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Billion Dollar Unicorns: Age of Learning Monetizing in Educational Apps

Posted on Friday, May 13th 2016

According to a ReportsnReports report, the global education gamification market is estimated to grow 64% annually over the period 2014 through 2019. Gamification within education refers to a process of implementing game mechanics into non-gaming context so that users are engaged and are able to solve problems. It involves the appointment of points, badges, challenges, a leaderboard, and rewards as part of this strategy. Within education, gamification strategies lead to users learning concepts through game techniques. Age of Learning is a recent entrant to the Billion Dollar Unicorn club that is using these techniques to developed apps focused on a niche group.

Age of Learning’s Offerings

Glendale, California-based Age of Learning was founded in 2007 by serial entrepreneur Doug Dohring. Doug was formerly known for his market research firm The Dohring Company, which he had founded in 1986. In 1999, Doug was introduced to the virtual pet site Neopets.com which led to his buying the site and setting up Neopets Inc. The immersive advertising site not only attracted over 140 million subscribers, but was profitable as well. In 2005, Doug sold Neopets to Viacom for an estimated $160 million. After selling Neopets, Doug began work on his next venture – Age of Learning.

In 2007, Doug established Age of Learning to develop online learning apps for children between the age of 2-7 years. For the first four years, Age of Learning spent time with education experts to understand the curriculum best suited to this target age group. It identified the skills needed by kids to succeed at school and then incorporated these skills into easy-to-play games. In 2010, it released its first learning app. By 2014, the company had established nearly 20 different apps which it then consolidated under its flagship product ABCMouse.com. Today ABCMouse.com provides its subscribers with access to more than 650 lessons spread across 7,000 learning activities under one portal.

Age of Learning’s Financials

Unlike other free services, Age of Learning operates on a paid subscriber model. It charges a family $7.95 a month for access to its website. A single subscription allows a user to create accounts for three kids in a family. Access to schools, learning centers, teachers, and libraries is provided free of charge. The company has over 1 million paying subscribers. While Age of Learning does not disclose its financials, the membership alone translates to revenues of over $95 million a year. The app is currently available in the US, Canada, and China.

Age of Learning has received $181.5 million in outside funding so far. Its latest funding round was held in 2015 when it raised $150 million in venture funds from Iconiq Capital at a valuation of $1 billion.

After establishing its dominance in the early learning market, Age of Learning is now moving to focus on higher grades. Analysts expect that the recent funds will help it in developing content for 8-year-old kids, improving its user interface, and also expanding its international presence.

Age of Learning has established a clear dominance in the market for early learning apps. It is the top grossing app within the education category on the Apple store according to App Annie’s statistics. No other app is able to offer such a comprehensive library of apps focused on kids that young. The app has received several awards ranging from the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, Editor’s Choice Award—Children’s Technology Review for excellence in design, Mom’s Choice Awards® Gold for their website, Teachers’ Choice Award—Learning Magazine to name a few.

More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion Dollar Unicorns. Unicorns will also be discussed with some special guests during our 1M/1M Roundtable programs over the next few weeks. To be a part of the conversation, please register here.  The term Unicorn was coined in a TechCrunch article by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures.

This segment is a part in the series : Billion Dollar Unicorns


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