To strive is an online learning platform that teaches kids how to code, but it wants to do more than just that. Developed with an active learning model that puts students in charge of lessons, Strive aims to instill in them a lifelong love of STEM subjects.
The Singapore-based startup announced today that it has raised a $1.3 million seed round led by Y Combinator (it’s an accelerator program alum), with participation from Soma Capital, Goodwater Capital and individual investors such as Crimson Education CEO Jamie Beaton, co-founder of WestBridge Capital and founding member of Sequoia India KP Balaraja, and Segment co-founder and ex-CTO Calvin French-Owen.
Strive, which provides one-to-one classes for children ages 8 to 16, plans to expand into Asia, targeting the 3.7 million students in international schools.
Founded in 2020 by Tamir Shklaz and Pulkit Agarwal, Strive was built on the idea that the development of AI automation and technology means that everything you learn could be outdated in a few years.
“The most important skill we can give kids or anyone is teaching them how to adapt,” Shklaz said. “If you want to inspire flexible students, learning should be fun. Learning should be joyful. So we really started Strive for the core intention of equipping kids to thrive in the 21st century by making them fall in love with the learning process.
What makes Strive different from many other online coding learning platforms for kids? Shklaz said Strive’s goal is to create a learning experience that is more effective and engaging than its competitors.
“We have really great teachers, but we don’t hire teachers based on their technical ability,” he said. “Of course they need to be able to learn how to code, but what’s much more important is their ability to empathize with and interact with the learner.”
The lessons are “hyper-personalized” so that students can choose the projects they want to work on – for example, they could code a game like pong, a math stimulation, or a physics simulation. Projects are visual and have instant feedback. Once a student solves a problem and completes a new line of code, they see the results instantly on their screen. “We use circles, colors and movement, and that’s what makes it so appealing to kids.”
Agarwal said that while more parents and education systems are beginning to emphasize coding, their teaching methods often leave children feeling disengaged and frustrated. “Usually the students are still introduced to coding and then get rid of it. They come to the false conclusion that coding is too hard, coding is dry, or coding just isn’t for me.”
Active learning means that instead of teaching students the whole class, teachers ask them questions and guide them through coding exercises, taking the lead.
Agarwal gave me a short sample lesson, which was an interesting experience for me because I’ve never studied coding, so I’m starting at the same level as the kids they teach (or even lower, to be honest).
First, Agarwal asked me if I was interested in learning averages. I said no, so he asked me if I wanted to draw art instead, which I did. He walked me through the steps of coding a gridded sketchpad, but I led the class and chose what results I wanted, such as making the background of the sketchpad my favorite color.
Instead of telling me what to do, Agarwal asked me to change a number, then asked what I thought that action had accomplished (it moved a dot to the corresponding number of the grid). By the end I was able to draw shapes with the tip using my cursor and had managed to code my first sketchpad. I don’t think I’m describing the experience very well, but it was fun to discover what happened each time I entered new code. The class was engaging and I would consider enrolling my daughter when she is old enough.
When Strive started, it had 16 students and each day Shklaz and Agarwal spent six hours teaching so they could test different content and standards. Strive employees, including the founders, have yet to teach at least one student. For example, Strive’s chief of operations doesn’t know how to code, but she takes coding classes with her teachers to prepare her to take on an apprentice.
One of the challenges Strive may face in executing its growth strategy is the scalability of its model. Shklaz said they have two solutions. The number of students per class is slightly increased, from one-to-one to a maximum of one-to-four. The second is that Strive has a large pool of potential teachers as it hires many college students who study coding. Shklaz said Strive will create a training process and infrastructure to ensure the quality of education remains consistent.
Strive’s current customer acquisition strategy is primarily word-of-mouth from children and their parents. Part of the new funding will be used to develop the code editor, adding additional concepts and curriculum tailored to the interests of different children.
Teaching children to code “is one of the desired outcomes, which is to be able to think and solve problems and code them in the same way you would develop a fluency in languages,” Shklaz said. “But much more important than that is confidence and pleasure in learning.”