Discover more from ETCH
Kinjo raises $6.5M
An app to support Roblox players having a more educational experience
Press Release: Business Insider
Market (geography): Global
Market (industry verticals): Game-based learning, edutainment
Customer demographic: K12 students and parents
Public business data:
Company post valuation $20.12M (Pitchbook)
Currently has 20,000 players (company-provided)
Users spend 3X time on games identified by education professionals as providing high cognitive challenges (company-provided)
Monthly subscription for parents costs $12.50
The key to edtech success for children is engagement. Gamification has long been the buzzword here, where there are some big players: Kahoot! and GameDesk support educators to make their own gamified content, while popular gaming platforms like Microsoft (Minecraft Education), Epic (Fortnite Creator) and Roblox have all launched proprietary education divisions. Texas-based startup Kinjo has a unique approach: an app that ranks the educational value of games within Roblox, allowing kids to earn virtual currency (“Robux”) by playing higher-ranked learning games. Rather than building another gaming studio, then, Kinjo focuses on improving the value of kids’ ever-increasing screen time by helping kids and parents to select different learning games from within an existing platform.
The opportunity is huge: Roblox has 43.2M daily users, while 76% of kids in the US alone play video games every week. It’s smart to support learning in platforms where kids are already spending time, rather than trying to convince them to stop spending time on Roblox and start spending more time in structured learning environments (such as Kumon, IXL or Dreambox). This funding round will support the app’s development and expansion into Fortnite and Minecraft, as well as rating YouTube videos and creators.
Kinjo also aligns incentives for parents and educators. Video games area proven tool to push motivation and outcomes in both formal and informal learning, but adults struggle to find reliable signals of high-quality learning opportunities or insights into which specific cognitive skills the games are enhancing. Too many examples of gamification fall into the category of ‘nice-to-have’ rather than ‘must-have’: they are not effectively designed and marketed to rise above the noise in the consumer space, nor are they well-tuned to cover enough material or provide enough pedagogical value to replace a meaningful amount of classroom time. Kinjo’s rating system has credibility, determined by a team of education and gaming experts who have put together a research-based four-part skills framework, while the core team are serial edtech founders including the former CEO of edtech giant Civitas Learning.
As a third-party app, Kinjo should avoid many of the common pitfalls of gamified learning – game creation is more time-consuming, cost-intensive and requires more domain expertise than conventional instructional design, both to build and maintain. However, freemium can be a tough model to convert to paid users at scale and selling to multiple audiences (business-to-parent-to-child) is tricky to pull off. For instance: Kids can make their own recommendations to rank games more highly, but this risks diluting pedagogical credibility for parents; balancing the interests of all parties will be key to positioning this as a holistic family learning tool, but is by no means straightforward.
There is also some platform risk in that the game of choice right now happens to be world-building, but that may not always be the case. Further, it remains to be seen how Kinjo’s approach will translate to other forms of content, such as YouTube, or facilitate rewards for learning across multiple platforms. Initial GTM should be helped by Roblox’s catalog of 40M mini-games and advisors including the VP, Civility & Partnerships at Roblox, but the product roadmap beyond that will need to be clear.
In the company’s words
We wrote this post using the information publicly available to the ETCH team. If you are a member of the Kinjo leadership team, we welcome your feedback! We will update this post to include any commentary you feel appropriate in this section.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
ETCH Funding / M&A is a feed of information and analysis of the latest in Education and Future of Work funding rounds. It is a sister publication to ETCH Weekend Reading and the ETCH Weekly Update, which provide additional context and analysis of what is happening in the EdTech ecosystem. If you enjoyed this edition, we hope you will subscribe and/or forward it to your friends!