Following its $8 million Series A round last year, Tunisian edtech startup GOMYCODE has been ramping up its expansion across Africa and now has a network of 40 locations in 10 countries, including Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and Côte d'Ivoire.
Launched in 2017 by Yahya and Amine Bouhlel, GOMYCODE offers an online and offline learning platform for coding and other digital training and provides digital training tools, content creation, skills management, technical evaluation and matching with employment opportunities. It allows stakeholders to quickly and autonomously create training programmes on a wide range of skills in areas like web development, video game development, artificial intelligence, data science, UX design and business intelligence among others. Moreover, its platform also helps learners match with prospective employers.
We sat down with Yahya Bouhlel to discuss the startup's expansion strategy in terms of product and geographical footprint as well as the broader edtech space.
How do you approach the competition in the new markets you expand into?
The expansion is mainly driven by the opportunity to solve the same problem that we work to address in Tunisia, which is the lack of access to inspiring teachers. The very same problem you will find in other countries where we have presence. The formula we crack is that we train people on relevant skills and then find them jobs, which is probably Africa's biggest problem in the next 50 years.
In most of these countries, there are a lot of local, traditional training centres, bootcamps, and online platforms like Open Classroom and Coursera, along with mass players that have a blended model—an online platform and a physical rollout. But you don't see many modulated mass-market models that cater to certain price points, ages, and needs, which are also blended. That's where we leverage the first-mover's advantage.
In our case, no one is doing the work that we're doing at this scale; no one is building 35 locations in Africa and providing 14 learning environments. So, I think having a unique product vertical and continuously correcting it is really the most important thing for us. To meet competition, we realise the need to work to go beyond the traditional approaches and there is always room for that to happen.
Recently, Egypt and Nigeria have been hit hard by currency devaluations. How do you cope with that?
After currency devaluations, we usually try to just make a small increase in our prices to cope with that. Certainly, it’s been really problematic for us. We want to be mindful of people’s purchasing power and the amount of money they're willing to put into education.
So, we try to keep our courses super accessible to everyone. For example, the average price point for GOMYCODE training is the average monthly salary of a web developer. So if you take a course and you get hired, you can reimburse the whole training with the first month's salary. Looking at places where people can get the same courses and services, there are universities, but they are two to three times more expensive on a yearly basis.
Edtech, in particular, has been negatively impacted by the current funding environment. From a product perspective, how do you ensure the long-term sustainability of your business model?
Edtech received 8 per cent, or maybe less, of VC funding last year; it is usually at the bottom of the list of VC-funded sectors. I think the way to cope with this is to really focus on improving our business economics by trying to control early cash burn. It's really important to come up with ways to acquire users with less spending.
On the content side, as long as we evolve, we tend to update the curriculum and the programmes that we train people with the speed of technology and that’s one way of staying relevant. The other part is about making students spend a longer time with us.
Instead of taking a six-month course, our students can take an 18-month course. If you convince people to stay longer with a teacher at our school, you have a higher lifetime value (LTV), translating into higher returns and filling rates, and your customer acquisition cost (CAC) will look much better. I think the key to sustainability is to build longer programmes for longer offerings that extend from a few months to a few years, maybe in the long run.
What strategies do you use to attract and retain users?
The product is multi-layered. If you are a university student, you could be taking a course through GOMYCODE and then end up working with a company. Moreover, we offer night courses and weekend courses, so people can actually join our programmes at their convenience and pace.
Additionally, we offer different learning programmes and certifications. For example, you can take a cybersecurity learning course and later a certification course. There are a lot of people who take a training course but also come back for a certification course and then actually come back again and learn something completely different.
To amplify focus on enhancing the startup’s overall performance and product development, we may go for a bridge round, as we near a breakeven point.
In what way can AI be used in product optimisation?
We are inclined to use AI to reduce the human aspect in training and knowledge. For instance, using AI, we can reduce the time span between the teachers and the students and increase the time span between students and AI. If we can spare teachers more time, they can train more students. This, in turn, could have a significant, positive impact on the overall user experience in terms of the programme pricing, and their accessibility.
GOMYCODE is a Wamda Capital portfolio company