Japanese online learning platform Mana.bo raises $374,000 from CyberAgent Ventures and other investors



See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based online learning service startup Mana.bo has raised 38 million yen (approximately $374,000) in seed funding from several investors including CyberAgent Ventures.

Mana.bo provides a virtual, private tutoring service, helping students learn with a platform that enables whiteboard sharing, as well as audio and photo sharing. The startup was chosen for inclusion in the third batch of the KDDI Mugen Labo incubation program, where it also won the smart device award.

sample3-300x173The startup is currently acquiring university students as tutors for the service, by partnering with so called ‘cram schools’ and prep schools. The service’s users include high school students and those preparing for university entrance exams.

Mana.bo’s co-founder and CEO Katsuhito Mihashi told us they have already seen some positive results.

We’ve been working with some companies including Benesse Corporation, one of the giants in the Japanese education business. We’re providing them with a white label version of our platform for high school students. We have been able to provide our platform even to small cram schools in suburban areas. So we believe this is right time to fundraise because we need intensify our marketing efforts and work on developing the service further.

Mana.bo allows tutors to make money in exchange for their tutoring services. Cram school students can receive lectures from someone besides their regular teachers, and teachers have an opportunity to teach a variety of students. The startup aims to help students supplement their learning experiences with a quality education environment for low price.

sample2-300x174Mr. Mihashi explained that conventional education methods were typically one-sided, but that the growing penetration of online education services may change teachers’ roles.

Students often supplement their learning with knowledge found online, thus face-to-face teaching might be changing to a role of counseling or motivating students to learn. […] Online education services have great potential in provide individuals with more efficient ways to learn.

Looking at the edutech market in Japan, there are very few competitors right now. This is because there are very few successful models. In the US, Korea, and Europe, we can see more advanced examples in this space. The market is growing day by day. And the growth of the edutech market will provide benefits to students as well, because it contributes to the development of a high-profile education environment.

The service is currently offering its services only to its partners and test users, but it is preparing for its official launch when it will be available to all users. They expect to acquire 1 million users and 100,000 tutors in a year, and they also plan business expansion to Asian regions as well.