Taiwan Startup Breaking from Confucius Tradition to Build the Future of Education

Taiwan Startup Breaking from Confucius Tradition to Build the Future of Education
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Ten questions with the founder of Taiwan education technology company Hahow.

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The education system in Taiwan, as in much of Asia, is notorious for its rigidity. Students often struggle to find the time to explore different possibilities and subsequently find themselves in jobs they don’t have a passion for. Hahow founder Arnold Chiang (江前緯) explains what his company is doing to change that by crowdfunding hundreds of new courses for thousands of learners.

The News Lens International (TNLI): What is the origin of Hahow and when did you come up with the idea for the business?

Arnold Chiang: Throughout the journey of learning, there is a notable barrier for people like us, who long for an interdisciplinary experience. As students in Taiwan, once we choose a specific major in college, we tend to only be on the same path for at least 30 years. This brings out a problem that we don’t have a positive mentality to explore or be able to chase what we love. We all have those little ideas in our minds that could brighten up our lives. Hence, it is very important to create a friendly environment for people who want to learn different skills just for fun and to think out of box. We believed it could be accomplished by the power of technology and creativity. We’ve been through trials and errors. With the philosophy of a lean startup, we built a relatively small-scale platform at National Taiwan University (NTU) for people to learn new things by exchanging. The platform was called Skillhopping, which is the predecessor of Hahow, and it gained 3,000-plus users in two months without any marketing.

TNLI: Can you briefly describe what Hahow does? How does Hahow work with the course providers?

Chiang: Hahow uses crowdfunding to decide what kind of teacher and course content fit a learner’s demand. Teachers simply need to film a course intro video and fill out a form. As long as you have 30 preorders, you are a teacher at Hahow.

Not only do we provide a video streaming and payment system, we also have multiple interacting functions, helping teachers to better interact and customize their teaching contents for students. For example, students can submit their homework in the format of pictures, texts or videos. Even sound recordings! Teachers will be noticed and give feedback at the first place.

Since most of the people in the market are still not familiar with the skill of filming content – digitalizing the knowledge they have in mind. Therefore, we also provide filming assistance. Either, sharing good tools and know-how or providing our in-house production service.

TNLI: What is the target market for Hahow?

Chiang: We focus on ethnic Chinese, especially in Taiwan, Southeast Asia and North America.

TNLI : What is the current company status, including the scale, employees, numbers of users and the courses uploaded online?

Chiang: For learners: We have more than 50,000 registered users, and 50% of them are paid-users, aged from 20 to 30 years-old. 10% are students from abroad. More than 7,000 courses are sold each month, and the number is still growing. Our courses already cover more than 150 different subjects. Teachers: We have a 73% success rate for crowdfunding courses. Which means 73% of our teachers can gain a guaranteed income. We have 100-plus teachers now. Three teachers earned more than NT$1 million (US$30,000) by filming two-hour courses. Or we can say, by sharing their skills to the world. And the company: We have 17 employees including four founders now. We are expecting to grow to 25 people by February next year. So we are actively recruiting now.

TNLI: What do you regard as the biggest success that Hahow has achieved so far?

Chiang:

Just this week we secured a significant seed funding deal with Cherubic Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm with offices in Silicon Valley, China and Taiwan. [The company wouldn’t disclose the amount invested].

More generally, a lot of the best-selling courses at Hahow are not from high-level professionals, but from self-learners or amateurs. We encourage younger people, and provide another option for them to become a teacher. It certainly doesn’t matter what your position is. Traditional education has the unwritten rule that only people with higher degrees or reputation can become a teacher. But Hahow is going to tell everyone that as long as there is talent and good content, we will try our best to provide the stage for it.

TNLI: Are there any competitors in Taiwan? What makes Hahow different from other online course platforms?

Chiang: We see ourselves as a company that has international vision. At the moment, Udemy is our biggest global competitor. Yet technology education is already a very mature topic in U.S. and mainland China, but they are all slightly different from each other. We believe Hahow stands out with three distinctive features: crowdfunding, all the courses are being selected and proven by certain crowds; we provide teaching and filming assistance online and offline; and, it is a reciprocal community, not just a video-playing platform.

TNLI: What have been the biggest challenges for you so far? How did Hahow solve such problem?

Chiang: The biggest challenge so far is to sort out methods of digitalizing knowledge in a more efficient way. That’s why we are building our own studio in Taipei, experimenting with all kinds of filming and editing skills. We don’t want any potential teacher stop sharing only because of not knowing how to film and edit.

TNLI: Does Hahow plan to promote itself in the foreign market? How will Hahow grow in the future?

Chiang: Yes. We have accumulated 10% of users from Hong-Kong, Malaysia and China in less than two years and without marketing abroad directly. These markets show strong interests and have positive impression about Hahow. For the coming year, we will focus on collecting content from Taiwan, and use it as one of our comparative advantages when entering another market after one year.

TNLI: What does Hahow hope to achieve in the long-term?

Chiang: Hahow is our core spirit. Pronounced as “ha-how,” which means “school” in Taiwanese, we are building a school we thought we could only dream of. Through the power of technology and creativity, our mission is to create an effective learning community, empower people in every corner of the world to explore knowledge and skills happily.

TNLI: What are Hahow’s most exciting upcoming products or plans?

Chiang: In regards to the platform, we are going to release more engagement and interaction features for teachers and students to better share and learn with each other. Also we have just published our own video player with a self-adjusted screen so students can watch the courses with the screen size they prefer. As for the courses, we will stick to our original intention to provide multiple interesting topics that we can’t always have the opportunity to learn. With our new studios, we will enhance the production speed, hoping to transform the knowledge into digital content more efficiently with quality.

Editor: Edward White

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