Edtech startup BitClass helps instructors launch live cohort-based courses with PaaS solution
While the first wave of edtech hinged on the B2C side, the next one is expected to see companies building the B2B infrastructure layers to deliver live education.
, started in April 2020 by serial entrepreneur Gunjan Kejriwal and his former colleague (from NestAway) Utsav Tiwari, is one such startup that empowers teachers, trainers, coaches, etc. with live learning infrastructure.
Prior to its launch, the founders surveyed educators to discover that they were using multiple apps and tools to schedule, conduct, and manage their online classes.
“Teachers had limited tools and their workflows were broken. An average teacher used up to 11 apps to conduct a single class,” Gunjan tells YourStory.
“There was one app for scheduling classes, another for payment collection, one for assignments, and yet another for video streaming. The question we asked ourselves was: Can we bring all these things under one single product?” he says.
The Bengaluru-based startup solved the inefficiencies by building a PaaS-based solution that helps teachers, trainers, and coaches create and start live classes / courses in under five minutes without any upfront costs or technical know-how.
While BitClass’ initial offering was primarily focused on bringing instructors online, the latter needed “help” with demand generation and business development too.
Gunjan shares, “We came back to the drawing board and decided to do more. We had to become a teacher platform that could provide a business in a box. We were the IT team to set up their online teaching business, and they became our equal partners. By helping them grow their business, we grew our business.”
Iterations and product-market fit
BitClass started iterating its product from August 2020, and did pilots from October to December, before launching the revised version of its platform in January this year.
In its current avatar, BitClass bundles features like inbuilt live virtual classrooms, custom course creation tools and landing pages, integrated payment options, automated lead generation, and user performance management in a single window.
It also offers teachers free digital marketing experts, guidance on Facebook and Google Ads optimisation, promotion and personalisation strategies to help grow their business faster, and funds (advertising credits) to scale up.
“We help teachers with the course designing, packaging, managing community, marketing, and provide them the sales muscle. Each teacher has a course facilitator who helps them run their classes seamlessly,” says the founder.
By reducing friction in starting a live class as well as improving lead generation and student acquisition, the startup has been able to scale its customer base rapidly.
In the last six months, BitClass claims to have helped over 5,000 teachers launch their online courses, and enabled more than 500,000 students to take at least one class.
Vaibhav Domkundwar, Founder and CEO, Better Capital (one of its early backers), said in a prior statement,
“Online education is experiencing an inflection point right now. A completely new set of infrastructure layers will be created by companies to support the wide range of use cases. One big use case is that of spinning an instant live class without struggling with complex software. Teachers can also find students from anywhere in the world. I think that is very powerful.”
Growth, impact, and business model
BitClass has served as the launchpad for over 2,500 cohort-based courses. It has delivered more than 20 million minutes of learning through its platform. At any given point, the platform has 400+ live teachers and 200+ ongoing courses.
The startup claims to have disbursed Rs 2.5 crore in teacher earnings, with 5-7 teachers earning more than Rs 10 lakh each.
The founder shares,
“Users can discover courses that serve three needs: Self-fulfilment (hobby), income opportunities, and knowledge expansion. They can choose from dance, music, yoga, and fitness to crypto trading, nutrition, art, fashion design, language learning, and various other skills, and increase their income avenues.”
BitClass has also begun experimenting with a ‘try and buy” model, where every course is preceded by a two-day workshop that users can avail at an entry price of Rs 99.
Gunjan says, “Learners are able to get a full understanding of the subject, the domain, the teacher, the course, and the vibe of the class, in these workshops. Once they feel comfortable, they can buy the full course. All workshops are also available for free in a one-way format, where learners can watch the class but cannot participate.”
Courses typically range from Rs 2,000 to Rs 20,000, and have a duration of 1-3 months. BitClass earns a percentage of the course fee, which is its primary revenue stream. It also charges teachers a demand generation fee.
“If teachers get a student themselves, we charge them 10 percent of the business generated. If we get them the student, they are charged 50 percent,” Gunjan shares.
The startup claims to have crossed Rs 5 crore in sales, with the top three courses (crypto, fashion design, and art) accounting for almost 30 percent of its business.
“We are seeing a good split between students (30 percent), homemakers (30 percent), and working professionals (40 percent). There are users from Tier II and Tier III cities as well. These are people with a certain paying capacity,” Gunjan reveals.
He believes that BitClass can “look like the evolution of TikTok”. “Engaging, entertaining, and you also end up learning something,” he says.
“Somebody even told me they have stopped their Cult classes, and started taking belly dancing lessons on BitClass. We couldn’t have predicted that use case.”
Funding and future roadmap
Last November, BitClass raised $2 million in a seed round led by Venture Highway, with participation from AET Japan, Figure Eight Investments, and WaterBridge Ventures (which had also led a pre-seed round in July 2020).
“With this follow-on round, after having invested through our Fast Forward Programme [for seed-stage startups], we’re renewing our commitment to high quality entrepreneurs, Gunjan and Utsav, and also to the tech-enabled education and learning market,” Ravi Kaushik, Partner at WaterBridge Ventures, said in a statement.
BitClass’ other investors include AngelList, Better Capital, and angels Raven Sastry of Multiply Ventures, and Amarendra Sahu, Co-founder of NestAway. (Incidentally, Gunjan’s earlier startup Roomys was acquired by NestAway in 2016.)
The startup’s peers include Spayee, Virtually, BitClass, MyClass, Winuall, and others, in an increasingly diverse and competitive cohort-based learning space. Gunjan, however, is of the view that “competition is good for the ecosystem”.
“This is what we’d been craving for in the last 10 years. We now have the opportunity of a lifetime to build a massive company because we’re creating impact with a financial outcome,” he notes.
BitClass is targeting 15,000 teachers, 2.5 million learners, and a Rs 10 crore ARR by the end of FY22. “We want to be the platform with the largest community of live learners, interesting virtual hangout opportunities, peer-to-peer learning networks, and 10X product engagement,” explains the founder.
The startup is also “actively working” to launch outside India by the end of this year.
Gunjan signs off by saying, “Online learning, like online shopping, is an inevitable trend. It may have even crossed ecommerce in penetration. There’s a lot of value in convenience and access, and the pandemic has accelerated behavioural shift. It cannot be reversed.”
Edited by Teja Lele