Why this ex-Uber and Google engineer decided to skill college graduates with his edtech startup
One of the biggest concerns many new-age tech companies have is the lack of highly skilled coders and engineers. A whopping 80 percent of the 24 million students that graduate isn’t skilled enough.
Bengaluru-based edtech startup AttainU came to be in 2018 when its founders realised the current education system doesn’t adequately address the problem of skilling in IT. Founded by IIT Bombay alumnus Divyam Goel and his friend Vaibhav Bajpai, the startup offers full-time, online software engineering courses.
Interesting data points from HackerEarth show that on an average, an engineering student has to study over 40 subjects in eight semesters. This means they need to put in close to 6,000 hours of classes and grasp over three lakh pages of information. Only 500 hours are spent on hands-on lab work.
AttainU addresses this gap with its seven-month-long courses focussed on industry-aligned practical skills and professionally required life skills.
The startup provides career counselling as part of its student assessment process and connects graduates to industry partners for placement upon completion of the course. AttainU aims to serve students who have a college education but don’t have a satisfactory job lined up due to a lack of prior coding experience. It follows a deferred fee payment model conditional to employment aka Income Share Agreement (ISA).
Identifying the problem
After graduating from IIT Bombay Computer Science Engineering in 2012, Divyam worked for the likes of Uber and Google. In 2017, he realised he wanted to work on solving a problem in education, public infrastructure, or healthcare. He therefore quit that year to pursue his goal. What followed were a few months of intense research.
“I spent the next eight months diving deeper into and separating the first principle facts from the fluff in the education domain in India. During this phase, I spoke to over 150 people covering the entire vertical—kindergarten to professional skilling—as well as the entire horizontal vertical from the work NGOs were doing in rural areas to the premium IB schools of the country,” says Divyam.
He also came to understand that a for-profit model is the most efficient way to be able to solve a problem at scale in a free-market approach. And it makes the most business sense to start with the problem where customer motivations are most aligned to benefit from the solution.
Armed with the above two realisations, he joined hands with friend Vaibhav to start AttainU. “We narrowed down on the higher education space. Starting with recent college graduates as our main target audience,” says Divyam.
How AttainU works
The focus of the startup is to smoothly guide graduates from zero-coding backgrounds to become skilled, entry-level software engineers.
“We take students from scratch all the way to expert entry-level software engineers in the industry. We have also had students without any degree or with diplomas skilled through our programmes and get placements too,” says Divyam.
The 40-member startup concentrates on three areas:
Enrolment, where AttainU helps the to figure out their fit for the course, based on their aptitude, inclination, and motivation to put in the required effort.
Skill building, which allows the team to focus on delivering high-quality learning outcomes at scale. The crux here is maintaining high student engagement during the course. “This is achieved through facilitating highly immersive interactions with instructors, mentors, and peers focused around a centrally defined course path built in line with industry partners and delivered by industry expert faculty. Delivery and measurement of granular learning outcomes are built in to make sure each student is on the expected learning trajectory,” Divyam explains.
And, finally, the all-important placements.
Divyam adds, “It’s unfair to talk about higher education without providing career support. This is where we prepare the students for placements, do the match-making, and facilitate the interactions between our industry partners and students.” Currently, the courses are focussed on coding and software programming.
On the startup’s deferred fee payment model conditional to employment, he says, “The business model is popular as an Income Share Agreement allows the student to pay us only if they get a job paying Rs 5 lakh per annum within eight months of course completion. The amount to be paid is Rs 3 lakh, spread over 36 months in EMIs.”
According to Verified Market Research, the global coding bootcamp market was valued at $399.91 million in 2018 and is projected to reach $889.37 million by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 10.70 percent from 2019 to 2026.
With its ISA model, AttainU competes with the likes of Pesto, Masai School, MountBlu Technologies, and School of Accelerated Learning. Even the Silicon Valley-based Lambda School, which operates on a similar model, is looking to break into the India market.
AttainU has raised angel funding from Nikhil Rungta, ex-Intuit India MD; Anil Gelra, Founder, SnapMint; and Manish Kumar, Founder of KredX and LetsVenture.
“We are operationally profitable. Currently, we have 500+ students enrolled in courses currently taken by four instructors, who are experts in software development. Last month, we received 20,000+ student applications. Our first batch is completing at a 90 percent completion rate, with 40 percent of the students having already received pre-placement offers,” says Divyam.
Over the next year AttainU wants to cater to 8,000+ students, expand into more software-related tracks, enhance its tech platform, and optimise its completion and placement rates further.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)