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Softbank-backed Kahoot is Asia-Pacific's latest edtech contender

Published Wed, Apr 7, 2021 · 11:50 AM

ONLINE education startup Kahoot is looking to muscle into the Asia-Pacific with the help of its biggest shareholder Softbank, and will be exploring partnerships with regional entertainment and media players to widen its reach.

The company is also considering acquiring more platforms that could complement its core business so as to accelerate growth. These could be in the form of online study and business tools, chief executive Eilert Hanoa told The Business Times. It recently bought online whiteboard tool in February for US$6 million and language learning tool Drops last year for US$31 million.

"With (Softbank's) network ecosystem consisting of over 80 companies, we hope that we can secure potential partnerships with these great companies they have already invested in, some that know the Asia-Pacific markets stronger than we do," Mr Hanoa said.

Softbank's portfolio companies include Yahoo Japan, Alibaba and Grab.

The Norwegian edtech startup now has partnerships with several content providers, including its shareholders Microsoft and Disney, as well as Marvel, National Geographic and the United Nations. Teachers, families or businesses can use Kahoot to set up multiple-choice quizzes, where users can then answer questions through their phones or computers like a game. Paid subscriptions with more features and ready-to-use quizzes are also available. 

Over 60 per cent of its revenue comes from its business users who use the platform for interactive training and events, while about 20 to 25 per cent comes from schools and teachers, said Mr Hanoa. The rest are from home or personal users. Kahoot, which is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange, has a market value of around 45.5 billion Norwegian Krone (S$7.16 billion). Its shares have risen about 356.3 per cent year on year to close at NKr 101.90 on Tuesday, on the back of rising demand for online learning during the pandemic. 

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Last year, the majority of its US$45 million in invoiced revenue came from North America and Europe, where Kahoot has become popular in the classroom and offices. 

Now, Kahoot has set its sights on the Asia-Pacific region. The company is looking to capture "substantial growth" in several markets, including Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and Singapore, Mr Hanoa said.

So far, Kahoot has seen "good traction" in the region, with more than 100 million players interacting with the platform in a year, he said. This makes up about 10 per cent of the total number of players the edtech platform has. He did not disclose future targets set for the region.

Tailoring its content for these markets would be key to help the platform build momentum and gather interest, noted Mr Hanoa. He added that Kahoot plans to team up with regional publishers for more local content, partner teachers in the region to create quizzes in their native language, and create a localised interface - in terms of culture and language - that users can relate to.

The language aspect is often one of the more straightforward components when "localising" the platform, said Mr Hanoa. The company will need to pay attention to how teaching and working environments are, so that it can tweak the product to be useful in a local context. 

"It is all about finding the sweet spot through the calibration of features, the user interface, native text and relevant content," he added. "When you find that right mix, the usage can suddenly increase substantially."

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