Clockwise CEO Matt Martin: How we closed an $18M Series B during a pandemic

It all started with an email from a customer: “Do you know why Bain Capital Ventures is reaching out to me about Clockwise?”

That email would mark the beginning of a journey toward closing $18 million in new funding that will dramatically accelerate my company, Clockwise . It would require getting to know a partner in lockdown, long nights assembling a pitch deck and many bleary-eyed Zoom calls with some of the best VCs in the world.

Here’s how Ajay Agarwal from Bain Capital Ventures and I established trust online, how I made high-stakes decisions in extreme economic uncertainty and how we were able to turn the pandemic’s constraints into opportunities.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Building momentum: 2016 to 2020

Clockwise was founded in late fall of 2016. We realized that, as personal as time is, our schedules inside modern work environments are intertwined by a network of calendar events and attendees. People schedule meetings without considering the preferences of colleagues by simply hunting for any available “white space” (read: time to do real work). The net effect is that our most valuable resource, time, is easy to take and almost impossible to protect.

More than two years later, in June of 2019, we launched Clockwise to the public. After years of experimentation and refinement, we delivered to the world an intelligent calendar assistant that frees up your time so you can focus on what matters. Workers soon confirmed our hunch that they’re hungry for a tool that gives them more productive hours in their day. Our rapid user growth carried throughout 2019.

By January of 2020, we were on fire. Since January 1, our user base has grown by more than 90%, expanding at a clip of well over 5% week-over-week. As people sought remote tools during shelter-in-place, our rate of growth accelerated even further.

Our growth, incredible team, top-tier existing investors (Accel and Greylock) and strong cash position meant we didn’t need to raise additional capital until the fall of 2020. While COVID-19 certainly sent shock waves through the community, I was in regular communication with a few highly engaged investors who still seemed eager to invest in the future of productivity. I felt cautiously confident more capital could wait.

But, you know, best-laid plans.

Establishing trust while sheltering in place

5 resources Black entrepreneurs can leverage to build and grow

Building a business is hard; about 50% of businesses fail in the first five years. The early years of an entrepreneur’s journey can be difficult and lonely. When starting my digital services firm Fearless, I convinced my wife to rent out our home and move in with my mother so we could have an extra income while I built Fearless in my mother’s basement.

That was 10 years ago — Fearless now has over 115 employees.

That story of struggling to build a tech company and working out of a basement or garage until you “make it” is pretty common, but the barriers facing Black entrepreneurs make it harder to find success and support.

Research by the University of California, Santa Cruz states that minority-owned startups have access to less capital than their white counterparts. The right investors can offer more than just funding to early-stage companies; the connections those in the venture capitalist world have can bring an entrepreneur the new business, mentorship and employees needed to grow.

Venture capital firms like Harlem Capital and Black Angel Tech Fund are focused on changing the faces of entrepreneurship by diversifying their portfolio, but traditional venture capitalist funding is not the only way to grow your business.

There are other avenues and opportunities to get the support, financial and otherwise, to help build a successful company:

Equity crowdfunding: Similar to crowdfunding campaigns like GoFundMe or Kickstarter, equity crowdfunding allows nontraditional investors to support businesses and receive equity. Enabled through Title III of the 2012 JOBS Act’s Regulation CF, equity crowdfunding allows all companies to sell securities, whether in the form of equity in the company, debt, revenue shares, convertible notes and more. Equity crowdfunding platforms include WeFunder and LocalStake.

Mentor programs: Fearless was lucky enough to be accepted into the DoD Mentor-Protégé program early in our growth. As the oldest continuously operating federal mentor-protégé program in existence, the DoD program helped us establish and expand our footprint in the federal government contracting space. NewMe and Black Girl Ventures are two programs that specialize in mentorship for early-stage companies.

Become 8(a) certified: The federal government has a goal of awarding at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to small, disadvantaged businesses each year. These businesses fall under the 8(a) classification. To qualify for the program, you must be a small business with 51% of ownership and control from U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged and the owner’s adjusted gross income for three years is $250,000 or less.

The full definition of what counts as being economically and socially disadvantaged can be found in Title 13 Part 124 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Fearless has been classified as an 8(a) company for several years and we have been able to secure several contracts through the certification.

