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Shikho raises $1.3 million of global capital to democratize quality education in Bangladesh

  • Published at 04:15 am July 28th, 2021
Shikho app

By digitizing the Bangladeshi National Curriculum, Shikho aspires to improve educational outcomes for students through accessible and affordable online learning solutions

Shikho, a Bangladesh-based edtech startup aiming to make high-quality education accessible and affordable, on Wednesday announced the completion of a $1.3 million seed round of financing. 

This is the largest round raised by a Bangladeshi edtech startup yet. The round was led by Anchorless Bangladesh, a New York-based early-stage venture capital firm dedicated to Bangladesh, and LearnStart, the seed fund of Silicon Valley-based edtech investment specialists Learn Capital. 

It also had participation from Southeast Asia-focused venture capital firm Wavemaker Partners and Ankur Nagpal, founder and CEO of a leading American edtech called Teachable. 

This will be the first time Wavemaker Partners have invested in a Bangladeshi venture and the sixth deal for Anchorless Bangladesh since 2020, who have been very active in the local ecosystem; other investments include funding to Maya, AliceLabs, Loop Freight and Gaze.

Founded in April 2019, Shikho is an education technology (edtech) company building a digital learning ecosystem centered on modernizing the delivery of the Bangladeshi National Curriculum and making it fit for the 21st century. Combining expertise across content, instruction, media, and technology, Shikho utilizes multi-layered gamification and modern learning methods to make online learning enjoyable, engaging, and effective for students of classes 9-12. 

The company adapts material from the national curriculum, helping students using the app to transition more easily to online learning environments by engaging them with the material they are already accustomed to in traditional classrooms. 

The technology platform addresses each part of the Bangladeshi student journey — covering daily lessons, homework, exam prep, tutoring, and skill development — in an affordable, convenient, and cohesive way. It provides students with academic courses that include resources and tools to help students succeed in national board exams. 

Shikho’s app includes access to animated video lessons, a library of in-app questions and solutions, along with interactive features for collaboration among peers. Through Shikho’s online platforms, students will soon be able to attend both live and pre-recorded classes taught by subject experts and professional instructors, allowing them to gain access to high-quality instruction that may otherwise be outside of their reach in physical classroom settings. Students can learn at their own pace with content accessible from anywhere and anytime at a fraction of the cost of traditional online learning and tutoring services.

The outbreak of the pandemic has presented the education sector with significant challenges and opportunities. Widespread school closures across the world to reduce the spread of the virus brought about a revolution in remote learning, yet those who are already marginalized with limited or no online access were left even further behind. 

This poses a pressing threat to achieving the fourth of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “To ensure inclusive and equitable education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all” — by the deadline of 2030, which Shikho seeks to achieve in Bangladesh with close engagement with key stakeholders, which this new round of investment will help advance.

Shikho is led by a team of experienced educational and technical talent. The team includes co-founders Shahir Chowdhury (CEO), a seasoned financial and business professional; and Zeeshan Zakaria (COO), an experienced educator with a decade of hands-on educational leadership. With years of overseas business and education experience, paired with an intimate understanding of the Bangladeshi education sector, the Shikho founding team brings together global best practices with on-the-ground know-how, addressing the unique educational needs of Bangladeshi students.

Shikho Founders - Shahir Chowdhury (Left) and Zeeshan Zakaria (Right)

Students do well when they are engaged and able to understand the material clearly; this applies to all modalities of learning, whether online or in schools and tutoring centers. 

Shikho differentiates itself by focusing on quality of instruction whilst making learning fun. They have created a system with multiple layers of quality checking with education experts and creatives reviewing each stage of the content creation process. 

Additionally, Shikho also aspires to improve educational outcomes for students by ‘gamifying’ the learning experience. 

Students are rewarded with achievement points, can compete with friends, and have the chance to earn a variety of digital badges for completing course material. The technology goes one step further to allow access to personalized real-time performance and progress tracking which students and their parents can use to better understand strengths and reinforce weaknesses. These are some of the advanced features that will be further developed with this round of financing. 

Shikho also plans to continue build advanced features for its learning app, including personalization, granular data analysis, live quizzes, and introduce a new web portal and parent app. In the future, the company plans to expand its offerings to cover the entire educational journey of Bangladeshi students across primary, secondary, tertiary, and continuous professional learning.

“Although half of the 165 million people in Bangladesh are below the age of 25, there is a clear lack of quality online educational resources for students and young professionals. By building a digital learning ecosystem that caters to the modern Bangladeshi student and democratizes access to a world-class and enjoyable learning experience, we believe Shikho will have a powerful and lasting impact for generations to come,” said Shahir Chowdhury.

“As an experienced teacher, I understand the importance of personalised instruction and differentiated learning. This combined with regular feedback are the most powerful tools a teacher has at their disposal. With this round of investment, we look forward to furthering the technology that brings these features into an automated personalisation engine and the platform as a whole,” said Zeeshan Zakaria.

“Improving access to the highest quality, most compelling digital learning experiences are essential for the future. We have witnessed the potential for technology to transform education all around the world and are excited to see Shikho do the same for Bangladesh. We continue to be committed to supporting the very capable team at Shikho as it progresses the company’s vision of democratizing quality online education in Bangladesh,” said Don Burton, managing partner of LearnStart, an early investor in Shikho. 

“Bangladesh has one of the largest allocations of private education expenditure as a percentage of disposable income in the world but lags behind countries like India and Indonesia when it comes to edtech funding. The market is primed for growth, and we believe the team at Shikho is well-fit to lead the charge and take education to the next level,” said Rahat Ahmed, founding partner and CEO at Anchorless Bangladesh.

Prior to this round of financing, Shikho raised $275,000 in a pre-seed financing from LearnStart and strategic angel investors. Shikho is available on the Play Store.

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