As the mobile phone becomes Africa’s top gadget, with over 600 million subscriptions and more being shipped in, MPrep wants to make educational content available for students.
MPrep’s aim is to make education mobile using widely available mobile technology. They also want to connect schools in the most remote areas of the world with quality educational resources and provide student, teacher, parent, and educational network solutions.
TechMoran caught up with the co-founders and this is their story.
When was it launched and where?
We launched our first product — an SMS quiz tool for students in February of 2012. Publicly, we launched this tool in May 2012 when we started offering school data accounts. I guess our official “launch” as a company was at the KEPSHA conference last year in Mombasa. (It was 11-14 Sept.) We are gearing up for a national launch with our partner next month.
Who are its founders?
Toni Maraviglia and Kago Kagichiri. Toni’s the educator; Kago’s the brains behind the technology. Really though, I’d like to think of our current team as the founders. A company is not about an idea; it’s about execution.
What problem do you solve?
Ultimately we aim to solve problems that lead to students failing. We connect students to study tools, teachers and parents to data to help their children improve, and educational leaders to resources. Most importantly, we’re creating a network in which the dialogue around student learning grows, enticing schools to collaborate and compete. And we want no one left out of this dialogue. A tech solution alone is not a silver bullet to cure educational woes; we must attack failure from all sides.
How does it work?
It depends if you’re a student, teacher, parent, or admin. If you’re a student, you can use MPrep by texting 8512 with the word start. You’ll then register. Students can now take quizzes and tutorials via SMS and will receive marks and rankings at the end. Teachers and parents can also register by texting the Safaricom shortcode 8512 with the words TEACHER or PARENT. Depending on who you are, MPrep will lead you through the registration process. We’re still a closed beta in terms of the data accounts that are available via web/mobile web, so a person would have to call us to get their school or parent account set up. (This will change come February, however.)
Take us through your features
This would take a while! I would say try out the SMS tool yourself and if you’d like to see a demo of our data accounts, check out our demo video: https://vimeo.com/39535546
How any users so far?
We have 8,000 students at over 350 schools across Kenya using the student tool. We have 15 schools subscribing to data. It’s our aim to reach 100,000 students, 5,000 teachers, and 2,000 parents by the end of the year.
What is your business model?
Students (well really, their parents) pay a minimal cost for the SMS service, about 3KSh per quiz/tutorial. Schools and parents pay for web-based data accounts. We also customize MPrep and give solutions to educational networks — these are demand-driven solutions.
Any competition in town?
We’ve seen the greatest competition with companies that give customized SMS software. I won’t really name names. Of course there’s competition from paper products, tech solutions that schools are already using, and new ones that are popping up in the market.
How unique are you from them?
There are few educational solutions that are willing to be demand-driven, especially when it comes to remote areas. As a teacher myself, I see a lot of solutions popping up that 1. I would never use with my students, 2. Run on the ‘novelty effect’ of new, cool technology, 3. Are expensive, and 4. Are not truly accessible (let’s think about this — bandwidth is still next to nil in the rural areas!)
MPrep engages students, is easily accessible, affordable, and appropriate enough to work in classrooms. We aim to empower teachers.
Any funding yet? How much?
We started with $30K of personal funding, have won $80K in competitions, and just closed our seed round with $175K. All numbers in USD.
Holy moley, we have a lot of both. We believe in many strategic partnerships in order to attack student failure from multiple levels. I would say our four biggest partners are Safaricom, KEPSHA (primary school heads association), Child Friendly Schools (CFS) initiative, and biNu. We have others we can’t announce yet, and we also have advisors within the Ministry, UNICEF, Teach For America, and Pearson. We’re being incubated at the m:Lab. For clients, we sell to schools, school networks and educational networks.
I would say our biggest challenge now is staying focused. We know what we’re doing is working, but we don’t want to get sidetracked.
What are your 2013 plans?
National launch in February. Scale to 100,000 students. Provide an awesome, social tool for kids, parents, and teachers. Have fun. Change the way we think about technology in education. Go on a Team ostrich-riding excursion.
Do you want to be Africa-wide?
We want to be world-wide.
What else have done that is successful?
With the Muhuru Bay teachers and head teachers, I started an incentive-based educational programme in South Nyanza called WISERBridge back in 2008. It has quadrupled the KCPE passing rate since then, and it is now run and operated by the community.