The edtech sector was ripe for a revolution long before the global pandemic forced parents to become teachers and schools to go virtual. This accelerated switch to online learning also prompted investors to fling money at edtech startups, with the expectation that the education sector will be permanently changed.

Education market researchers HolonIQ reported that edtech companies received $16.1 billion in venture capital in 2020. A recent survey from Brighteye Ventures, Europe’s biggest edtech VC firm, said that European edtech funding is set to surge from $711 million in 2020 to $1.8 billion in 2021.

As part of’s Crossing Borders series on international expansion, we spoke to three European edtech startups about their scale-up stories, how they weathered the pandemic year, and how it has shaped expansion plans looking ahead.

How to game the education landscape

Poland-based learning platform Brainly, for one, has seen its monthly user base surge to 350 million today, from 150 million in 2019. Brainly, which enables students and their parents to get help on study assignments, is available to people from 35 global markets, including the U.S., India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia.

Felix Ohswald, cofounder and CEO of GoStudent, said the pandemic was a mixed bag at the start. He said:

“On the teacher side, from one day to another we had 4 times more applications simply because a lot of young people were looking for remote jobs … and providing online teaching is a pretty attractive opportunity.”

However, on the parent side, the team saw a decrease in search volume for tutoring services because there was less pressure in school and fewer regular exams, which in the end made it more expensive for the company to acquire new customers.

Post-pandemic edtech crunch

Vienna, Austria-headquartered GoStudent became Europe’s first edtech unicorn in June 2021, after raising a €205 million ($242.5 million) round that valued the company at €1.4 billion ($1.65 billion). The company is present in more than 15 countries and about to add Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, and Canada in the coming months, as part of its stated ambition to become the world’s No. 1 online school.

Building edtech into the curriculum

As a campus-based business, Ironhack expanded based on factors like the cost of renting teaching space, cost of living in the city, ease of hiring teachers and program managers, and the number of competitors. The competition and astronomical cost of space and living ruled out London, Baqués says.

The Ironhack playbook for assessing potential new markets includes analysis of demand for the types of job positions their graduates are being trained for, including projections on how many web developers, UX designers, and data analysts different cities will likely need in the coming years.

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