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BYJU’S acquires K-12 coding platform Tynker to step up US expansion

Yatti Soni Bengaluru | Updated on September 16, 2021

Byju Raveendran, Founder and CEO, BYJU’S

Will add over 60 m students and over 100,000 schools from Tynker’s existing global user base

Edtech major BYJU’S has acquired US-based K-12 coding platform Tynker, to accelerate the company’s US expansion.

BYJU’S has bought 100 per cent stake in Tynker in a mix of cash and equity deal, Tynker cofounder and CEO Krishnan Vedati told BusinessLine. Tynker co-founders Vedati, Srinivas Mandyam and Kelvin Chong will remain in their roles and continue carrying out Tynker’s mission of providing every child with a solid foundation in computer science, programming, and critical thinking skills.

The acquisition will help BYJU’S expand its US footprint by adding over 60 million students and over 100,000 schools from Tynker’s existing global user base. About 70-74 per cent of Tynker’s users are in the US and the rest are from countries including Canada, Commonwealth and others, saidMandyam. Courses on Tynker start at $9 per month and so a majority of Tynker’s users come from middle-class families in the US market.

“Joining forces with Tynker will unlock the ability for us to bring imagination to life for hundreds of millions of students through coding. Our goal is to ignite a love for programming in children globally and we feel strongly that Tynker's creative coding platform and approach to making programming fun and intuitive for kids will get us there even faster.” said Byju Raveendran, Founder and CEO, BYJU’S.

Anita Kishore, chief strategy officer at BYJU’s, said, two of the products or platforms BYJU’S have in this space are both complementary to each other. BYJU’s has acquired coding for kids platform WhiteHat Jr in August 2020 for $300 million.

“WhiteHat Jr is a synchronous offering where the teacher is teaching, whereas Tynker adds an asynchronous element to it. This has been our philosophy across all the subjects. We have a similar model with math and science whereby BYJU'S school learning app is an asynchronous app where kids learn by themselves and then there is teacher-assisted learning available to kids as well. So we will apply the same philosophy here, to make teacher-assisted and asynchronous mode available to the kids, so once they are taught something, they can build upon it, create with it and continue to learn.” Kishore added.

Tynker will be integrated closely with all platforms that Byju’s have, according to Kishore, Tynker platform can have much larger impact beyond just coding. For instance, using coding to create Art, or learn geometry.

Tekie platform

Similar to Tynker, a seed stage edtech start-up in India, Tekie has also built its own product to teach teenagers coding. The platform depends on animated educational series to help the students master the basics of programming languages. Even though Tekie’s platform has various cues and conversational features to guide kids through the learning journey, the company has added teacher assistance to its courses.

“Even though there are less operational challenges when you build an asynchronous platform (without teacher support), from an educational perspective it is important to have teacher support to enable every student to learn because each student has their own learning styles,” said Shantanu Najhawan, founding member of Tekie.

Tekie has created an animation-based edtech platform to enable students above the age of 12 to learn to code. The company has built an in-house animation studio to develop their animation educational series which includes artists and writers who have worked with global projects like Marvel, and Rick and Morty.

A decade of Tynker

A major difference between WhiteHat Jr and Tynker is that WhiteHat Jr had partnered with a non-profit platform Code.org to offer coding studios to the kids along with live-teacher support. This is similar to the model that most other coding for kids companies has adopted in India. On the other hand, Tynker has built its own platform to teach kids to learn coding through a story-based curriculum.

Interestingly, Tynker’s had built their platform before Code.org. Started in 2011, Tynker essentially gamifies the learning journey for students where they have to drag and drop coding blocks to move ahead in the story. The company has tied up with popular brands like Lego, Minecraft, Barbie, Hot Wheels which has made the stories even more attractive.

“There were predominantly only three platforms back when we started. There was a platform called Scratch, which we were inspired by as well. Scratch is a great tool, but it's not a learning experience. So our co-founder wrote a mini programming language which is comparable to scratch but we made it available on the browser, that's the first innovation we made and we have patented it,” said Vedati.

The company has built fundamental programming languages disguised as block coding languages for kids, which can translate into JavaScript and Python real time. According to Vedati, having built their own language and game systems allows the company to go multi-channel, and inject learning in the gamify way they want to build in.

“We allow kids to use block coding and build things like pedometers and rain alarms, weather sensors and things like that -- it's all because we have our own code that can run on these little things so that's why we're not built on other platforms,” said Srinivas Mandyam, co-founder Tynker.

Bengaluru-based edtech platform WizKlub is one of the few edtech companies in India that has built its own platform to teach kids coding. WizKlub Founder and CEO Amit Bansal said that having that code.org is a great platform to get the kids initiated with coding but after the first month the platform becomes repetitive. “You need to have control over the tech platform to introduce kids to new technologies like IoT, Alexa, conversational AI, which code.org platform simply cannot support. Which makes depending on a third-party platform like code.org limiting,” Bansal added.

Over the last year and a half, BYJU’S has acquired two additional major edtech companies in the US – Osmo, the learning system for creating healthy screen time experiences, and Epic, the digital reading platform. All three acquisitions map back to BYJU’S goal of investing $1 billion in the US edtech market over the next three years.

Published on September 16, 2021

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