Sydney, December 16, 2011 – Smart Sparrow Pty Ltd, have today announced it has secured a significant round of venture capital investment to accelerate the commercialisation of its proprietary online Intelligent Tutoring e-learning platform.
Smart Sparrow, a company incubated with the University of New South Wales’ Faculty of Engineering, was originally identified by Uniseed. OneVentures then led the funding round with Uniseed investing alongside the OneVentures Innovation Fund. Smart Sparrow will utilise the capital injection to enhance platform capability and further pursue market adoption of their state-of-the-art technology.
Smart Sparrow founder, Dr Dror Ben-Naim said the future of education is learning environments that adapt to the individual student as they progress through coursework and where each student receives rich interactive feedback as if sitting one-on-one with their teacher.
“While students work, Smart Sparrow’s adaptivity engine models their knowledge and learning style, so that it can personalize the teaching, specific to their learning.
“We are delighted to have received such strong interest in the technology with recognition not only from Australian venture capitalists but also internationally,” Dr Ben-Naim said.
OneVentures Managing Partner, Dr Michelle Deaker said OneVentures had identified education as a sector that would see substantial growth, disruption, globalisation and innovation over the next decade
“The OneVentures Innovation Fund is looking for investments with global potential and large addressable markets. We were impressed by the Smart Sparrow team, the technology and the potential of the company in servicing the rapidly growing e-learning market expected to exceed $50 billion in 2011.”
Smart Sparrow was founded in 2010, following seven years of research and development by Israeli-Australian PhD graduate Dror Ben-Naim. While within the University of New South Wales, the technology became successfully incorporated into the teaching programs of over 60 academics and used by 15,000 students annually. Hundreds of adaptive modules are now in use in subjects ranging from pathology and science labs through to music and business. Adoption of the platform has enabled the university to reduce costs, provide a richer learning environment and improve student performance and classroom success rates.
Uniseed Investment Manager, Dr David Rowe, said Uniseed recognised the potential of the technology and looked to partner with venture capitalists who had the requisite experience and international networks to help drive the business and mentor the founding team of the company.
“The platform developed by Smart Sparrow represents the next generation of educational technology. The cloud-based platform is stable, scalable and proven with modules in operation now in 5 of the 8 top tier Australian Universities, as well as first international customers.”
University of New South Wales Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Les Field AM said venture capital played a crucial role and was recognised globally as an essential building block in the innovation ecosystem.
“In many respects, it is the missing link between university funded research and commercial outcomes that benefit the economy, make workplaces more productive and create new jobs. The University is delighted to see Smart Sparrow attract substantial venture capital funding to further its commercial operations,” said Professor Field.
Professor Field also commented that there is a growing need, particularly in higher education, for institutions to take a global view of their provision of educational services and learning, expand their student numbers and yet also find ways to customise the learning experience to individual students. In a wired world, coupled with ubiquitous mobility, educational institutions must adopt new technologies that allow them to teach anyone, anywhere and anytime.
Dr Ben-Naim said they had seen significant engagement from students accessing the platform.
“As academics build their content into the platform, learning outcomes are enhanced and the teacher can monitor progress of the student through all stages of the course,” he said.
Dr Deaker commented that a key focus of the NBN would be delivery of educational training and vocational services into regional areas of Australia through online education programs.
She also noted that the Asia-Pacific region was growing rapidly in wealth yet was unable to adequately meet the demands for educational services, which would provide significant opportunity for Australian institutions.
“Lack of or access to qualified educators means that more scalable education models are required which will be underpinned by technology. Intelligent Tutoring Technology, such as Smart Sparrow, will be essential as the platform enabler of these future learning environments.”