BEST DIGITAL NEWS START-UP, WAN-IFRA 2019 GOLD AWARD

Edtech startup Zookal raises A$15m from Koh Boon Hwee, Wee Hur

Edtech startup Zookal raises A$15m from Koh Boon Hwee, Wee Hur

3 -min read
Listen to this article
3 -min read
Listen to this article

AUSTRALIA-BASED edtech startup Zookal has snagged A$15 million (S$13.7 million) in Series B equity funding led by existing investors Koh Boon Hwee and Bernard Sabrier, chairman of Geneva-based US$26 billion fund Unigestion.

Singapore-listed construction and property development firm Wee Hur Holdings also participated in the round, which brings the total amount raised by Zookal to A$25 million.

The funds will be used to make strategic hires and triple Zookal's engineering team to 25 to 26 staff. The company recently appointed Manuel Silva, the former director of engineering and consumer product at retail firm The Iconic, as its vice-president of engineering.

Zookal is also backed by Aayush Phumbhra, the co-founder of New York-listed American edtech firm Chegg, and members of Australian telco TPG Telecom's Teoh family.

The company started out in 2011 by renting out textbooks to university students but has since moved into providing educational materials and videos to its established base of users through its digital platform. The online guides and teaching videos on Zookal's platform are curated and made by students that the company has vetted.

The company is targeting an expansion in South-east Asia. It already operates in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Co-founder and CEO Ahmed Haider said the company recorded a revenue of A$25 million in 2019 off the back of its textbook rental business, which he called the platform's "anchor". The platform had a million users and 200,000 paying customers in 2019.

The online educational services part of the business has yet to be monetised, but Zookal plans to launch a monthly digital subscription for students this year, Mr Haider told The Business Times (BT). He declined to discuss specifics about pricing and the additional services that will be available.

Zookal plans to hit A$35 million in revenue this year. Revenue has been growing at an average rate of 264 per cent each year from 2015 to 2019.

In a press statement, Mr Haider said: "South-east Asia is a very attractive market with our digital users growing to 300,000 in just eight months. Our goal is to reach 10 million students in the coming years as Asia comes online by making education more affordable and accessible to them."

Zookal investor Wee Hur holds a portfolio of purpose-built student accommodation in Australia. Mr Haider told BT that Zookal can potentially work with Wee Hur to offer its services to students living within the property.

Goh Yeow Lian, chairman of Wee Hur Holdings, said: "Our investment in Zookal is driven by the fact that both organisations are focused on delivering the best education experience for tertiary students.

"At Wee Hur, we always aim to be ahead of the curve and we are excited to be working with the team at Zookal and partnering them to help make student learning effortless, which in turn will support innovation in the education sector as a whole."