Tap into Small Business Administration resources: More than a million users visit SBA.gov to utilize tools like the SBA Business Guide and Lender Match site. By using the SBA website and reaching out to your local SBA office, you can make full use of the programs available and connect with business owners who can offer advice and mentorship.

Identify supportive bankers: Your business is your top priority and the people you engage with should view your company as a priority too. You need someone vested in your success who will advocate for you when you need them. If you meet with a banker and get a sense that you would be an account number instead of a person, then find another one. If you don’t have your banker’s personal cell phone number, and they aren’t willing to visit you at your business, then take a pass and find a true partner who supports you.

A call to action for business owners

I am putting the call out to business owners and entrepreneurs who are further along in their journey to mentor and invest in Black-owned businesses. Think back on the support you received, and be that model for someone else. Or be the mentor that you wished you had when you were starting out. Take time to invest in other Black-owned tech companies or fund the programs that do. Share your knowledge and experience with Black tech leaders.

If there isn’t a resource hub for Black entrepreneurs in your city, create one. Fearless is a small company and we have still managed to help 13 new companies get off the ground through our accelerator program, Hutch.

Hutch is an intensive 12-month program that gives entrepreneurs a blueprint for building successful digital service firms, by empowering them with the tools, mentorship and peer support they need to have a lasting impact. We think of this program kind of like a home base for our entrepreneurs, providing them with a foundation of support so they can grow without getting lost amongst bigger companies in the industry.

Help create the spaces in your community that will foster innovation and business growth.

‘The money is still there,’ says APX managing director Jörg Rheinboldt

APX is an early-stage accelerator in Berlin, but it’s not quite your average accelerator — it’s essentially a joint venture between giant European publishing house Axel Springer and Porsche, the German automaker. Earlier this month, we sat down with APX managing director Jörg Rheinboldt to discuss what makes APX different and how it’s weathering the coronavirus pandemic.

Rheinboldt has quite a bit of experience as both an entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded Alando.de, which was acquired by eBay in 1999 and donation platform betterplace.org in 2007. In 2013, he became CEO of Axel Springer Plug and Play and during his time as an investor, he put money into companies like N26, Zizoo, Blogfoster and Careship.

“We started APX because Plug and Play wanted to become more of a platform for matchmaking between startups and corporates,” Rheinboldt said when I asked him about the project’s origin. “We, the team, enjoyed investing in early-stage companies a lot and Axel Springer also enjoyed investing in early-stage startups a lot. So we decided to stop investing in new companies Axel Springer Plug and Play. We had invested in 102 companies — and focus[ed] on finding interesting teams to invest in with a new company that we needed to found.”

Image Credits: Dominik Tryba

Rheinboldt took this discussion to his boss, Mathias Döpfner, the current CEO of Axel Springer, who encouraged him to find another shareholder. “If it’s only us, you might have to do what we want — and maybe you don’t want that,” he said Döpfner told him. In looking for a partner, Rheinboldt approached the Porsche family, which he had met at some of his previous investor events. The family was looking to diversify its portfolio, so after a few more meetings, including a presentation at Porsche’s leadership summit, the two companies decided to get into this business together.

One interesting thing Rheinboldt noted — and this isn’t so much about the Porsche family as a general observation — is that family offices are often resistant to getting into venture capital, at least in Germany.

How to get the most from your corporate VC after you get the check

Raising capital from a corporate VC can bring many benefits beyond just money. Strategic CVCs, who measure ROI based on the strength of the strategic partnership with their portfolio companies as well as the financial return, will typically seek to maximize their relationships with startups for a long time after the investment is made.

Specifically, a CVC investor can offer the following to an entrepreneur:

  1. Resources and product feedback. CVC parent companies often have deep institutional expertise and teams of subject-matter experts who can advise startups on product development and guide them through issues.
  2. Partnerships. CVCs can leverage their supply chain and operations to build new partnerships that otherwise may have taken months or years for startups to create.

  3. Distribution. Strategic CVCs can become a distribution channel for a startup, connect that startup with their suppliers, or even use the startup to become a channel for the parent company.

  4. Branding halo. If a large company is willing to invest in your startup, it’s a strong signal that your product is good and that your business has a bright future.

  5. Acquisition. Many CVCs invest in startups that they may want to acquire down the line. A CVC may also endorse an exit-seeking portfolio company to their partner companies or suppliers.

