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Top 20 most expensive companies of the Russian Internet: a success story Skyeng


Alexandr Lariyanovskii_partner Skyeng

this year's educational platform Skyeng entered the top 20 most expensive Internet projects of Russia according to Forbes. How to succeed in the market of educational services, to create a strong and productive team — in an interview with Alexander Laryanovsky, managing partner Skyeng.

— Share a secret of rapid growth, maybe there is some kind of starting point, after which the development has gone vertical?

— First, we had regular school that connects the tutor and the student via Skype, and we were far from being able to be a leader in its field. But everything changed the idea that we need to go with Skype and to develop their own platform which will make learning more user-friendly and more standardized — with the possibility of monitoring the effectiveness of learning and interactive tasks.

But one idea and even the development platform was not enough-needed systemic change. The turning point for us was in 2014, when concentrated on the development of our platform VimBox. As the platform has gathered statistics on the conducted activities and progress of the students, our managers began to analyze the most successful cases and make reminders for teachers. Pretty quickly we found that most teachers ignore the guidelines and are taught by “old school”.

We hired the Methodists, with their help, has developed content and training materials. Did not stop there. Began to organize educational webinars for teachers, where a Methodist was explaining how to use the platform VimBox. The result was not long in coming. We saw a correlation between satisfaction of student, quality of education and the amount of time he spends on the platform. Later hooked psychologists who could identify the interests and temperament of students, and began picking them with the appropriate teacher. Later we had a mobile app for learning new words, which gave a start to this ecosystem in which we help pupils to improve language always and everywhere.  

This strategy has borne fruit. In 2014 revenues exceeded 39.5 million rubles, the number of teachers has reached 160 people, and the number of students in school — 1,600 people. Skyeng became the biggest online language school in Russia, and in 2015 came to the breakeven point.


— What new technologies are used in teaching, does it help to take a leadership position in the market of educational services?

— of Course, as I said, all classes in Skyeng are on the interactive platform VimBox. Counterparts service is not. All services platform synchronized: online tutorials, exercises, video with the teacher, interactive homework, application for memorizing words, personal account, services, statistics and monitoring of progress, multimedia services (movies and TV series in the original with clever captions).

— How do you evaluate the distance education market? According to some experts, this is one of the most lucrative in the near future directions. Do you agree?

— Yes, the market for online education is a perspective direction for business. According to the study “Netology-group" of the HSE and of the Fund «Public opinion" of the Russian market of distance education is growing by an average of 17–25% per year and by 2021 could reach 53.3 billion. The company Skyeng, based on research is approximately 3.5% of the Russian market of online education and 45% of the market for online language learning.

the online education Market is rapidly growing for obvious reasons — online saves people time, gives access to the best teachers, allows to control the quality of education. But we are in an era when education should move from the stage of quackery with an unguaranteed result to the service that will give guaranteed results. The one who can offer it will become one of the market leaders — so the inevitable consolidation, and we cannot say that the rapid development of the market will be equally beneficial to all. As with all global changes, there will be winners and losers.

Mobilnoe prilozhenie Skyeng

— How do you think attracting investment through ICO? The plans include creation of own kryptonite and enter a new market?

— See the successful examples, but we are still very closely watching the development of the processes of market regulation. If you have a successful project, it is impossible "to be late for ICO”. So I want to wait to appear normal law and everyone will understand, “what is good and what is bad».

— the School grows and outside Russia. It is planned to accept payments in bitcoin? Or under what conditions it is possible to accept cryptocurrency for services?

— We are trying to make the online education popular service. This means that we need to work with not the most technically advanced users. Therefore, acceptance of cryptocurrencies for us will be meaningful when such payment instruments will be quite massive, up to this — it is unprofitable to divert resources.

— All of your employees work remotely? How do you manage to control the whole process at a high level, how to motivate and unite a common purpose staff working in different parts of the world? Presence of own cryptocurrencies could be a bonus for employees?

— Skyeng about 60% of employees work remotely. A logical question arises: how to make sure that they do work? The answer is: nothing. We do not control the work of employees. If you check the sitting officer in the workplace, how many hours he spends at the computer, it is strongly discourages. For us the main thing-the result. Therefore, we evaluate the quality of the work performed. This requires a clear system of KPIs and regular honest feedback. Each team member has a transparent system of targets expressed in figures or projects. To organize work process we use a standard set of tools: Trello and Jira for tasks, Google Docs for working tools, Slack, Skype and Hangouts for meetings, and Notion Confluence for documentation and instructions.

It's about the organization of work. As for the motivation — common goals and ideas — we are trying to implement it with the maximum openness of the company, hold regular General meetings, try to show each employee the contribution it makes to the development of the company, and online education in Russia and the world. It really works. For the top-end employees additional motivation is the optional program. Select the method how to arrange it depends on which option will cause the greatest trust of the recipient of the option. It seems this is not a cryptocurrency, but in the future this is an option.

— Will do “offline” the development of the school: the clubs Skyeng, real meetings? Maybe there are plans to develop franchise network “offline” schools with usual group activities?

— We have long practiced offline-direction. Last year, we organized open lessons of English in the parks of Moscow, a half-cafe and coworking. For corporate clients we are doing a themed offline conversation clubs. Now we have Skyeng Camp — English summer camps for children and students. In the future we plan to organize more off-line events throughout the country.

— the Last question the motivation of those who believes that it is not able to learn languages (among my friends there 80%). How many students Skyeng achieved their goals and talking in the target language?

Learn English
— anyone who knows to what purpose he is and why he needs it, achieves success in learning. And with our students. Most importantly — it is the motivation of the student, without it nothing works. If you now go out and ask a thousand people whether it is helpful to do exercises in the morning, a thousand people will say “Yes”. And when you ask: doing? The answer is quite different. Motivation allows you to break away from of bed to go to do something, she plays the most important role.

And when it's all right, next we need tools to achieve the objectives. Modern interactive platform with applications and services that would have surrounded the pupil in everyday life, and teacher, any student in temperament and interests, which will lead the student toward the goal. So we are all together in Skyeng and create this complex.

Interviewed Kislinskaja Olga, photo: archive of A. Baranovskogo,