Cluey Learning, a startup based out of Sydney, Australia, announced on June 17 that they had raised $20 million in a Series A investment round. The company did not mention which investment firms joined the round, and Crunchbase has yet to confirm it.
The company’s platform connects learners with remote, online tutors—a model that has been employed successfully in numerous regions around the world. In November 2018, the Chinese tutoring platform VIPKid reported employing 60,000 tutors serving over 500,000 students. They closed a $500 million funding round last summer. US platforms, meanwhile, reported similar numbers years ago. In 2014, WyzAnt said they had earned $100 million in sales after bootstrapping from practically nothing. At the time, they counted 76,000 tutors and 2 million registered users.
A Curated Version of Online Tutoring
Cluey Learning, remarkably, might still prefer to count its age in months, not years. It was launched in 2018 and has yet to report how many learners it serves.
It also takes a slightly different approach. Instead of offering a marketplace for tutors to teach what they will, it has created its own curriculum. It vets and trains each tutor in alignment with this curriculum.
With the successes of these companies, it’s clear that there is a market around the world for remote tutoring. There are also a good deal of individuals willing to take on tutoring in various capacities, either as a side job or as one of their main gigs.
“My experience as a head of department and school administrator is that timetables and curricula are packed, with teachers expected to take on more and more administrative and management tasks, leaving them with less time to work one-on-one with their students,” said Cluey Chief Learning Officer Dr. Selina Samuels in a company blog post announcing the funding.
“Children are restricted geographically to the schools and the facilities they can access. And although everyone talks about integrating technology, there’s a widespread concern (amongst teachers as much as parents) that the tools deployed in many classrooms are a form of babysitting, rather than an opportunity to really use technology to learn.”
But while the model has established international success, the companies employing it don’t necessarily serve an international market. On the contrary, the market appears to favor more specific iterations over the general. VIPKid primarily connects Chinese learners with native English speakers to improve their language skills. US platforms like Tutor.com and WyzAnt cater mostly to the US education system.
So while the internet can connect learners across great distances, it appears that cultural and socioeconomic boundaries are more difficult to cross.
How Cluey Learning Will Use Their Funds
Cluey Learning says they plan to use the funding to boost their analytics capabilities in order to better understand how their learners are learning. They also hope to expand their curriculum and begin to partner with institutions.
“The funding will go towards further developing our learning platform and analytics capabilities so that we can better understand the ways in which children learn, and how we can personalize the process for each student,” said Founder and CEO Mark Rohald, in the blog post announcement.
“We will continue to expand our curriculum to provide richer, more interactive, and more exciting lesson content. We are also working with universities to access greater opportunities for educational research. Above all, this investment is an unprecedented chance for us to ensure that all Australian students have access to high-quality tutoring support when they need it and how they need it.”