[The Turning Point] How not giving up on their pursuit to empower educators helped Spayee taste success

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focus on the moment when an entrepreneur hits upon their winning idea. Today, we look at Spayee, which was recently acquired by Unacademy’s Graphy.
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When Sandeep Singh, Gourav Kakkar, Aniruddha Singh, and Vijay Singh teamed up to launch edtech company Spayeeseven years ago, they did not know that their hustle will see any light of the day. As Sandeep tells YourStory, the turning point for the company was not when they started up, but when they decided not to give up.

Started in 2014, Noida-based Spayee, a white label course SaaS platform, lets anyone create, market, and sell their courses online. Spayee allows content creators to produce customised courses in the form of audio and video tutorials, PDF documents, quizzes, assignments, and live classes. It is also a YourStory’s Tech30 alumnus.

The edtech startup has now been acquired by Unacademy's Graphy for $25 million

The beginning

While Spayee Labs was started in 2014, the white-label product was launched only in 2018. The co-founders met each other while working for a US-based publishing company, Innodata Inc. Aniruddha and Sandeep were also preparing for UPSC exams. For the preparation, they used to collect notes from different sources like newspapers, magazines, YouTube videos, and other websites. 

“Proper management of these resources was a task in itself. Bookmarking was an option but was not very effective,” says Sandeep.

While working at Innodata, the four friends felt that India was lagging behind when it comes to digitisation in education. “We wanted to disrupt books and publishing space by turning books digital especially for schools,” tells Sandeep. 

The team pitched the idea to Times Internet and received funding and incubation under the TLabs programme. Sandeep tells the day TLabs agreed to back the idea back in 2014, they quit their jobs to work on Spayee. 

Sandeep Singh, Gourav Kakkar, Aniruddha Singh, and Vijay Singh at Tlabs Demo day (Souce: Faceboook)

“At that time, we were just keen to build an intelligent e-book platform where topics are automatically updated with related resources from the pre-defined sources,” says Sandeep. He adds that at that time, they all were first-time entrepreneurs, so they had very little idea about what to expect next.

This is how Spayee took off. Like any other entrepreneurial journey, Spayee's journey also had hiccups. The founders had to perform iterations and pivots of the product as and when the challenges were presented.

 

In 2018, the founders sat together and asked themselves: “should we shut down?” But they decided to give it another shot, and that became the turning point for Spayee, tells Sandeep. 

“There was the notion that only alumni from IITs or other premium institutes can become successful entrepreneurs, and we all were from regular colleges. If we failed, we thought we will tell our tribes who do not hail from premium colleges that they can't do anything, and we didn't want that message to go to younger and aspiring founders. So we pivoted to a white-label model, and our hustle started paying off,” tells Sandeep. 

The current white-label platform helps content creators create and launch custom-built websites and mobile apps for hosting, marketing, and selling their courses in the form of audio and video tutorials, PDF documents, quizzes, assignments, and live classes along with automated payment gateways. To maximise the benefit in the times of coronavirus, Spayee reprioritised its product development pipeline with features like live classes and more interactive tools on the platform.

Profitable during pandemic

The team launched Spayee course platform in December 2018, and reached the first 1,000 customers in October 2020, and turned profitable amidst the pandemic. Today, 3,000+ creators are using the platform, and some of them include 5paisa School, Sensibull, Payu Academy, Art of Living, Edu91, Rachana Ranade, eSaral, and Sriram Academy – to name a few.

About the recent deal with Unacademy, Sandeep tells they met the team of the edtech unicorn for different business collaboration, but upon realising the vision of both the startups to empower educators was the same, the conversation transitioned into the acquisition within two months. Sandeep adds that despite being a part of Unacademy, Spayee still works as an independent project and aims to empower creators economy.


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Edited by Kanishk Singh

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