Nearly two-year old Bengaluru-based SuperLearn becomes the latest edtech firm to shut down its operations as it bites the dust due to lack of capital and investor interest following the re-opening of schools post the pandemic.
“We set out to make high quality after-school learning affordable to tier II/III India, however market realities were very different, and we took the hard call to shut SuperLearn early this year,” Kunal Bhatia, co-founder at SuperLearn, wrote in a post on LinkedIn, telling the story of the company’s demise.
Founded in 2020 by Bhatia and Ricky Gupta, SuperLearn was a webinar format after-school learning platform for kids aged 3-13 years offering a range of hobby, extracurricular, co-curricular and life-skills activities. Calling itself a 'Netflix for after-school learning for kids,’ the app helped conduct free live classes on new topics everyday including yoga, art, craft, dance, sudoku, abacus, vedic math, GK, English, science, Chess, etc.
At its peak, SuperLearn had over 2,000 kids sitting in the same live class.
In August last year, SuperLearn, has raised $300,000 pre-seed round led by early-stage Japanese VC Incubate Fund India with angel investors such as Vishal Bharghav, Padmanabhan Thangarajan, Anuraag Gupta and Karan Talwar.
“Fresh with funds, we expanded our team, started building product & spending on growth. All these increased our burn significantly. We needed another fund raise,” Bhatia said.
But, the raise didn’t happen!
“We spoke to probably 60+ funds over a period of 6 months and no one seemed to be buying the edtech story anymore. It was clear the party was ending,” he added in the post.
According to Bhatia, “With a few months runway left to even figure out a pivot, we took the tough call of shutting the company and returning whatever money we have left back to our investors.”
The post by Bhatia comes just days after its peer Skorion Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which runs learning platform Udayy, closed down its operations laying off its entire workforce of 100 people.
The years 2020 and 2021 witnessed massive investment activity from venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) players into edtech firms, which were aided by the proliferation of online education in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic-led lockdown.
According to Bhatia, “With things returning to normalcy outside, the first casualty was online classes. We began seeing a dip in the number of kids attending our classes.”
For edtech firms, the funding rush which turned many firms into unicorns ($1 billion and above valuation) nosedived since the end of last year as physical education and learning returned offline.
Several VC and PE-backed startups are now facing a funding crunch owing to the global and domestic turmoil as investors are going conservative on additional investments.
Incidentally, startups across the board including Unacademy, Vedantu, Lido Learning, FrontRow, WhiteHat Jr, Meesho, Furlenco, Cars24, MFine, OkCredit and latest being Citimall, among others, have also witnessed mass layoffs or resignations.
According to Bhatia, “Not just VCs, even parents seemed to have seen too much of edtech. With hyper funding in the space, Indian parents had been bombarded by different companies, all trying to sell them some product or the other.”
Edtech firms such as Byju’s, Unacademy and Vedantu are now also pivoting to offline coaching models moving to hybrid operations to sustain their businesses. This also comes at a time when coaching institutions such as Allen Career Institute are spinning their online platforms amid rising competition from tech platforms.