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Astarc Ventures leads funding in ed-tech startup SOAL
(L-R) Pratik Agarwal, Varsha Bhambhani and Raj Desai co-founders of SOAL

Early-stage venture capital firm Astarc Ventures has led a funding round of $300,000 (Rs 2.1 crore) in Mumbai-based ed-tech firm School of Accelerated Learning (SOAL).

Startup incubator T-hub’s founder Srinivas Kollipara, fintech firm Zeta’s co-founder Ramki Gaddipatti and BeeCash founder Krishnan Menon also participated in the transaction.

The company, which launched its first campus in Hyderabad in 2018, will use the funds to launch the second campus in Mumbai by December, SOAL said in a statement. It will also beef up operations with a bouquet of programmes such as digital marketing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, the statement added. 

It aims to launch its tech-enabled learning spaces centres in metros as well as tier 2 cities in next two years.

Pratik Agarwal, one of the co-founders at SOAL, said the firm aims to build what a college of the 21st century needs to look like --- dynamic, accessible, and fast. “Our learners are picking up skills that will help them embrace and drive disruption,” he said.

SOAL was launched in April 2016 by Pratik Agarwal, Raj Desai and Varsha Bhambhani. Agarwal had earlier co-launched startups such as ThinkScream Infomedia and TheLostParty. Desai was Agarwal’s colleague in the same organisations. Bhambani, an alumnus of Foothill College in California, is also associated with UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

SOAL’s product Meta-Learning is a hybrid learning method. This method marries online learning’s access to offline learning’s engagement. The company is solving a two-fold problem - education and employability. It claims that its graduates have recently started working with tech organisations like ShopClues, ClearTax, FactSet, ThoughtWorks, NowFloats, and Schrocken.

Salil Musale, director at Astarc Ventures, said shortage of both demand and supply with respect to tech talent in the market is the key to bridge the gap. Also, an effective up skilling solution with the focus on the industry is also significant.

Astarc

Founded in 2015, Astarc Ventures is promoted by the diversified Astarc Group that is engaged in businesses such as infrastructure, automotive and agriculture. It invests in companies aligned with the businesses of the group and outside of it including new technology.

The venture capital firm has made more than a dozen investments including in speech recognition firm Liv.ai, which was acquired by e-commerce giant Flipkart in August last year.

In April, it invested in SureClaim, a fintech startup founded by former employees of venture capital- funded health-tech company Practo.

It invested in HomeCapital, a fintech startup which helps first-time homebuyers make down payments, in February.

Ed-tech deals 

The online learning and ed-tech segment has attracted considerable investor interest of late.

In December last year, Byju’s announced that it secured $540 million (Rs 3,855 crore then) in a round led by South African tech conglomerate Naspers.

In June, ed-tech platform for competitive exams Unacademy raised $50 million (Rs 346 crore) in a Series D funding round from Steadview Capital, Sequoia Capital India, Nexus Venture Partners, Blume Ventures and others. The startup said it will use the fresh capital to onboard more educators and fuel growth across multiple exam categories.
 

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