Marathon, a Vietnamese live online teaching platform, has raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed round led by Singapore-based early-stage venture capital firm Forage Ventures to launch its EdTech operations.
The round also saw participation from Venturra Discovery, iSeed SEA, and undisclosed angel investors.
The company plans to use the fresh funding to acquire high-quality tutors, hire an engineering team and build infrastructure.
Marathon seeks to connect tutors with K-12 students on its platform. Tutors on its platform will be paired with teaching assistants to provide hands-on guidance to students and receive analytics-based insights to tailor their lessons.
The startup, founded by former TPG Capital executive Pham Duc and entrepreneur Tran Viet Tung, provides online tutoring sessions that connect teachers with students virtually.
According to Marathon, Vietnam has approximately 18 million K-12 students, who rely on after-school tuitions.
Speaking about the development, Co-founder of Marathon, Pham Duc said in a statement,
"Tutors see it as an opportunity because the platform enables them to reach more students, especially those who live outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Hiring will be a challenge for us due to the limited tech talent in Vietnam. For a start, we will use a third-party SDK (software development kit) for the streaming solution, but eventually, we want to build an in-house product by ourselves."
According to Duc, the live online teaching format used by Marathon offers a better learning experience and higher user engagement. A tutor and some teaching assistance can handle a two-hour session with around 300 participants.
At its launch, Marathon will offer math and science courses covering grades 6-12 of the national curriculum developed by Vietnam's Ministry of Education (MOET). The startup also plans to cover the full range of MOET subjects in the near future.
Commenting on the investment, Forge Ventures partner Kaspar Hidayat said,
"We are very excited to be partnering with Marathon to democratize access to the best teachers and educators in Vietnam. The best offline tutors deliver proven results but are only able to teach a small number of students."
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to school shutdowns and movement restrictions across the region, has driven a surge in demand for online learning as well as piqued investor interest. In Vietnam, prior to Marathon's pre-seed funding, six EdTech companies had collectively raised at least $22 million so far this year.
Besides the spurt in funding for local startups, Vietnam has also attracted more regional and global EdTech players such as Astrid (Sweden), Geniebook (Singapore), Snapask (Hong Kong), and Ruangguru (Indonesia).