Mountain View, California (EastBayDaily) — It’s hard enough getting into a college, but imagine being a student in Asia and having to take your college entrance exams in a completely foreign language. Not only are you cramming and memorizing new words late into the night, but progress is utterly stalled when coming upon mildly ambiguous analogies like “:football : pig skin ::”. Thankfully for students in Japan, Korea, and China, an app that localizes Shmoop’s fun, premium educational content for them was recently made possible through a new funding round led by Formation 8 and a long-term partnership with AKAStudy, Asia’s leading mobile education app developer.
Shmoop positioned to be at forefront of learning in Asia
Formation 8, a venture capital firm focused on introducing transformational tech start-ups to the Asian market, led an investment in Shmoop, a publisher of digital curriculum and test prep. Already a leader in online learning, Shmoop’s 7 million (and growing!) unique users visit the site’s 250,000 pages of original content across 100+ subjects every month. Formation 8 said it was the logical choice to invest in Shmoop since the Silicon Valley based learning giant has an impressive track record in scaling its curriculum to thousands of schools and districts in the U.S.
“David and Ellen Siminoff are legends in Silicon Valley – they are two of the most influential mentors to top executives and leaders behind the scenes, with long track records of success. Their deep experience scaling businesses globally is unrivaled and we are very excited to partner with them and Shmoop to help these important education businesses become global leaders,” said Joe Lonsdale, Partner at Formation 8 and co-founder of Palantir and Addepar.
As part of the investment, Shmoop established a unique content translation and distribution partnership with AKAStudy, another company within Formation 8’s impressive portfolio. With the help of Formation 8, Shmoop and AKAStudy are now uniquely positioned to help build a global education platform, as the venture capital firm works with strategic conglomerates in Asia, including NHN, CJ Media & Entertainment, Korea Telecom, and the LG and Samsung families. The firm is also closely connected to top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including the founders of PayPal, Yahoo, Facebook, and other transformative technology companies. Also joining Formation 8’s investment in Shmoop is globally renowned Wall Street investor Gordon Crawford, recently retired from Capital Group; Mr. Crawford was the original and only outside investor in Shmoop since its inception.
“China, Japan and Korea are Asia’s three big educational powerhouses, and students are hungry for quality content that can be accessed 24/7. As education values in Asia shift from rote to active and creative learning, students require more humanized, engaging content delivered to their LG or Samsung devices. The combination of AKAStudy’s distribution platform and Shmoop’s unique content is powerful,” said Brian Koo, Partner at Formation 8.
Partnership with AKAStudy
Through a shared revenue model and licensing agreement, AKAStudy will translate and sell Shmoop’s content in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Shmoop also made a strategic investment in AKAStudy, which was established by the co-founders of Hackers Education Group, a leading English education firm in Korea that has published over 20 best-selling textbooks and won the “Brand of the Year” Grand Award in 2012. AKAStudy has 22 of the top 50 selling mobile apps in Asia, and Shmoop’s investment will help the leading mobile education company continue to expand its operations. One of the ways they plan on doing this is to immediately start hiring people to translate and distribute Shmoop’s fun, light-hearted spin on courses like math, AP English Literature, SAT Test Prep, and college essay prep. The new hires will be hand-picked by AKAStudy’s management team to expertly translate Shmoop’s content, which are written by Ivy League trained PhD graduates and comedy writers (they’re serious about keeping it fun!).
“The partnership with AKAStudy is a reflection of the shrinking world we live in,” said David Siminoff, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Shmoop. “Curious students in Asia who are smart and want to learn subjects in a way that stays with them beyond memorizing lines of text can now instantly hear us explain how The Great Gatsby was the original Twilight-esque love triangle through mobile networks, platforms, and video. The pathos of a broken heart is a global, not local, phenomenon.”
“There are approximately 1.5 billion mobile subscribers in the world – and a third of them live here in Asia. We’re excited to see AKAStudy move forward education a little bit with fresh content from our new partner,” said Raymond Jung, CEO of AKAStudy. “The kids will love Shmoop’s hilarious take on subjects like Shakespeare and Calculus.”
AKAStudy is already localizing Shmoop’s test prep materials and learning guides and plans to launch with thousands of new pages of content available on iOS and Android.
AKAStudy is creating a mobile platform for English language test prep, addressing a $60+ billion market for a young demographic in Asia where mobile adoption and test prep are increasingly popular. AKAStudy’s mobile application, Picto, automates previously labor-intensive editing feedback to student work, better ensuring student success on crucial tests such as TOEFL, TOEIC, and GMAT. The company is also creating a highly anticipated artificial intelligence editing engine that automatically gives personalized edits and feedback to user responses to sample writing and speaking questions. The management team is comprised of former engineers and executives who have deep knowledge and experience in both test prep education and consumer-facing mobile applications.
Shmoop is a digital curriculum and test prep company that makes fun, rigorous learning and teaching materials. Shmoop content is written by master teachers and Ph.D. students from Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and other top universities. Shmoop Learning Guides, Test Prep, and Teacher’s Editions balance a teen-friendly, approachable style with academically rigorous materials to help teachers help students understand how subjects relate to their daily lives. Shmoop sees over 7 million unique visitors a month on its site, and offers more than 7,000 titles across the Web, iPhone, Android devices, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. The company has been honored twice by the Webby Awards and was named “Best in Tech” for 2010 and 2011 by Scholastic Administrator. Launched in 2007, Shmoop is headquartered in a labradoodle-patrolled office in Mountain View, California.
*SAT and AP are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of and does not endorse this product. *ACT is a federally registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Shmoop University is not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT, Inc.