uLesson secures $7.5m to push edtech solution into Eastern, Southern Africa

Nigeria’s edtech platform, uLesson has secured a $7.5 million Series A round led by Owl Ventures, with inclusion from existing investors, TLcom Capital and Founder Collective, and participation from LocalGlobe.

The funding will allow uLesson to push its learning technology platform into Eastern and Southern Africa, as well as secure new talent, and build its product development and production infrastructure. As part of the funding, uLesson will have Tory Patterson, Managing Director of Owl Ventures, join its board.

Online learning has been growing on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to lockdown of schools in 2020 and forced schools and parents to move online to educate their wards. According to a report, the global online learning industry is projected to grow and reach $325 billion in 2025. In view of this, the market has seen new investors taking positions. In Africa, the market is starting to grow as big tech companies like Google provide new features that allow students and schools to learn using their platform.

Founded by Sim Shagaya, uLesson offers personalised, curriculum-relevant content via mobile and PC devices for students in the K-7 to K12 segment across the continent. Students access the lesson on uLesson via streaming and SD cards, where they can download and store the content, allowing them to study remotely, removing challenges around internet access limitations and costs. Since its launch, the platform has seen 1 million installments as of March 2020.

The team has so far created over 5,000 richly animated video lessons, 30,000 quizzes, and tests across senior and junior classes on its Android app that supports each country’s curriculum. Sim Shagaya said in creating the educational content it has to take into cognition the diversity of the African continent. The continent’s diverse needs, cultures, and curricula mean that uLesson is deliberate in developing and designing products and distribution channels to serve each market.

Since its launch, the platform has seen 1 million installments as of March 2020. The company expects even more adoption as more and more people adopt digital learning as the future of education.

uLesson is already beginning to see these opportunities as Shagaya noted that almost on a daily basis the company gets emails from families across the continent asking for access to its services.

“The appreciation of the importance of education has always been there; the means of delivering digital, relevant education has previously been lacking. We are not witnessing an increased availability of data networks in Africa and with more affordable smartphones and the change in attitudes towards online learning accelerated by COVID-19, the foundations are now in place for an education revolution. At uLesson, we know we have a critical role to play in this ‘new normal’ and this funding will be crucial in our dive to fill the major gaps in Africa’s education system through tech,” Shagaya said.

Beyond launching the service to Eastern and Southern Africa, uLesson also plans to release new products including a new pan-African school library, 1 on 1 tutoring sessions, and Challenge – its new app feature that allows learners to challenge friends to a quiz.

“As an investor, it is rare to find a massive, under-served market being addressed by an entrepreneur whose skills are tailor-made for the opportunity,” David Frankel, managing partner at Founder Collective and an investor in PillPack, Olo, and Coupang, said. “Sim Shagaya is assembling a world-class team to help realise his vision of a modernized education system for one of the highest potential places in the world today.”

uLesson has raised $3.1 million seed round in November 2019, led by TLcom Capital with participation from the company’s founder and CEO, Sim Shagaya.

“Since we partnered with Sim in 2019, uLessaon has shown exceptional growth and fully validated our belief in its huge potential,” Ido Sum, Partner at TLcom Capital said. “We welcome Owl Ventures and LocalGlobe, as combining their domain expertise from other markets with our local presence and expertise, we can together further support the company to become a world-class edtech platform.”

Suzanne Ashamn, Partner at LocalGlobe, also noted that it was impressed by the foundational DNA of uLesson’s team in Nigeria. In 2020, Sim Shagaya announced that it was moving the headquarters of the company from Jos to Abuja because of its proximity to the international airport which is a prerequisite for attracting top talents from across the world.

“The team has purpose-built the product to make the learning experience significantly more engaging and effective than a large classroom experience,” Ashamn said. “We are delighted to be part of uLesson’s journey.”

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