Arpit Jain, CEO of SplashLearn – An Edtech Changemaker
If you visit Arpit Jain’s LinkedIn profile, you won’t have to spend 5 minutes reading his “About Me” section. That’s because it has only one sentence that states: “Helping kids become better learners.” What does this tell us about Arpit? That he is a man of few words? Well, no – it tells me that instead of pontificating about himself and all of his accomplishments, he would rather spend that time on bigger goals.
As the CEO of SplashLearn, Arpit makes engaging learning experiences to nurture a generation of fearless learners. SplashLearn is a comprehensive, curriculum-based learning program offering math and reading for elementary school children. Its adaptive algorithm offers each child a personalized learning experience that is fun and immersive.
SplashLearn has completed 10 years, raised series C funding at the beginning of 2021, and to date has been used by over 40 million users worldwide with the bulk of them being from the US.
Recently, I sat down with Arpit to talk about his experience in edtech. Without further ado, let’s begin the interview.
Q: First things first, where did all the co-founders meet? I want to find out how did it all start?
We are four co-founders – Umang Jain, Mayank Jain, Joy Deep Nath, and myself. We met at college where we were pursuing Computer Science and Engineering degrees. We started SplashLearn, formerly Splash Math, back in 2010. In fact, this is our second edtech start-up together.
In 2010 when iPads had just been launched, we thought that tablets were the future for creating engaging learning experiences for children. Also, there were no curriculum-aligned programs available for mobile and tablet devices at that time. So, we wanted to present the parents and teachers with an iPad program that was fun and engaging for the kids and at the same time would cover the entire depth and breadth of the curriculum for elementary grades. We wanted to create the right balance between fun and rigorous curriculum with the program. That is how Splash Math was born.
Also, what brought all the founders together was our passion for making an impact through education. We always had discussions around education systems around the world! And how it is the single largest change-maker and empowers an individual. It’s the reason for a wide range of positive outcomes in a person eg. his/her economic growth, better health, wellbeing, confidence and cohesiveness. It touches every aspect of life and helps people to make informed decisions including building an opinion on matters of importance.
We also realized that children don’t dislike learning but build an aversion to the way subjects are taught to them. Kids are born curious and excited to learn but as they grow up, they lose interest in learning. We always wondered what can serve as an incentive for a small child to learn any topic.
We wanted to create a system where learning does not happen for the sake of learning but is seen as an enjoyable, immersive experience and there is no fear of failure. So SplashLearn is the answer to the question – how can we make learning interesting and convert children into lifelong fearless learners?
“We envision a world where every child can learn, fearlessly. The games within the program aim to shift the current narrative around learning, turning it into an experience that augments the child’s desire to learn by making learning itself rewarding for every child. Thus reducing their fear of failure, and creating what we like to call fearless learners”
Arpit Jain, CEO and co-founder, SplashLearn
Q: You recently raised $18 million in a Series C funding round. How will this funding allow you to continue your mission of “helping kids become better learners?”
A: SplashLearn is free to use for teachers and schools. Our goal is to increase our presence in classrooms around the world, so that more and more teachers and students are benefited from SplashLearn. A part of the funding will go towards growing our presence in schools and increase awareness about the free program. This would be not just for the US but also other key geographies.
We are also continuously building new content, for both horizontal and vertical expansion across grades and subjects. We currently have math from PreK to grade 5 and reading from PreK to grade 2. If all goes as planned, then we will launch the reading program for grades 3 to 5 by the new school year (Aug-Sep 2021).
We will also be allocating some funds to the recently launched SplashCourses – it is an affordable tutoring product for children who need extra help with their studies. We launched it last year, owing to growing demand from parents for tutoring. SplashCourses is designed to make learning at home more personalized and interactive for kids through a tutor-led intervention.
So growing these areas would be our priority in the coming months.
Q: The world of edtech is a challenging industry to thrive in. How has SplashLearn been able to sustain growth, even during the pandemic?
A: The edtech industry has its own set of challenges. There is low acceptance and even resistance from anything that deviates from the traditional teaching methods. This along with parents’ uncertainty around how much screen time is too much for children means that edtech companies have to not just create good products but also change old habits.
During the pandemic, SplashLearn saw a huge surge in downloads from users around the world and saw increased adoption of the program with demand growing across not only the US but Europe, the U.K., Australia, and Canada.
The current pandemic has been the biggest, greatest teacher in recent times – it made us realize just how fragile our current education system is. Though there have been many efforts in the past, either by governments or individual companies, to propagate and promote online education, the pandemic carved the way for cross-industry edtech coalitions.
Once seen as a substitute, online education literally came to the rescue and brought innovative solutions to the forefront. People have become more aware and receptive to online learning and new forms of learning like Game-Based Learning.
Q: What do you think separates you from your competitors?
A: As a company, we are equally focused on both learning outcomes and engaging students. We believe that it is very important to create a balance between the two to ensure kids are motivated to learn on their own. Most of the other products that we have come across are mostly focusing on either engagement or outcomes – These products are comparatively easy to build but then they have a low impact in the learning mindset of the child. And, in a lot of cases, companies end up just creating online versions of offline content, with no innovation and impact on pedagogy – SplashLearn is one of the very few companies that is creating games specifically designed to cover each and every topic in the curriculum, thereby, changing the learning pedagogy itself. This is a mammoth task as we need to keep every learning milestone in mind when creating thousands of games. SplashLearn has a library of 6,500+ such unique games. And through our extensive game design process, we ensure that each game that we launch for children is both engaging for them and helps improve learning outcomes. Now, over and above this, we have an adaptive algorithm that creates a personalized learning path for each child, thereby reducing the need for constant parent and teacher intervention to a great extent.
We do active research on game transfer phenomena. The research aims to understand the factors that may lead a student to internalize a concept learned in a game and use it in a different real-life setting outside of the game. Because of the transfer of learning from games to the real world, SplashLearn’s games have been instrumental in improving the children’s understanding of the concepts.
Q: What’s your roadmap for reaching the top in your area?
A: The education sector is at an inflection point and we’ve explored just a tiny part of the iceberg. The size and scope of the global edtech market is constantly growing and evolving. In the face of the current pandemic, digital learning has become even more relevant and accepted.
As of now, most of our revenue comes from the US. But the SplashLearn program has recently been localized and launched in Canada, UK and Australia.
SplashLearn’s modular tech architecture gives us great agility and the ability to launch the product in any country in a matter of weeks. We already have users in more than 150+ countries but we plan to offer custom curriculum-aligned and localized products for each region in the future.
Q: What advice would you give to up-and-coming edtech CEOs?
A: One thing that is crucial in life is to never stop learning. Whether it’s learning something new or learning new things about what you already do – it’s important to stay in this learner mindset. For me, SplashLearn is not only about achieving success, it is about creating the most engaging and effective learning program, which kids absolutely love. It is about leveraging modern technology and helping children develop a growth mindset and making them fearless learners.
The other thing that is immensely important to me is working with people I like. My co-founders and my team remain my biggest source of inspiration and my strongest supporters as well. With my co-founders, I can just take up greater challenges and risks without the fear of failure.
I have some simple suggestions for young edupreneurs – keep your fundamentals solid, know your strengths and focus on creating a differentiator for your company. Start with some thorough research – it’s crucial to have a full understanding of the market and the competitors. Proper research can save a lot of time and money in the long run, and I say that from experience.
Well, that’s it from our interview with Arpit Jain, CEO SplashLearn – a company with a big mission and a bigger vision of creating fearless learners.
If you have any questions for Arpit, just leave them in the comment section below.