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Gamification in modern education – EdTech Talks with Raluca Stratulat, Co-Founder of iziBAC

iziBAC is a content-agnostic game-based learning app that offers a fun studying experience, greatly improving the user’s knowledge retention (by 90%) and engagement (by 70%). We spoke to CEO, Raluca Stratulat, and asked her about gamification, tech startup funding, and the marketing strategy for iziBAC.

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• You started iziBAC in 2017. What was your goal and why?

Raluca Stratulat: At that time, I had already been a teacher for 5 years. I was looking for a scalable way to create an impact into the educational system. My initial dream was to start a private high school using alternative teaching methods, but that was way too expensive and not scalable. So I studied Entrepreneurship in Education for one year at the Alternative University in Bucharest and the product of that brainstorming year was the initial concept for iziBAC. From the get-go, the dream was to have social impact and change how high school students perceive education – it should be a fun act of discovery and self-discovery, not something imposed.

• Did you have any mentors along the way? People who inspire you in life or business or challenged you to step up in a different way?

Raluca Stratulat: Perhaps my first mentor in business was my husband and co-founder, Adrian Stratulat, who was then my boyfriend. Coming from a teaching and architecture background, I knew little about business, finances and management and his background complemented mine very well. In the EdTech field and beyond, we had amazing mentors over time, including Alexandru Ghita (CEO Educativa), Daniel Ilinca (Softbinator), Dragos Nicolaescu (VBC), Raluca Tătărușanu (Druid) and many more. We’ve been through more than 5 incubators and accelerator programs and we met amazing people along the way. Each one of them helped us with great pieces of advice and we are grateful for all of them. Realistically trying to name all of those that provided feedback on the business plan, pitch deck, financial forecast, etc. would cover an entire page with names only.

• How much did you shape the product before testing it with early adopters?

Raluca Stratulat: Not much. We tried to be as lean as possible. The MVP was done in 2017 during the Social Impact Awards incubation period (we later won the Award). The problem was scaling and fine-tuning. We are still a long way from a complete vision for our product, but beta testers and early adopters have been extremely useful. We had 1600 beta testers and we still consider our 49.000 downloads to be early adopters, and we continue to learn from them every day.

• What key challenges do learning platform developers face in gaining platform adoption?

Raluca Stratulat: First off, the fact that not every student has a smartphone (we are mobile-only for now) or knows how to use it properly. Both smartphone penetration in rural areas and functional illiteracy are real issues that we face. Secondly, there is the issue of content. Our team is focused on perfecting the game-based learning UX, but so far the educational content has been voluntary contribution by teachers. Paying teachers was out of the question while we bootstrapped, and finding teachers to help pro-bono is a time-consuming task. We are still looking for teachers, so if anyone reading this can help us reach more teachers, that would be great, since now we have a lot more ways to incentivize teachers to contribute educational content.

• What should EdTech learning platforms ideally offer learners 5-10 years from now?

Raluca Stratulat: Education, as an institution, will be digitized almost entirely by then. Teachers will become mentors and will help pupils learn how to learn, since information is readily available and what matters is how you structure and use it. Most likely there will be a major shift from knowledge-based education to ability-developing education. We expect that AI will play a critical role and custom-tailored educational programs and pathways will be the norm. We also expect that game-based learning and gamification will be very important components of education, as the approach moves away from the Industrial Age paradigm of mass education to the modern approach of self-discovery for each individual.

• When (in what phase of the business) did you decide to raise funds and why did you opt for equity crowdfunding?

Raluca Stratulat: We are currently in the Seed stage of our building. We had a steady flow of users and retention was improving. The only thing missing was conversion to revenue, which still needed some structured development. It was in many ways the right moment to stop bootstrapping and dedicate our energies to developing the product in ways that would be possible only with dedicated financing.

Crowdfunding was a natural solution because individual BAs might not cover the entire sum needed for the round and VCs would still consider us too early stage, since we haven’t yet converted to revenue. We tried looking at product crowdfunding in the past, but that is not a model that works for software products. So equity crowdfunding was the best match for our needs. And from a brief look at the market, we can say that many companies share this need. Seedblink is a great addition to the Romanian startup ecosystem, because it covers a gap in available funding that startups direly need.

• After closing the round, are you happy with this decision? What’s the most meaningful thing you’ve learned as an entrepreneur from the round on Seedblink?

Raluca Stratulat: We are very happy with how fast we managed to raise the funds. It was a steep learning curve, with a lot of feedback from the Seedblink team, but the experience was very pleasant and professional.

• From your perspective, what are the vital ingredients for the pitch deck?

Raluca Stratulat:

o Mission

o Motivation

o Problem

o Solution

o Business model

o Competition study

o Traction/achievements

o Market (context, trend and size)

o Marketing mix

o Future plans/roadmap

o Financial projection

o Risk mitigation

o Team

o Mentors

o Partnerships

• What’s the biggest challenge as a CEO of a growing company?

Raluca Stratulat: Finding the right people. I was very lucky to have three of the best cofounders I could find – Adrian Stratulat (COO), Eduard Lache (CTO) and Laurentiu Pantelimon (Head of Mobile Dev). We are now a team of eight people and we will keep growing. Any new addition to the team must fulfill all the following conditions:

o Compatibility in vision and values (there must be “chemistry”)

o Be a good professional for the position

o Be a bit adventurous. Startups offer different challenges and satisfactions compared to a mature company. In order to work for an innovation-driven company, you have to take some risks. But there are also some upsides that no mature company can offer.

• What is your secret to being an effective CEO in terms of building the company culture and values you need to make the company successful?

The cofounding team was aligned in values from day one. The only thing that we had to do is to write those values down and try to build procedures around them, so that new colleagues will smoothly fit in. Obviously, creating those procedures that reflect the company values is an art in itself, one that we are still perfecting.

• What’s next for iziBac?

Raluca Stratulat: For 2021, we will continue to focus on perfecting the game-based learning experience, adding content and new features, which will translate into value added for the students and their parents. Some of that value will be captured in our revenue, which will allow us to sustainably develop more features and more content. This means that our focus will be on the Romanian market for 2021, where we will seek to consolidate our position as leading game-based learning app. In parallel we will make steps to launch our global product, iziSAT, which will put to good use all the lessons in mobile game-based learning and apply them to the global SAT exam, which is taken annually by 3.3 million people worldwide. iziSAT is planned for launch in 2022.

Find more about iziBAC.

By Bianca Iulia Simion

PublishedFebruary 04, 2021


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