Granted, seeing results from these benefits takes time, and even the best of intentions during a capital raise process may not always yield an optimal strategic relationship.

Here’s a list of factors to keep in mind for founders who want the best chances of a productive and successful relationship with their CVC.

Know which type of CVC you’re dealing with from the outset. In our previous posts, we outlined the three types of CVCs — experienced institutional investors, industry-specific strategics, and beginner or “tourist” CVCs. As we’ve discussed, be sure to spend time interviewing and building relationships with CVCs to determine which type they are, what kinds of benefits and resources they can offer and what their history looks like in terms of successfully partnering with startups over time. When in doubt, ask other founders who have done deals with them!

As fashion has its metaverse moment, one app looks to bridge real and virtual worlds for sneakerheads

Fashion is having its moment in the metaverse.

A riot of luxury labels, music, and games are vying for attention in the virtual world. And as physical events and the entertainment industry that depends on them shuts down, virtual things have come to epitomize the popular culture of the pandemic.

It’s creating an environment where imagination and technical ability, not wealth, are the only barriers to accumulating the status symbols that only money and fame could buy.

Whether it’s famous designers like Marc Jacobs, Sandy Liang, or Valentino dropping styles in Nintendo’s breakout hit, Animal Crossing: New Horizons; HypeBae’s plans to host a fashion show later this month in the game; or various crossovers between Epic Games’ Fortnite and brands like Supreme (which pre-date the pandemic), fashion is tapping into gaming culture to maintain its relevance.

One entrepreneur who’s spent time on both sides of the business as a startup founder and an employee for one of the biggest brands in athletic wear has launched a new app to try build a bridge between the physical and virtual fashion worlds.

Its goal is to give hypebeasts a chance to collect virtual versions of their physical objects of desire and win points to maybe buy the gear they crave, while also providing a showcase where brands can discover new design talent to make the next generation of cult collaborations and launch careers.

Aglet’s Phase 1

The app, called Aglet, was created by Ryan Mullins, the former head of digital innovation strategy for Adidas, and it’s offering a way to collect virtual versions of limited edition sneakers and, eventually, design tools so all the would-be Virgil Ablohs and Kanye Wests of the world can make their own shoes for the metaverse.

When TechCrunch spoke with Mullins last month, he was still stuck in Germany. His plans for the company’s launch, along with his own planned relocation to Los Angeles, had changed dramatically since travel was put on hold and nations entered lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Initially, the app was intended to be a Pokemon Go for sneakerheads. Limited edition “drops” of virtual sneakers would happen at locations around a city and players could go to those spots and add the virtual sneakers to their collection. Players earned points for traveling to various spots, and those points could be redeemed for in-app purchases or discounts at stores.

We’re converting your physical activity into a virtual currency that you can spend in stores to buy new brands,” Mulins said. “Brands can have challenges and you have to complete two or three challenges in your city as you compete on that challenge the winner will get prizes.”

Aglet determines how many points a player earns based on the virtual shoes they choose to wear on their expeditions. The app offers a range of virtual sneakers from Air Force 1s to Yeezys and the more expensive or rare the shoe, the more points a player earns for “stepping out” in it. Over time, shoes will wear out and need to replaced — ideally driving more stickiness for the app.

Currency for in-app purchases can be bought for anywhere from $1 (for 5 “Aglets”) to $80 (for 1,000 “Aglets”). As players collect shoes they can display them on their in-app virtual shelves and potentially trade them with other players.

When the lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders came through, Mullins and his designers quickly shifted to create the “pandemic mode” for the game, where users can go anywhere on a map and simulate the game.

“Our plan was to have an LA specific release and do a competition, but that was obviously thrown off,” Mullins said.

The app has antecedents like Nike’s SNKRS, which offered limited edition drops to users and geo-located places where folks could find shoes from its various collaborations, as Input noted when it covered Aglet’s April launch.

While Mullins’ vision for Aglet’s current incarnation is an interesting attempt to weave the threads of gaming and sneaker culture into a new kind of augmented reality-enabled shopping experience, there’s a step beyond the game universes that Mullins wants to create.

