer bilingual opportunities for children. “In addition, both countries already have strong infrastructure and smart device penetration rates, paving the way for easier adoption of our solution,” she added.
The app has already started monetizing on a small scale, Jhunjhunwala said, but at the moment it is focused on scaling up. It makes revenue using a freemium model.
“We’ve been frugal with our spending and achieved this scale with a product and content-centric approach,” she said. “Our consumer acquisition costs were less than two cents in the US, and as a result, we have a lot of buffer capital and a long runway for the next raise.”
In a prepared statement, Kalaari Capital director Vani Kola said: “Over the past six months, [Creative Galileo] have achieved strong growth with low marketing spend. Creative Galileo is also consistently ranked in the top 20 educational apps in India’s Play Store, the only early learning app to have made this distinction.”