Tech entrepreneur Clive Mayhew pumps $1 million into OpenLearning, as the MOOC provider raises $1.7 million2:30AM | Thursday, 5 February
Massive open online course provider OpenLearning has raised $1.7 million that will be used to help meet its goal of increasing the number of students using its platform from 125,000 to a million by the end of the year. Entrepreneur Clive Mayhew invested $1 million and will become the startup’s non-executive director and chairman. The remainder of the investment came from ICS Global, Robin and Susan Yandle, and Hideaki Fukutake. OpenLearning founder Adam Brimo says the startup began working on the capital raise shortly after striking a deal with the Malaysian government to deliver 15% of the country’s public university courses using its platform. Under the plan, the Malaysian government aims to deliver 30% of all public university courses as MOOCs by 2020. “Clive’s had a lot of experience in startups, particularly in education, but also with growing companies at Netscape,” Brimo says. “I’m grateful for the support of our investors and I’m personally looking forward to working with Clive to make OpenLearning the leading online education platform in Asia.” Roughly 50% of OpenLearning’s users come from Malaysia, while the majority of its other users are in Australia, the United States and China. The startup plans to use the capital raise to more than double the size of its Australian-based engineering team and grow its instructional design team. “Running successful online courses, you really need two things. The right platform, but you also need the teachers to be able to design the courses so they can run them effectively,” he says. “OpenLearning not only allows teachers to make their course online, but is also dedicated to ensuring that students participating in these courses have meaningful, engaging, constructive, and ultimately transformative learning experiences.” OpenLearning graduated from the muru-D accelerator last year and Brimo praised the program for its support. “It was very valuable in helping us set up the company, getting the right advisers in place, and getting the right support from Annie (Parker), Charlotte (Yarkoni) and Mick (Liubinskas).” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Taylor’s University has launched a 15-week massive open online course (MOOC) to equip students to build and fund their own companies. The course is coordinated by the Malaysian university’s engineering department. It will explore entrepreneurial thinking and basic business such as finance management and registration, as well as crowd funding and understanding the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The MOOC is supported by two Australian startups, crowdfunding platform Pozible and online education software Open Learning, on which the platform is run. OpenLearning cofounder Adam Brimo told StartupSmart they were excited the course captured the opportunities of MOOCs as well as the unique challenges of entrepreneurship. Students finish the course in teams formed across continents, working on a business idea. Over 1000 students from 100 countries have already signed up to be involved. Brimo says they’ve seen the most enrolments from Malaysia and Australia, but have also received enrolments from Portugal and Qatar. “That’s the cool thing about the internet; you never know where something may take off. We think it must have gone viral at one of the Qatar unis.” As an entrepreneur himself, Brimo adds he’s excited about the emotional intelligence modules in the course. “The most important thing is you’ll also learn the emotional skills entrepreneurs need, such as confidence, perseverance, being humble and also thinking clearly even when stressed out,” Brimo says. “The dean leading the course is particularly good at those topics.” The course is coordinated by the university’s dean of the school of engineering, Professor Dr Mushtak Al-Atabi. Guest speakers include entrepreneurs Dr Jemilah Mahmood, founder of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society and Jack Sim, founder of development group World Toilet Organisation, as well as venture capital investors Kal Joffres of Tandem Fund and Rod de Aboitiz of Provecho Partners. There are almost 400 million active entrepreneurs globally, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor research by Babson College. Over half of these are early-stage entrepreneurs, of which an estimated 165 million are under 35. While a study has recently found Australians to be more entrepreneurial according to a range of traits, other research also identifies Australia is struggling to attract foreign direct investment.
Online classroom platform OpenLearning was selected winner by both the judges and crowd at last week’s education technology start-up pitching competition co-hosted by SydEduTech meetup and the Optus-Innov8 Seed accelerator and investment program. Launched in October 2012, over 30,000 students have used the OpenLearning platform. The platform is able to be used by large, open access groups, universities or small businesses and corporate partners. SydEduTech meetup coordinator Atul Pandey told StartupSmart OpenLearning was the stand-out start-up of the night. “They’re trying to be Facebook for education: a platform that is more interactive and social. They’re opening up the platform and targeting universities in Australia and Malaysia,” Pandey says. The judging panel included investor Kim Heras, education investor Terry Hilsberg, educator and community coordinator Matt Easterman and Alfred Lo, principal at the Optus Innov8 Seed Fund. OpenLearning co-founder and chief executive Adam Brimo told StartupSmart there were a lot of massive online opening learning start-ups but OpenLearning’s focus on community was their main differentiator. “The key differentiators for us are ease of set up and the community. Small businesses often think online courses are too complicated or expensive,” Brimo says. “But anyone can use the platform to teach courses.” Brimo says 2014 is already shaping up well, with a host of new clients locked in and even more scoping out the offering. They recently launched an institution product, similar to a white label service, which offers customer branding. He adds the biggest challenge of getting OpenLearning up and running has been learning to work with different kinds of billing cycles. “When dealing with universities and larger organisations it can take a really long time to get to a decision. As a start-up you’re trying to move as fast as possible, and that can be hard when the customers take a bit longer,” Brimo says. Five other start-ups made it through to the final round, which will be judged on January 29: Literatu, ClassCover, MomentumCloud, ReadableEnglish and MyEdOnline. The winner of the January round will be off to leading Asian tech conference Echelon.
Sydney start-up OpenLearning will go up against online education heavyweight Coursera as it prepares to launch a range of free and paid courses, but with a much greater focus on student collaboration.
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