South Africa’s FoondaMate Raises $2M to Scale its AI-powered Learning Chatbot

FoondaMate raises seed funding

FoondaMate, a South African EdTech startup, has raised $2 million in a seed funding round led by UK-based venture capital firm LocalGlobe to drive uptake of its Whatsapp and Facebook-based learning chatbot across the globe.

Other investors such as Emerge Education, Odunayo Eweniyi via FirstCheckAfrica, Iyin Aboyeji via Future Africa, and LoftyInc, alongside angels from Luno (Marcus Swanepoel) and Justworks (Isaac Oates) also participated in the round.

Founded by Dacod Magagula and Tao Boyle, FoondaMate aims to make studying easier for those who do not have ready access to resources. It utilizes WhatsApp and Facebook chatbots to answer study-related questions for learners, as well as make past papers, study notes, and other materials available and circumvent the need for printing. The platform helps students with their revision by giving them immediate answers to questions and access to revision papers, while also guiding them in responses to questions.

FoondaMate targets high-school students in emerging markets where WhatsApp is widely used and is a lot cheaper or free to access. Its learning chatbot acts as an organized alternative to using search engines for study. Educators also use FoondaMate’s integrated resources to set and post homework and to share other learning materials with students.

Explaining how he started working on the platform, Dacod Magagula, who serves as the startup’s CEO and CTO, told TechCrunch,

"It (WhatsApp) was in beta at the time, and I started playing around with it … I thought it’d be a really good way to enable access to study materials to students in the same position as myself…because a majority of students do not have access to the wider internet but have access to WhatsApp."

"…during the final year of high school in South Africa, I used the computer my brother and I had bought using our savings, for studies and to download all revision materials I could get my hands on. I had a huge database of past papers but no way of sharing it with my friends, and printing them was expensive. … FoondaMate was created to make these resources easily accessible to students."

"Initially I thought FoondaMate would be used by students who do not have access to Wi-Fi and those with limited access to the internet. But the reality is, it is being used by those with good internet connectivity too…because it’s really an easy and intuitive way to access study material," Magagula explained.

Since its launch, FoondaMate said, its platform has been used by more than 400,000 students using over 10 languages in over 30 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia.

Ziv Reichert, LocalGlobe partner, said,

"Having initially launched with a mission to transform how students across Africa study, FoondaMate has evolved into a tool that is now used and loved by learners from a range of backgrounds, with varying needs and learning styles, from all across the world. We believe that it takes immense empathy for a problem and a real long-term view to build a product of this kind."

With the fresh funding, FoondaMate plans to accommodate learners in more countries and fuel the growth of its platform to more than 50 million users.

About the Author
Author: Stephen Soulunii
Stephen Soulunii No more a student, but love to learn. Not a teacher, but care about how students are taught. Not an educator, but want everyone to be educated. Not a social worker, but desire to see change. Not a reformer, but always want to see a better world. The author believes that only sound education can bring a better future, better world and technology can help achieve a lot in this field.

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