Image Credits: Adidas (opens in a new window)

The future of fashion discovery could be in the metaverse

“My proudest initiative [at Adidas] was one called MakerLab,” said Mullins.

MakerLab linked Adidas up with young, up-and-coming designers and let them create limited edition designs for the shoe company based on one of its classic shoe silhouettes. Mullins thinks that those types of collaborations point the way to a potential future for the industry that could be incredibly compelling.

“The real vision for me is that I believe that the next Nike is an inverted Nike,” Mullins said. “I think what’s going to happen is that you’re going to have young kids on Roblox designing stuff in the virtual environments and it’ll pop there and you’ll have Nike or Adidas manufacture it.”

From that perspective, the Aglet app is more of a Trojan Horse for the big idea that Mullins wants to pursue. That’s to create a design studio to showcase the best virtual designs and bring them to the real world.

Mullins calls it the “Smart Aglet Sneaker Studio”. “[It’s] where you can design your own sneakers in the standard design style and we’ll put those in the game. We’ll let you design your own hoodies and then [Aglet] does become a YouTube for fashion design.”

The YouTube example comes from the starmaking power the platform has enabled for everyone from makeup artists to musicians like Justin Bieber, who was discovered on the social media streaming service.

“I want to build a virtual design platform where kids can build their own brands for virtual fashion brands and put them into this game environment that I’m building in the first phase,” said Mullins. “Once Bieber was discovered, YouTube meant he was being able to access an entire infrastructure to become a star. What Nike and Adidas are doing is something similar where they’re finding this talent out there and giving that designer access to their infrastructure and maybe could jumpstart a young kid’s career.”

Andela CEO confirms staff cuts as layoffs hit African tech

Africa-focused tech talent accelerator Andela has let go 135 employees, CEO Jeremy Johnson confirmed to TechCrunch on a call.

Senior staff at the company — with offices in New York and five African countries — will also take salary cuts of 10% to 30%.

The compensation and staff reductions are a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 and bring Andela’s headcount down to 1199 employees. None of Andela’s engineers were included in the layoffs.

Backed by $181 million in VC from investors that include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the startup’s client-base is comprised of more than 200 companies around the world that pay for the African developers Andela selects and trains to work on projects.

There’s been a drop in the demand for Andela’s services, according to its CEO.

“The vast majority of our customers have stayed with us. But new business has slowed down dramatically,” Johnson told TechCrunch on a call.

“Like any venture backed startup we’re built for growth. And so if growth is gonna slow dramatically, your burden has to come down.”

Andela Nigeria Office

Andela’s Nigeria office; Image Credits: Andela

The company is also preparing for the possibility of hard economic times moving forward.

“We already know this is going to have a material impact on pace of growth. And as a result of that, we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared to…weather the storm,” Johnson said.

The American CEO noted the latest measures weren’t entirely due to external factors. They also connect to a strategic direction change for the company, the details of which will follow, according to Johnson.

Andela’s staff cuts mark the first notable round of layoffs in African tech coming from one of the the continent’s best funded and most visible startups (by press volume).

The company launched in 2014 with co-founders who included Nigerian entrepreneur Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Ian Carinvale and American Christine Sass. Aboyeji has since departed and Sass stepped down as Andela president in 2019, but maintains an advisory role.

In Africa, Andela has offices in Nigeria, Kenya,  Rwanda, Uganda and Egypt. The company cut 400 junior engineers in September, but that announcement came with news it had attained a $50 million run-rate as a Series D startup.

Tips, tactics and cashflow strategies for startup survival during a crisis

We’re in unprecedented times and are likely at the beginning of a long journey back to normal  —  whatever the new “normal” turns out to be.

While governments rush to get debt-relief packages in place, the high-risk, high-reward tech sector will need something different. To survive, the community requires fancy footwork, hard choices and a lot of shared pain between founders, staff, investors, suppliers and customers.

With my startup Moonfruit, a DIY website and e-commerce platform I co-founded with Wendy Tan-White (now a VP at X) and eirik pettersen (currently CTO at Secret Escapes), we survived the 2001 dot-com crash, when the entire tech sector was decimated for years to come, as well as the 2008 financial crisis, when we were lucky enough to experience rapid countercyclical growth. These experiences made us stronger and ultimately led to our successful exit in 2012 and post-acquisition growth to $150 million ARR.

