Chinese English-Language Learning Platform Gets Boost from Kobe Bryant

A venture capital firm backed in part by retired NBA basketball superstar Kobe Bryant is making its first-ever education investment in an online tutoring company for Chinese children who want to learn English.

VIPKID, a digital learning platform that teaches English to Chinese youngsters, will receive a $100 million investment from Bryant Stibel, the company that Bryant created with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel in 2013.

VIPKID, also founded in 2013, provides online home English tutoring to children ages 5 to 12 in China using virtual classrooms. The company offers one-on-one English language instruction with curricula based on the Common Core State Standards.

Headquartered in Beijing, the VIPKID uses a flipped-classroom approach that it says fosters creativity and critical thinking skills. To date, VIPKID reports more than half a million registered users.

Bryant has been publicly supportive of VIPKID’s concept, telling the LA Times, “It’s a no-brainer for me. We have to look for companies adding value to society, helping kids learn and grow.”

Bryant Stibel has already invested in 15 companies and been involved with over 50 transactions with technology, media companies, among others, including Alibaba, which is China’s largest online merchant, in 2014.

The investment by Bryant Stibel is part of a surge the ed-tech marketplace has seen in the past decade. Technology media company TechCrunch’s startup directory, CrunchBase, currently lists 1,638 ed-tech startups and per our previous coverage, the amount of global ed-tech startup activity peaked in 2015, with yearly funding jumping by 64 percent to $3.1 billion and the number of deals climbing by 10 percent, to 491.

VIPKID plans to use the new funding to further expand its course content and to develop and improve their product experience and service quality.

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