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How, after raising investments from Japan, the female-founded startup Clanbeat is set to disrupt the field of personalised education

It’s becoming a nice habit that female founders in Estonia raise capital in Asia and build products that help their users expand their personal horizons. Yet another success story in the line – Kadri Tuisk, recently announced that her startup Clanbeat raised a round of 1 million euros from the Japanese venture capital firm Mistletoe and now she and her team are all set to disrupt the field of personalised education.

Clanbeat has gone through 3 pivots throughout its four-year life cycle and is currently building, on top of a teachers’ onboarding and personal development tool, a much broader platform to support the acceleration of personal growth.

“My main concern is how to support a person in his/her personal development,” Kadri Tuisk explains Clanbeat’s mission. “Why do people get stuck at some point on the learning curve and do not know where and how to direct their energy? Positive change in the world only happens through self-managed active humans and my mission with Clanbeat is to help people to be self-aware individuals with strong self-management skills so that they can reach their true potential. I am also well aware that growth does not happen in a vacuum or only inside some app, so community and individual 1-on-1 support is very important in the personal growth journey. We are the enablers and connectors.”

She has become one of the few brave entrepreneurs in Estonia who has decided to tackle the complex and very conservative field of education by offering an educational technology (EdTech) solution to schools, which is seemingly a huge market – if it were only the international IB schools all over the world, that would already be over 5,000 schools and 1 billion euros – but will take an enormous effort to persuade all those likely interested parties to test the (yet another new!) product and eventually end up with paying customers. Tuisk is happily challenging that obstacle.

From a Mobile app to another MA degree

Five years ago, Tuisk was working as a project manager in an advertising agency and writing her masters’ thesis in international business management, focusing on building mobile applications with service design methods. She came across a competition by Telia to build mobile apps and she entered with a product that helps solve personal relationship problems. She made it to the top 10 from 10,000 other contestants and a member of the jury, Ragnar Sass, recommended she participate at Garage48 hackathon as a good venue to pursue the idea. Although the idea was not developed further after that event, it did create a new beginning.

This was where she met Sass again, one of the founders of Pipedrive, a CRM-company that was growing fast and looking for solutions to keep their millennial employees engaged. Soon after that event, Tuisk had quit her job in an advertising agency; she was not growing there personally anymore and did not feel that advertisements would solve real problems in the world – she felt stuck. Instead of asking Tuisk to join Pipedrive, Sass saw a bigger opportunity and they cofounded Clanbeat at the end of 2015 to build a tool that enables startups to have meaningful 1-on-1’s, to solve the very problem she had been experiencing in her previous job. Personal development and having a real impact with the things you do daily.

In 2017, Clanbeat entered 500 Startups, a world renowned startup accelerator based in Mountain View, smack in the middle of Silicon Valley. And indeed, this 4-month experience opened completely new horizons: “We realised that the US market we had been aiming at, is actually not a good fit for us at the moment. We were to find out that US market at that time was more KPI driven and our product’s core essence was human before numbers – that was the complete opposite of that market’s needs. Also, we found out that to enter organisations who do value our humane approach – our product was too thin for them. More of a feature than a product. We needed to broaden our value proposition.” As a 1-on-1’s main job in an organisation was to generate trust between people so there would be a shift from survival mode to growth mode, the next logical step in that journey was to go to the beginning where this trust is generated – onboarding new people to organisations.

“Before launching the product upgrade – our team spoke and conducted a survey of a hundred organisations to map the problems with onboarding. Besides that, I read so many academic articles on human growth and the sense of belonging that this by far surpasses the amount of work I conducted for my first MA degree,” Tuisk recalls. She also reached out to specific academics and they directed her towards the materials and knowledge she needed. “The information is actually all out there, if you only dig a little and talk to the right people. There is no need to enter a university if you really want to learn. I believe in on-demand learning based on personal needs.”

The new direction shifted the company’s focus from startups to a wider perspective, which was also the time Ragnar Sass decided to jumpstart new ventures and most of the team left with him. Tuisk was left with a crucial decision to make it or break it.

A new product market fit

“At some point, I started looking at the statistics inside the product and noticed that there was a line that was going dramatically upwards which was caused by the few schools that had asked to use the product meant for startups.” Tuisk decided to pick up the pieces, create a new entity and build the knowledge gathered into a slightly different product.

She found out that the schools are really struggling with onboarding new teachers. They are lacking a live overview of everybody’s obstacles and successes, and a systemised yet simple way to conduct personal development reviews: “Most schools have annual reviews once a year, although they’d really need them to be much more often and the information needs to be flowing in in real time – to prevent problems growing overhead. But there is no human capital allocated for that – there is just not enough time for that. Being a principal is a super-demanding job. I saw a possibility of reducing the principal’s pressure by gathering important milestones of their people, implementing peer-to-peer coaching so teachers could help each other out, and creating meaningful connections between the teachers’ community to give them more autonomy in pursuing their passions.”

Clanbeat now works on a yearly subscription model and has paying customers from Southeast Asia and Europe. Among them schools in Singapore, which is their obvious target. “I’ve met with the Ministry of Education in Singapore (a few times) and their message was: your product is great but we’ll have to build our own, as we need government tools to be working centrally – not to outsource our core competences. Until then I have their blessing to use my product in their schools.”

Curiously enough, Tuisk met her most recent investor, Taizo Son from Mistletoe, through a common friend in Estonia: “Mari-Liis Lind recommended we should meet and we found common ground instantly. He is just as passionate about changing the educational system as I am, to be more humane and student-driven. Throughout my journey I’ve understood that the investors in the field of education are completely different from other types of investors – they have a much longer perspective in mind and are thinking about the wellbeing of humanity and the planet.”

By spring 2020, Clanbeat launches a product directed at students that will help each student set up their own learning trajectory, as majority of the client base has been asking whether they could use Clanbeat to manage student growth. Being a student is the pivotal time in a human’s life – learning self-management skills. This was where Clanbeat found its new meaning and mission with students: “The way we build our product is by using a co-creation model: we go to our clients and we build the product together. You do not push your MVP to the market and wait for the response but you build it WITH the market,” Tuisk has figured out the best way to move forward.

That is a brave step towards the personal education that everyone keeps talking about but Tuisk, with her team, is willing to tackle it. “I’m in love with solving this problem of accelerating human growth. There is no better motivator for me than seeing people benefitting from the solution and turning their lives towards a better, more meaningful direction.”

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