What are Novakid's strengths for Romania?  The first step to

What are Novakid’s strengths for Romania? The first step to

Personalized English lessons for children, using artificial intelligence and virtual reality – this is the bet that Maxim Azarov is going today with Novakid, a global online school launched in the summer in Romania as well.

Starting from the idea that any foreign language is learned much faster “through play”, the Novakid startup – an online English language school for children – is now developing a teaching method that has already attracted four rounds of total funding from investors. over 40 million euros. Present in 36 countries, Novakid estimates that it will exceed the threshold of 100,000 courses on the Romanian market by the end of this year, with the prospect of accelerated growth in 2022. Potentially exists, but the competition is commensurate.

“With the potential of three million students under the age of 14 (the courses are aimed at children aged 4-12, no.), Romania is a fairly profitable market,” says Maxim Azarov, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Novakid. The company, headquartered in San Francisco (USA), was launched globally in 2017 by Azarov along with two other entrepreneurs – Dmitry Malin and Amy Krolevetskaya. In Romania, the step was taken in June 2021, following a rigorous market analysis.

“Our analysis shows that there are 18 ESL companies (a term that refers to the teaching of English as a second language, no.) Active in Romania now, so the competition is tight. The total market of ESL companies in Romania – both online and offline – is estimated at 250 million dollars per year, and the market of ESL services for children, at least 10% of this total value “, explains Azarov.

Something new

Originally from Russia, he says that in building the business, the steps he applied went through the filter of his own childhood experiences, when “learning English in a public school proved to be quite inefficient.”

Through Novakid, Maxim Azarov aims to provide an innovative online education platform to help all children around the world learn English at home with native-speaking teachers. “The idea behind Novakid is to make the lessons fun and engaging with game-based learning. Also, we match our students only with top teachers, accredited and native speakers in their field, to ensure that the little ones master English as quickly and easily as possible “, details the entrepreneur.

The concept of “game-based learning” has been developed by other entrepreneurs in Romania, such as the example of Adriana Alionte, the founder of Shakespeare School, who has a presence in Romanian private education for over 18 years. She continually readjusted her business to market movements with one goal in mind: to find the best way for children and adolescents to learn English, different from anything she had experienced in state education as an English teacher.

Today, the Shakespeare School Method is based on Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which assumes that there is not one type of intelligence, but several, and that they are not biological. , not cultural, but in close connection with different learning styles.

“Paradoxically, although the pandemic took us by surprise, we were prepared. We have been thinking about launching online courses for some time and we are working on this project. When I found out that there is a difficult situation in Italy, in February 2020, I had a meeting with all the teachers and I told them that, in case the institutions close in Romania as well, we have to move quickly online. Shortly after this meeting, it happened in Romania as well “, Adriana Alionte explained in the summer of this year, in a discussion with .. And the rapid move online has been a good strategic move, as confirmed by the turnover of almost two million euros in 2020, which meant a decrease of only 10% compared to the previous year.

A world of the future

In the case of Novakid, two teaching methods are used: the total physical response method and the dialogue method. The first assumes that the teacher not only makes slide presentations, but also interprets the material with the help of gestures, facial expressions, the children repeating the observed movements. The lessons are strictly individual, this being the condition by which the second method is used to the maximum, the dialogue, which becomes impossible when several children are involved, because only one of them will internalize the information, while the rest will reproduces mechanically.

The developed program offers a series of games aimed at facilitating the acquisition of knowledge, but also a series of virtual tours in which teachers and children can travel, for example, to museums and art galleries. The learning structure comprises five levels, and each level of study has in turn certain units, which introduce a new vocabulary and notions of grammar. The duration of a meeting is 25 minutes, which is considered the optimal time to maintain attention and assimilate new information among the little ones. Prices start at 29.70 lei for a lesson.

“We aim to exceed the threshold of 100,000 courses in Romania by the end of this year. At the level of the number of children to whom we deliver English courses, we plan to increase it three times in the next 12 months “, says Azarov. He recommends booking at least two lessons a week for good results, with most clients having three to four lessons a week.

Last year, Novakid had a monthly increase in its customer base of up to 14.8%, and the number of courses delivered exceeded the value of 2.2 million euros in June 2021.

“We believe that a world where children are able to use English as a common language to communicate and exchange ideas is the world of the future,” says Maxim Azarov, while pointing out the advantage of having launched with this platform before. the global spread of the health crisis. “If we waited longer to launch, we could have missed the moment of expansion, given the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In step

Established a few years before the pandemic, the Novakid interactive platform for English is aimed at children aged 4 to 12. Recently, he also joined Romania.

BEGINNING. With several years of experience in IT and telecommunications, Maxim Azarov launches Novakid in 2017. In this adventure he was joined by entrepreneurs Dmitry Malin and Amy Krolevetskaya. FINANCING. Present in 36 countries, including Romania, the start-up Novakid attracted four rounds of financing from investors, exceeding 40 million euros. VOLUME. The number of courses delivered exceeded the value of 2.2 million euros in June this year, reaching the level of over 410,000 new courses booked monthly. RECOGNITION. In a market study by consulting firm J’Son & Partners, which looked at the workings of 80 online schools, Novakid was named the best online English school for children in Europe in 2021.

This article appeared in issue 127 of . magazine