Hahow, Taiwanese crowdfunding site for online courses, announced recently that it has raised a $3.3M (NT$100M) Series A round from a group of Taiwan-based venture capital investors and is expecting to close it up with another follow-on round worth $0.7M by February 2020, pushing the deal size to $4M (NT$120M) in total.
The proceeds seem to reflect VCs’ confidence in the growth of the startup company, who has seen its annual revenue almost double to over $3.3M (NT$100M) in 2018. It estimates the figure of 2019 may hit $8M (NT$240M).
Founded in 2015, Hahow encourages the skilled to pass their knowledge to those who are eager to learn something new and useful, ranging from programming, financial planning, to painting. The teachers raise funds from a crowd of students before they build the content of their courses, which later usually turn into part of the “long tail” that brings continuous flow of revenue to the site. Meanwhile, the quality of these online courses is constantly optimized as the students provide real-time feedback for the teachers over the online platform.
“We help teachers sell their knowledge to customers and places they can’t reach themselves,” Co-founder Arnold Chiang said. “This is how Hahow differentiates itself from competitors.”
These words seem to have defined the next steps for the startup company, who has just welcomed a new capital. For one thing, it has started to serve enterprises with its newly-launched sub-site Hahow for Business, whose content includes selected training courses for employees on topics such as presentation skills, data analysis, logical thinking, and so on.
“We hope enterprises buy a library for their employees rather than locking them in a classroom,” Mr. Chiang said.
Hahow offers customized, interactive experience for an online environment, instead of simply having students sit and watch videos. During the lessons, which last only around two hours and include one to three key concepts, HRs can remotely monitor students' learning progress with a dashboard.
“Since 2017, we’ve been receiving calls from HRs asking if it’s possible to buy courses for all their employees from us or to design courses with us,” Mr. Chiang. But the moment the company started to think seriously about tapping into this new market is when they discovered there have been 6,000 business customers on its site.
In fact, Hahow has offered some preliminary courses to a bank, hospital, and the Tourism Bureau in 2018 and to ten enterprises last year to test the water.
While “companies spend a lot on staff training,” Mr. Chiang and his team appear to be quite optimistic about the new service. “The calls simply never stop,” he said.
For another, it has been gearing up for overseas expansion as the site earns 15% of the traffic from Chinese-speaking users across the world.
With a Malaysian subsidiary, Hahow has been struggling to find its place in the competitive market of China, where each content provider enjoys dominance in a course category. “By comparison, we are a site that offers ‘everything,’” Mr. Chiang described. “Therefore, we really need to be clear about whom to authorize the access to each type of our courses.”
As the first step, Hahow has signed a contract with streaming giant Iqiyi, but launching online courses on a Chinese site isn’t easy task. They not only need to rewrite all the subtitles and marketing content but deal with the strict Internet policy that makes video transmission unnecessarily difficult. Mr. Chiang said his team is still trying to find a solution to these issues.
In the future, the startup company seeks to work with foreign teachers, for example, in Japan. “There’s a lot of content that’s worth digitalizing such as the knowledge from artisans and craftsmen (shokunin),” Mr. Chiang said. “It’s what the world would want to pay to learn.” The long-term plan will expand its base of teachers, enabling the company to scale up.