Unitus Seed Fund expands education portfolio, invests in two startups

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Almost a month after the big announcement of securing funds from Bill Gates, Unitus Seed Fund, has announced its seed round investment in Cue Learn Pvt. Ltd. and Curiositi. While New Delhi-based Cue Learn is an upstart entry into the after-school instruction market in India, Bengaluru-based Curiositi is an experiential learning startup which partners with schools to affordably transform their science curriculum into an exciting, activity-based experience.

Cue Learn will use the new funds to expand operations to multiple states across India and to introduce additional offerings to its product line.

The startups

Cue Learn has over 25 learning centers operating after only 12 months of operations. Launched in 2013 by Manan Khurma and Jagjit Khurma, Cue Learn focuses on making high-quality after-school learning affordable for the masses using a unique combination of paper-based worksheets, tablet-based interactive learning technology and skilled instructors.

Curiositi was co-founded by Vinod Abraham and Manoj Thandassery in July 2013. Vinod is an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore and Manoj is an alumnus of XLRI with over 30 years of collective experience. Curiositi maps the school’s science curriculum to its portfolio of over 80 science activity kits, and delivers these kits so that students explore activities related to the topic they are currently studying. The 17-month old startup began marketing its program in January 2014 and since then has tied-up with 26 schools across 6 locations, delighting over 6000 students and receiving commitments for over 9000 kits.

 The $14 B Tutions market & the role of Cue Learn

The dismal outcomes from the majority of India’s 1 million+ government-run and affordable private schools has led parents to seek supplemental education for decades, creating the vast Rs. 150 lakh crore ($14B USD) “tuitions” market. Traditionally, tuitions have been available in two forms: expensive branded services delivered in classrooms, frequently using the same rote learning techniques found in India’s low-performing schools, and informal un-branded services delivered from the homes of current and retired teachers. Both types of tuitions lack in affordability for low- and mid-income families and/or in the ability to teach students on an individualized basis to meet their specific educational needs.

Cue Learn provides after-school learning programs for Math and English with a unique distribution model: tapping the incremental efforts of women and senior citizens with basic academic backgrounds, and backing them with by custom-designed learning materials, both paper-based and technology-driven. Cue Learn centers are small, home-based setups, with no more than 8 students in each session, ensuring personalized attention to the needs of each learner.

Manan Khurma, co-founder and CEO of Cue Learn says,

Teachers earn income on a flexible schedule, and parents can be confident their children have what they need to learn, at a price their family can afford.

How Curiosity is building the next generation of scientists

Co-Founder of Curiositi, Manoj Thandassery says,

When doing early trials, the excitement from teachers and students convinced us that science has to be learnt by exploring. The challenge was to do it in a manner that delivers impact, affordability and convenience to schools, while being scalable as a business model.

Curiositi’s program can be tailored to all budgets, yet delivers high quality activities covering 80 topics across all branches of science. The other co-founder Vinod Abraham says,

Our school Principals love how it effortlessly integrates with their curriculum, while school owners appreciate that science is transformed without the need for labs, storage space, internet access or capital expense. This allows us to offer the program across the price-spectrum, including ‘Affordable Private Schools’ (APS) that otherwise have no options beyond the text-book.

Investors’ take on Cue Learn and Curiositi

Founded in 2012, the Bangalore and Seattle based Unitus Seed Fund invests in healthcare, education, mobile commerce & value-added services, marketplaces & e-commerce, retail & distribution, agriculture, and water & energy sectors. Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, partner at Unitus Seed Fund says,

Unlike traditional classroom-based tuitions providers, Cue Learn is capital efficient and highly scalable, enabling rapid growth everywhere from tier-1 metros to the smallest rural village.

India’s more than 3 lakh Affordable Private Schools that currently serve more than 40 percent of India’s school age children represent a significant market opportunity. Srikanth Iyer, venture partner at Unitus Seed Fund says,

While the APS segment grows in numbers, it also needs to grow in quality. Curiositi is the first of our 4 education portfolio companies focused on delivering improved learning outcomes for APS schools.

 Website: Curiositi | Cue Learn