See the original story in Japanese.
Japan’s Arcterus, providing educational services including a notebook-sharing app named Clear, on Tuesday announced that it has reached a capital and business alliance agreement with The Asahi Gakusei Shimbun (belonging to the major daily newspaper The Asahi Shimbun Company’s group) publishing newspaper for students “Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun” and “Asahi Chukosei Shimbun” and also with the correspondence education major Z-kai. As a result, Arcterus has secured a total of 110 million yen (about $992,000) from the two companies in its series B round, subsequent to the 130 million yen (about $1 million at the exchange rate then) raised during its series A round last July.
With this business alliance, Arcterus starts providing news commentary on hot topics or articles related to past exam problems on a constant basis in Clear with the support from The Asahi Gakusei Shimbun as per a trial this May, in addition to Z-kai’s educational materials in accordance with the adaptive learning method. Although Clear had been provided for free until now and been profiting only from advertisements displayed on the app, it will commence premium services under the subscriptions model which utilizes the two companies’ content on a revenue-sharing basis.
Arcterus was founded in 2010 October by Goichiro Arai (CEO) who has held various posts including Resort Business Manager at Japanese resort development / management major Hoshino Resort together with Yoshiki Shiraishi (COO/CFO) who was Arai’s classmate at Keio Business School. Besides Clear, Arcterus is handling a teaching tool for tutor school named Caiz or a individual tutoring cram school in the residential area of Ota City, Tokyo named Shiki Gakuin. Although it is a rare business form for startups, Arai decided to establish and manage a tutorial school by themselves in order to understand the actual front-line of education and to reinforce services.
Clear, launched in December of 2013, allows notebooks sorted by subject or educational unit to be shared with other users and is available for Android, iOS and web. After three years from launch, the number of current users in Japan has reached 970,000 and is close to marking the one million figure. Considering that the number of Japanese high and junior high school students is about 7 million, one in seven students are using Clear. In addition, it has 250,000, 20,000 and 10,000 users in Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea, respectively.
Arai explains about marketing in Asian countries:
We make teams by hiring local university students as interns. In countries having a culture of helping each other by borrowing and lending notebooks when studying together, Clear tends to be widely accepted.
In the above-mentioned countries, Clear’s development model and the students’ information sharing style fit perfectly, and contributed to user acquisition going well. In other words, the app has hardly made a dent in countries where a competitive culture is strongly reflected upon education, as in Singapore. Although Arcterus showed a willingness to advance into North America last year, it altered its plan by prioritizing user acquisition within “Asian countries with a notebook-sharing culture” due to the same reason as to entering Singapore or markets where several competitors exist.
Coinciding with this agreement, the Clear app has been updated for two functions. It enabled easier search of registered notebooks out of the 120,000 found on Clear’s platform according to textbook publisher or educational unit. Additionally, a Q&A function between users was added, allowing them to cover points hard to understand just through the checking of notebooks.
Arcterus won the second prize at Startup Asia Jakarta 2014, while also being selected as a finalist at ASIABEAT 2016 in Xiamen, obtaining international spotlight. Global development in the EduTech field which easily reflects language or culture barriers is said to be difficult; however, the firm aims to acquire cross-border users by setting Clear as an educational platform.
Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy