uLesson—the latest venture of Sim Shagaya, a serial tech entrepreneur—has secured $3.1 million (₦1.1 billion) funding in a seed round led by TLcom Capital, one of the leading venture capital firms focused on the African market.
Sim—who had founded many companies in the past, including DealDey and Konga—announced his venture into educational technology (edtech) with uLesson earlier this year.
With this seed funding of ₦1.1 billion, uLesson will be officially launched in February 2020. It will first serve secondary school pupils in West Africa, and later develop educational content and product for the East African market.
uLesson's current content, which is tailored towards WAEC (West African Examinations Council) curriculum, focuses on four secondary school subjects: Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. WAEC curriculum serves the education system of five West African countries, namely, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
To-date, the Jos-based edtech startup has produced over 3,000 animated, personalised video learning modules, quizzes and tests that will be available on its Android app, and can be accessed via subscription.
The uLesson platform will allow learners to experience personalised learning, practice tests, take region-specific mock tests, and assess their performance and progress. It will also provide rich reporting dashboards for detailed analysis.
Why is this seed-round funding important?
In a September report, we expressed optimism that uLesson would raise funds soon. And its impact in Africa could be as far-reaching as India's BYJU, which is backed by Naspers—one of Sim's former investor in Konga.
This strategic funding led by TLcom Capital is not only an investment in uLesson, it is also significant for the edtech industry. Compared to other industries such as fintech and e-commerce, investors don't fall head over heels for edtech startups. Sim said: "As Africa's population continues to grow rapidly, the current public and private approach to education investment is chasing a goal that is moving further away. Today is not just an investment in uLesson—it’s an investment in Africa’s future".
Low-income families in Africa, also, spend a large chunk of their household income on education, as much as 40%. Yet, the education system across the continent continues to record poor academic outcomes despite the high price of schooling. uLesson is built to address these issues by leveraging mobile technology to scale access to education and learning.
Education systems across Africa are in crisis and uLesson has been developed to radically shake-up the system and bring better access to high-quality curriculum-relevant educational content to learners across the continent. We want to lower the entry point for access to education for young Africans, and technology is the only way this challenge will be met.
As part of the seed round agreement, Ido Sum (Partner at TLcom) and Omobola Johnson (former minister of communication and Senior Partner at TLcom) will be joining uLesson as board members., alongside the former CEO of Konga, Shola Adekoya.
In uLesson, we found a company that fitted perfectly with our ethos—an entrepreneur-led startup building affordable, mass-market mobile first solution tackling one of Africa’s largest challenges. In Sim, we have an entrepreneur with an unrivalled track record in building technology products for Africa. His team is building solutions for a massive opportunity, and we strongly believe they are about to make a serious dent in the education market across the continent.
TLcom Capital has invested in companies that are moving the needle on the African continent in the past. These companies include Andela, Kobo360, Terragon, Twiga Foods, and mSurvey.
By 2025, the global edtech market is expected to reach $341 billion (₦123 trillion), and due to the growing smartphone adoption on the continent and the expansive youth population, Africa is a key market for the growth trajectory.
The dearth of quality teachers and educational infrastructure on the continent represents a ticking “youth bomb” for the region’s unprecedented demographic growth, according to Sim.
Sim concluded that education, financial inclusion and health are challenges that must be addressed for Africa to develop. He said: "Remarkable progress in developing financial products has been made. Of the other two, education represents an immediate opportunity that can be addressed with the tools provided by digital technology (smartphones, wireless internet, data storage and analytics). uLesson believes it has a model that can work in substantially addressing these challenges".