I’ve spent the last five years as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, raising $200 million of funds and advising hundreds of startups through formation, growth and fundraising — but right now I work with many of them daily on survival.

For most companies, I think this crisis will look more like 2001 than 2008, though there will be some who are lucky enough to grow through it. The good news is, having been through this before, I know there are things you can do as a founder or as an investor that can mitigate the damage. In the U.K., I’m in several conversations about making emergency equity funding more available, and I hope this happens all over the world too.

Here is a tactical guide to surviving the crisis.

Silicon Valley Bank only started processing stimulus loan applications today

In a sign of just how broken the process is for startups looking to receive stimulus dollars, Silicon Valley Bank, the bank that claims “more innovative startups bank with us than any other bank,” only just began processing claims today.

“Since the CARES Act and the PPP were announced, we have been hard at work advocating for our clients to have access to this funding. We have been working around the clock to develop a process that works for our clients. Thousands of companies have indicated interest in the last several days,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. “We are currently accepting and processing PPP applications and continue to receive a high volume of interest. We will continue to listen to our clients and do everything we can to support their success.”

The stimulus loans that startups hope to access were created to save jobs at companies affected by the government’s closure of non-essential businesses. The initiative is part of a broad range of measures meant to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 epidemic.

For startup companies, the loan package has proven to be a source of nearly as much consternation as the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I’m a startup founder who banks with Silicon Valley Bank,” wrote one tipster. “They are totally dropping the ball on the Paycheck Protection Program. Other banks began accepting applications on Friday, it’s now Tuesday and no word from SVB. Really bad for startups.”

For its part, Silicon Valley Bank said it was working around the clock to make sure its customers were able to access the federal money.

Many companies and their investors are confused about whether they are even eligible for stimulus money — and if they are eligible whether they should apply. Investors have refused to go on the record about the advice they’re giving to their portfolio companies.

Perhaps the clearest view of the conundrum startups face has come from the Los Angeles-based investor Mark Suster, who “open-sourced” his own firm’s advice on how to approach the Paycheck Protection Loans — the $. 349 billion small business lending program at the heart of the CARES Act.

Small banks aren’t the only ones having problems getting those much-needed stimulus dollars in the hands of the companies that desperately need them. Several businesses have been stymied in their attempts to receive loans through applications to larger banks.

Customers at Bank of America href="https://twitter.com/Drkcbugg/status/1246126907244118017?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1246126907244118017&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.vox.com%2F2020%2F4%2F7%2F21209584%2Fpaycheck-protection-program-banks-access"> have reported being unable to apply for the government-backed loans from the program without having an existing line of credit with the bank.

And those aren’t the only problems. The Small Business Administration, tasked with overseeing the loan process, is not equipped to dole out the nearly $2 trillion in government funds that are expected to flow through the agency.

“If you can’t get the loan today or tomorrow, don’t worry,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday on Fox Business. “There will be money. And if we run out of money, we’ll come back for more.”

Meanwhile startup entrepreneurs are left holding the bag. And their concerns are warranted. Even by the standards of other financial services firms, the Silicon Valley Bank response was slow. The loans became available on Friday and SVB only started issuing loans on Tuesday of the following week.

When asked when SVB first made the loan applications available, the company said it started this morning.

“Due to the high volume, each company’s randomized notification of the ability to apply did not appear all at the same time,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email.

It’s a sign of a broader failure in the market. As one entrepreneur wrote in an email earlier today:

“Lots of startups (mine included) bank with SVB. The PPP loans are given out on a first come first serve basis – so their screwup might result in thousands of startups not getting these critical loans and we will have to lay people off.
SVB promised to have the program up and running by 4PM PST yesterday. At 5PM PST they put a weak ass message on their website (link below) saying they regret missing their own deadline.

There has been no subsequent communication from them and their phone lines are all disconnected. Relationship managers are not responding to emails or calls either.

LOTS of startup founders I know are furious, and rightfully so. We are going to lose 2.5x months payroll because our bank fucked up. It is ridiculous and we would expect better from a bank that prides itself on serving startups. Main street banks like Bank of America and Chase had their PPP applications up and running on Friday (April 4th) but only for existing clients, so all of us startups who were dumb enough to rely on SVB are FUCKED. Switching to a new bank is not an option because a) all the branches are closed and b) the KYC process takes a couple of weeks so it’s too late.”

