For five years now, my partners and I have been developing an online education startup. In spite of the stability and success I had achieved in my corporate IT career, I decided to venture into the world of entrepreneurship to combine my technology expertise with my passion for helping children learn the English language. I am now the founder of Novakid, an online English as a Second Language (ESL) education platform, designed to help children around the world master the English language. I am very happy with the meaning and values I contribute to the world through Novakid.
The idea behind Novakid is driven by my lifelong passion for technology and my personal struggles with learning the English language from childhood
I was born in a small town in Latvia and moved to a Moscow suburb to study at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. I have always been passionate about software development, and while still a student at the institute, I started working for an IT company to get real-world experience in the technology industry. It was then that I went on a business trip to the U.S. which ended up lasting seven years.
When I decided to leave my first startup, I already had children and was observing how they can learn languages naturally, without much trouble. When I was a kid, the approach to learning English was completely different. We learned grammar and memorized syllables by heart, but we never worked on speaking. I hated English classes at my school. I learned English only after moving to the U.S. and being fully immersed in the language.
The origin of the idea: combining language immersion and the professional software development approach
Initially, I considered creating a “virtual teacher” based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology. However, it was difficult to realize something similar to a “real” teacher, without huge amounts of data on which the AI could be trained.
During one of my trips to Shanghai, I saw an advertisement of VIPkid, a language school in China. I then realized that maybe this is the very first step that will make teaching regular lessons more accessible, and, in the long run, allow me to accumulate enough data to create an “artificial” teacher.
Today, Novakid has thousands of native speaking teachers who serve 380K+ students globally. Novakid is a global company conceived from research conducted for markets in the European Union, Middle East and other macro-regions about the needs, challenges and opportunities for ESL children. Initially, the project was launched in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Baltic states, then Poland and Turkey, next Spain, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the Czech Republic.
Novakid uses the principles of gamification, working with virtual reality, and we’re really working on extensive data collection to incorporate AI into our platform.
How to thrive in today’s competitive EdTech market
ESL is a fast-growing market. In 2021, the online ESL market is estimated to be worth $10 billion, and its segment for children of all ages $3 billion.
The English language learning market is forecasted to grow to $54.9 billion by 2027, which is a 6.2% increase from 2020 (Source: Meticulous Research® exclusive report including analysis and market forecasts before and after COVID-19).
Ninety percent of the demand in the language market is for just one language, and it is the children’s market that school founders are most likely to turn to.
Before we hire a teacher, we don’t just look at resumes and conduct interviews, we ask for a sample lesson to see how good the teacher is in action. In progress, we look at all the nuances including communication skills, empathy, knowledge of methodology, and the individual approach. The teacher should talk to the child on topics that are interesting to him or her, support the child in his or her choice of solutions and always be aware of new trends.
To date, we have taught more than two million classes, and we can say with confidence that our approach to teacher recruitment is a major competitive advantage.
I strongly believe in Novakid because of the great social mission behind it: to instill a love in language from early childhood, to expand the boundaries of consciousness, to promote intercultural communication among children around the world, and to create jobs for teachers. I would like children all over the world not to perceive learning English as a boring school lesson, but rather as a fun and challenging game and opportunity for a bright future.
At the beginning of the year, we launched Kids Talk Future project, where parents asked their children how to create a happy future for our planet. The kids had to answer in English, and we chose a winner whose video was broadcasted on one of the largest global TV channels. It was very inspiring for both the children and for us. We want to show the children how important English is in today’s society.
I think that if your idea has been driving you for a long time, you shouldn’t be afraid to change careers and start a business or make a career transition. This idea is the driver of your development and source of your inspiration. Aim to apply the professional skills you have acquired in other industries or professional experiences to help you succeed in your new endeavor, and you will be successful.