As schools, nurseries and universities have shut their doors to the majority of students, parents are now faced with keeping their children entertained at home for hours on end, with many of them trying to do their own work in between. Along with the rise of virtual celebrity-led classes, we’re already seeing the start of a significant boom for EdTech companies that have products, solutions and activities to educate and entertain children and older students.
Independent research firm Beauhurst highlights two British firms rising to the challenge that is the Covid-19 crisis.
Funds raised: £59.3m
Founded: January 2013
Location: City of London
Headquartered in London, Kano develops and sells kits to teach children how to make computers and learn to code. The company was founded in January 2013 by current CEO Alex Klein, along with cousin Saul Klein and Yonatan Raz-Fridman. To date, Kano has secured £59.3m worth of equity finance and £1.52m in grants.
In 2014, the team launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Kano Computer Kit, which was the first make-your-own computer for all ages which you can attach to a monitor. Related software is available to teach children how to code, and allow them to share their projects on the Kano world online community. In 2018 Kano made magic with Warner Brothers by launching a Harry Potter coding wand that would respond to movements. Following this, in 2019 they partnered with Disney, to launch ‘Frozen 2’ and ‘Star Wars The Force’ Coding Kits. Others in the same space include San Francisco-based Piper and another London-based company, Pi-top.
2019 was a particularly impressive year for Kano. The company secured a £14m finance package from HSBC to fund global expansion, along with two other equity rounds totalling £10.6m. In the same year Fast Company magazine named Kano as the second-most innovative company in consumer electronics worldwide and the 24th most innovative overall. The team also joined forces with Microsoft to create and build ‘the Kano PC’, a modular Windows computer kit which is touch-screen enabled and runs on Windows 10.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Kano has made ‘Kano Club’ open to everyone, which includes exclusive club projects, tools, and online videos for children to work on from home. The company is also offering the first 8 lessons of ‘Creative Curriculum’ for free, which includes worksheets, lesson structures, and answer sheets.
Funds raised: £14.8m
Founded: July 2013
University campuses have been deserted, exams have been cancelled or moved online, and concerns are rising about how higher education students can continue studying whilst libraries have closed their doors. As students try to work remotely, there will undoubtedly be a surge in the demand of digital textbooks and reading materials. That’s where Kortext comes in.
Headquartered in Bournemouth, Kortext is the UK’s leading digital textbook and personal study platform. Founded in 2013 by CEO James Gray, the platform now offers over 1 million eTextbooks from over 2,000 publishers to students in over 80 countries around the world. The Kortext platform allows students to digitally annotate any ebook and download coursepacks, lecture notes, presentation slides, and other materials that may be relevant to their course.
In 2018, Kortext was selected as a member of the London Stock Exchange ELITE Programme, a scheme designed to help fast-growing companies as they prepare and structure for the next stage of international growth.
In 2019, the company partnered with HP so that any child with an HP Windows Education Edition device could have access to a free library of selected digital textbooks through the Kortext app. In the same year dmg ventures, the venture capital arm of the Daily Mail and General Trust plc, led a growth funding round in the company. To date, Kortext has received a total investment of £14.8m.
The future looks promising for the company, given the temporary closure of libraries across the country, and especially in light of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s 2020 Budget announcement that, from December, VAT will no longer be charged on digital publications. To support UK higher education institutions in their response to COVID-19, Kortext has launched a Free Student eTextbook Programme. This is a cross-sector partnership with Jisc and leading academic publishers.