VR chair startup raises funds, as pandemic boosts prospects for VR and gaming

Roto VR, startup which markets an interactive, ‘360 degree’ chair, has raised £1.5 million in a funding round led by Pembroke VCT. Others in the round include TVB Growth Fund, managed by The FSE Group.

The chair is designed to make VR more accessible to a mass audience, many of whom have turned to VR and gaming to while away the hours as much of the world is locked-down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 2015 by video games industry veterans, Elliott Myers and Gavin Waxkirsh, Roto VR is an interactive chair that addresses the physical problems of consuming VR whilst seated, such as motion sickness and tangling cables, whilst also enhancing the immersive experience with haptic / vibration feedback in the chair.

The Roto chair is motorized and can auto-rotate to wherever the user is looking, allowing for 360-degree viewing, and thus allows the user to stay in the VR simulation for longer periods of time.

The inbuilt desktop also supports input devices such as a keyboard and mouse which means it can be used in 360-degree desktop computing.

“Most people sit down to watch movies, work, play games and browse the internet whilst seated and we see no reason why the exciting new medium of VR will be any different,” said Myers.

The product is compatible with most VR Head Mounted Displays and is also compatible with all movies and games, as well as additional accessories such as racing wheels and joysticks.

The company is due to launch the consumer and office version of Roto imminently. In addition, it will be marketed to cinemas and arcades.

Andrew Wolfson, CEO Pembroke Investment Managers LLP, said: “In Elliott we have found an entrepreneur who has solved a problem for the VR market with a solution that addresses the physical issues encountered whilst consuming VR content, as well as significantly enhancing the experience. We see future customers coming from both the B2B and B2C markets, in fields such as experiential attractions, home, cinemas and shopping centres.”

Pre-school EdTech startup Lingumi raises £4m, adds some free services during Covid-19

At these difficult times, parents are concerned for their children’s education, especially given so much of it has had to go online during the Covid-19 pandemic. But what about pre-schoolers who are missing out?

Pre-school children are sponges for information but don’t get formal training on reading and writing until they enter the classroom when they are less sponge-like and surrounded by 30 other children. Things are tougher for non-English speaking children who’s parents want them to learn English.

Lingumi, a platform aimed at toddlers learning critical skills, has now raised £4 million in a funding round led by China-based technology fund North Summit Capital – a fund run by Alibaba’s former Chief Data Scientist Dr Min Wanli – alongside existing investors LocalGlobe, ADV, and Entrepreneur First.

The startup, launched in 2017, is also announcing the launch of daily free activity packs and videos to support children and families during the COVID-19 outbreak, and has pledged to donate 20% of its sales during this period to the Global Children’s Fund.

Lingumi’s interactive courses offer one-to-one tutoring with a kind ‘social learning’ and its first course helps introduce key English grammar and vocabulary from the age of 2.

Instead of tuning into live lessons with tutors, which are typically timetabled and expensive, Lingumi’s lessons are delivered through interactive speaking tasks, teacher videos, and games. At the end of each lesson, children can see videos of Lingumi friends speaking the same words and phrases as them. Because the kids are watching videos, Lingumi is cheaper than live courses, and thus more flexible for parents.

The company launched the first Lingumi course in China last year, focused on teaching spoken English to non-English speakers. The platform is now being used by more than 100,000 families globally, including in mainland China, Taiwan, UK, Germany, Italy, and France. More than 1.5 million English lessons have taken place in China over the past six months, and 40% of active users are also playing lessons daily. Lingumi says its user base grew 50% during China’s lockdown and it has had a rapid uptake in Europe.

“Lingumi’s rapid expansion in the Chinese market required a strategic local investor, and Dr Min and the team had a clear-sighted understanding of the technology and scale opportunity both in China, and globally.”

Dr Wanli Min, general partner at North Summit Capital, commented: “It is only the most privileged children who can access native English speakers for one-on-one tutoring… Lingumi has the potential to democratize English learning and offer every kid a personalized curriculum empowered by AI & Lingumi’s ‘asynchronous teaching; model.”

Competitors to include Lingumi include live teaching solutions like VIPKid, and learning platforms like Jiliguala in China, or Lingokids in the West.