Education Perfect, a New Zealand-based global education company, grew exponentially during the pandemic. Now, the challenge is to maintain momentum as the world continues to face uncertainty.
The Covid-19 pandemic has provided tech companies with phenomenal opportunities. How many times did we lament, “I wish I owned stock in Zoom,” as we logged on for a work meeting, a check-in with the schoolteacher, a yoga class or a social chat with friends and family? During Covid, Zoom became a household name.
It’s just one pandemic success story – there are hundreds of others, and equally as many tales of misfortune. Certainly, all of the early research points to the fact that Covid sped up the global digital revolution by several years – well beyond initial predictions. For those companies positioned to capitalise on the opportunities brought by lockdowns and limited travel, remote work, online schooling and socialising, the rewards have been significant.
One such company is Education Perfect(link is external) (EP), an ‘ed-tech’ company based in New Zealand.
Its offering is twofold: EP tracks and collates student performance data and makes it available to teachers, school leaders and parents. EP also offers a range of online learning resources.
While universities have embraced online learning for more than a decade, schools have been much slower to do so. Covid gave them no choice but to quickly adapt. This meant a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Education Perfect.
“For me, the opportunity presented by Covid was that it brought the topic of online learning into the spotlight,” says Alex Burke, CEO of Education Perfect. “It meant that schools started having the conversation and opening up to the potential. Recently, there’s been talk of teacher shortages, literacy standards falling, there’s talk of our children not being completely prepared for the digital future that lies ahead of them. Technology – certainly the tools that we are working on – can solve so many of these issues in a really potent and cost-effective way.”
There are now 1.2 million students around the world using Education Perfect’s online learning platform, and 2600 schools using the company’s data product, which helps teachers and school managers in a number of ways: to easily identify learning issues and implement early intervention strategies, to measure overall performance and benchmark results, to make budget allocation decisions and to invest in subject areas that may be lacking.
Users of EP’s tools become advocates quickly – it’s a product which delivers ROI in a short period of time – undoubtedly, this a significant reason for the company’s impressive growth in the past few years.
Prior to March 2020, during Burke’s first year at the helm, the company expanded into 42 countries. Then, as the world shut down, this could have meant potential risk to the company’s upward growth, but instead it continued to thrive. Throughout 2021-22, EP employed an additional 100 people across 12 countries and expanded its service offering into a further 38 countries, bringing the total to 80.
Mid-2021, EP completed a successful investment deal with global firm KKR taking a majority stake in the company, to the value of more than NZ$450 million.
The challenge now is to maintain momentum – at a time when there is still a degree of post-pandemic uncertainty, war between the Ukraine and Russia, and tough economic recovery ahead for many countries.
Through it all, Burke remains calm, thoughtful and pragmatic about what the future holds for Education Perfect and how the company’s long-term objectives will be achieved. Having quality products is paramount, and this is not by accident. One of Burke’s leadership mantras is ‘customer focus’, and using every opportunity to solicit customer feedback for continuous improvement.
Additional keys to success?
“Agility,” says Burke. “Being able to adapt quickly, and with confidence, to the wider social, political and economic conditions. Also, in order to grow in uncertain times, it’s critical to focus on your core business objectives – why you do what you do, and what you want to achieve.”
Central to this is a strong company culture, he says. The team knows what the company’s mission and values are, and that they are empowered to make the micro decisions that ultimately have an impact on how the company performs overall.
As staff numbers grow, and different cultures and time zones expand, Burke believes, “If you’ve got the right governance and processes in place, then, in theory, the number of people shouldn’t necessarily complicate what you’re doing. But it’s something to keep monitoring and challenging.”
The benefits of working from home
Having witnessed firsthand the benefits of ‘working from home’, Burke changed the company’s employment policy to allow people to work from home if they choose, irrespective of their role.
“I’m a people-person,” Burke says. “So, I did wonder how I would cope with working remotely from the team when we first went into lockdown, but I discovered that I was more productive, and more involved with the family. Having a routine and a schedule has been important, but I definitely feel, overall, that I have much more balance, and that makes me more effective.”
“Before COVID, I might travel to the US for meetings. I’d be on a plane or waiting around in airports for large chunks of time, and then moving from place to place, and that might take up two weeks of my life. I’d come home tired and jet-lagged. Those physical and mental disruptions don’t exist for me now, so I’m more focused. And it can represent considerable time and cost savings.”
For Education Perfect, adopting this policy has not only opened up the talent pool, it’s also meant less attrition. As a tech company, many of the staff are young – still wanting to travel, to experience life. Under the new policy, they can have this freedom without having to sacrifice their jobs, because they can work from anywhere.
Helping the disadvantaged
Moving forward, Education Perfect has set goals that include further expansion into the international market.
Under its aim of ensuring equitable access to education for all students, the company is currently working with refugees in Malaysia and Cambodia by providing its products to 1500 students through a partnership with the International Children’s Fund.
In Australia, working with the Smith Family, EP has plans to undertake a similar project for disadvantaged students. In New Zealand, they are working on a pilot project for corporations, still in the research and development phase, that focuses on Maori cultural competences and language to enhance diversity and inclusion within the workforce.
In the coming months, EP will also launch its first B2C product – homeschooling resources for parents. “It’s an interesting market and it has considerable growth potential here in New Zealand. In Australia, growth is around 20 percent a year as parents look for alternative ways to educate their children.”
Responsiveness to market and innovation remain a priority, but the company is also heavily focused on establishing itself as a dominant player.
“We’ve got the best products in the market, but we’re still building our reputation across wider segments of New Zealand and Australia,” says Burke (pictured below).
“When we’re competing against overseas companies, the ‘Kiwi company takes on the world’ story has typically worked in our favour, but locally there’s work to be done to increase our profile further.”