Mic’d Up With MAAS Episode 6: Education Has a Tech Makeover, and It’s Here to Stay!
In Episode 6 of Mic’d Up With MAAS, Elsa Corp’s Country Manager Michael Ngo joins us for a candid conversation on the boom of EdTech apps since the pandemic and how the startup ecosystem in Vietnam is shaping up.
Here are the edited excerpts from the conversation.
Ankit: Tell us briefly about your organization, your background, and the work you do at Elsa Corp.
Michael: I work for an organization called Elsa Speak – Elsa is not the Disney character! It’s an acronym for English Language Speech Assistant. Our mission is to empower the 1.5 billion English learners across the world to speak English fluently and more importantly, confidently so that they can unlock opportunities in their lives.
And we do this by leveraging AI to drastically reduce the price of a speech coach. And so what would it cost you? What would cost you about a few hundred dollars an hour with a live speech coach, we can reduce that to just $45 a year by using Elsa. And I joined Elsa for about a year now serving as a country manager for our largest market in Vietnam. We have 14 million users globally a little bit over 5 million of which are in Vietnam. And I guess a little bit about me prior to joining Elsa, I was leading Southeast Asia marketing for a US-based SaaS data analytics company based out of Singapore. And prior to that, I was a co-founder of a VC-backed mobile marketplace and logistics startup in Vietnam.
Ankit: You’ve been an entrepreneur in diverse industries and most recently in the EdTech space. What are some of the interesting consumer behavior & app engagement trends you have noticed since the pandemic?
Michael: Due to the pandemic, a lot of online learning has come online, and not even that it’s just work has gone online. Right. So before, when you had the opportunity to meet in person, you can use non-verbal cues and different ways of communicating to get your ideas across. So I think those trends have just been kind of exacerbated by the pandemic and I think even after the pandemic subsides not everybody’s going to go back to work in the office.
There’s going to be a fair amount of working remotely from home. And this will just continue on forward. And even when it comes to schools, there’s going to be a significant portion of hybrid learning going on after this as well. The trends that the pandemic has brought forward are definitely going to stick around post-pandemic.
Ankit: What is the mix of users today you see on your app in Vietnam? And how do you approach user acquisition for a varied audience?
Michael: The majority of our users in Vietnam specifically tend to be a bit older – early to mid-career professionals. So English for them is a way to secure a new job or secure a promotion or to advance themselves. We are increasingly seeing a growing segment of younger learners.
Vietnam is a challenging market when it comes to apps, especially subscription-based. We typically focus on the older age segments for the ability to monetize. However, due to the pandemic, what we did find is that we wanted to open up our technology, not to just this segment, but to everybody. So as the lockdown set in, we saw there’s a huge spike in the user activity as well as organic user acquisition.
Ankit: Moving away, I am keen to hear your thoughts on the startup ecosystem in Vietnam. Do you see Vietnam potentially emerging as a dynamic startup hub like the other global cities?
Michael: The startup system is exciting right now. There’s a lot of attention on so many fronts. The government is spending a lot of effort and money to produce 10 unicorns out of Vietnam by 2030. So there are even government regulations on how to make technology transfers easier, setting up companies faster, a lot of tax incentives, etc. There’s also a lot of funding and most of it goes to eCommerce which is huge in Vietnam as well as FinTech. However, we are starting to see a lot of growth in other sectors as well.