This after school activities marketplace is using bitcoins to go global

Afterschool is like booking.com, but instead of booking a hotel, you book and compare prices of kids’ activities (Image via Stockvault).

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Unlike loaded school days, which fall heavy and stressful on little ones’ shoulders, extracurricular activities, will help them reboot and destress. Whether students participate in athletics, swimming, artistic, or other extracurricular activity, research shows that those students will perform better academically when compared to their peers who don’t.  

Joanna Santillan founded Afterschool.ae in Dubai in 2014. The web platform [and mobile app] is a two-sided online marketplace, that helps parents find after school activities for their children in the UAE. It also assists activity providers to generate new revenues, and engage with existing customers. Unlike other kids activity websites, such as UAE 4 Kidz, which just list the activities, Afterschool “is like booking.com or agoda.com, but instead of booking a hotel, you book, pay, and compare prices of kids’ activities,” Santillan told Wamda.

Afterschool.ae allows you to book
your kids' afterschool activities online (Image via Afterschool.ae)

The platform currently works with 500 UAE-based activity providers, including large corporate clients such as Sega Republic, Atlantis, The Palm, Fairmont, The Palm and Chuck e Cheese’s. The most on demand ones are companies that provide swimming courses and teaching. Several schools also advertise through Afterschool platform.

Santillan  explained that her platform has 25,000 registered and subscribed parents who use Afterschool.ae in the UAE, and book activities regularly. “Bookings vary with the season. Our peak months would be around holidays and the summer season, where we have 20 to 30 bookings per a day. In non-peak season, bookings reach around five per day,” she said.

Besides activity booking, Afterschool provides listed providers with a SaaS that allows them to run their day-to-day operations, by accessing the platform’s backend, checking attendance, take invoice, and engaging with their customers.

A sustainable business model

Afterschool is already generating revenue. “We are sustainable and are making profits. Our profit model is advertisement and subscription-based,” she said. Each listed company (service provider) is subject to a yearly $950 subscription fee, while parents can use the platform without any charge. Next year, Santillan is planning on adding a five percent commission fee on each booking concluded through the platform, which will be paid by the service providers. In 2016 -2017, the startup managed to reach $350,000 in sales.

Since its inception, the startup has been bootstrapping using Santillan’s personal money at a budget of less than $100,000.

The startup is based in Dubai and has already eight employees. It also has an office in Manilla, the Philippines, with seven employees, handling the the web and technical development. “The human capital is more affordable and more available in Manilla, this is why we established a tech office there,” Santillan commented.

Joanna Santillan,
founder of Afterschool.ae (Image via Afterschool.ae).

Going global through ICO

In order to grow its activities beyond the UAE, and the region, Afterschool will be launching an initial coin offering (ICO), using the ethereum blockchain technology (ETH). “ICO is like crowdfunding, it allows you to raise the needed money for your startup’s development and growth without giving away any equity,” Santillan stressed.

Launched on September 26, the ICO will run for 30 days, and will be offering 800 million bitcoins. In the initial sales, the bitcoin will be traded at a 60 percent discount, and will cost $0.05. To participate in the ICO, individuals can create a wallet on MyEtherWallet.com, Parity or Mist. Participants can purchase ETH from various exchanges such as Coinbase or Bitsquare, or buy with other cryptocurrencies from platforms such as Bittrex and Poloniex.

The ICO is expected to raise a minimum investment of $1 million up to 50,000 ETH. “We are looking to raise $20 million, and our expectations are high when it comes to reaching this sum. Comparing our business model to other proven model, and taking into consideration that we are profitable, will make this objective reachable,” she said.

With the launch of its own virtual token, the Afterschool blockchain-based platform is looking to disrupt the after school activity booking industry by implementing an online system that enables parents to book kids’ activities with ETH, BTC, or Afterschool tokens (AST) and its activity providers to accept the same. “Once the ICO ends, Afterschool will become a crypto-based startup and cryptocurrency will be the mode of payment for both parents and providers,” she said.

She continued: “We believe that Afterschool using blockchain technology is an opportunity to keep our database up-to-date and relevant, and allows us to be on top of rapidly moving trends in the edtech industry,” she explained.  

Expansion plan

With this token sale, Afterschool would be the first after school program platform to create its own digital currency. Funds raised for this ICO will be directed for its expansion in key countries in the Southeast Asia and GCC to start with and other key regions. “Following the ICO, we will become global and and will be implementing our growth strategy over the next five years starting 2018,” she said.  

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