Year after year, the PISA report and other international studies show us a sad reality: Spain ranks at the bottom of the OECD countries in mathematics and science. In addition, the gap between the different autonomous communities of our country is more than evident. Daniel Gonzalez de Vega Y Javier ArroyoSmartick co-founders decided to do their part to reverse this situation.

“I stumbled across the Kumon method, which is based on pamphlet teaching. I realized that it had all the comforts and inconveniences of a physical method that requires going to the center at least twice a week. I saw that a layer of technology could be added to improve the concept. And that’s what we did,” explains González de Vega.

Smartick was founded in 2009 and started programming. The company launched a pilot version at the end of 2010, which successfully passed tests in 60 schools in Madrid. The first commercial version was released at the beginning of the following academic year, in September 2011. The founders started the company with their savings, the support of a small group of family and friends, and funding from Enisa. However, rounds of financing in which they became part of the holding were not necessary business angel, Seed capital or venture capital companies. And this despite the fact that González de Vega worked in various investment funds for years private equity. The truth is, Smartick hasn’t needed access to that external financial muscle since it hit breakeven or break even in 2013, which is unusual for a tech startup.

“It is a very profitable and cash-generating project. Coming from a venture capital background, I always wonder if it would be good to raise a big round of funding to kickstart development. However, so far we haven’t needed it to get the growth we have, which is great. I’m not sure if we need such funding since we are self-sufficient,” he specifies.

A “premium” model

The company currently has more than 10,000 students in approximately 55 countries around the world. And all this with almost no advertising investment, based on word of mouth and the sense of achievement of its users.

Its application is cross-platform – for PC and tablets– and is aimed at children aged 4 to 14, although 70% of users focus on the 6 to 11 year old age group. And 90% of its clients are individuals, while the remaining 10% correspond to schools, either to carry out a “general implementation” – for all students of the center – or as an extracurricular activity only for those children who wish to do so.

Smartick chose one model from the start bonus. After a free trial period of 15 days, a fee is charged that varies between 19 and 39 euros per month depending on the contract period (monthly, quarterly or annual subscription) and the number of children. For example, an annual subscription for two children costs around 29 euros per month. For schools, depending on the number of children, a different tariff is set with a significant volume discount. For example, a “general implementation” school would pay about 35% to 40% of the price to individuals for each child.

González de Vega believes that Smartick has benefited from the growing tendency to pay for online services -Spotify, Netflix, Dropbox… – and the gradual exit from the crisis. In addition, he believes that “math is beginning to be seen as something necessary in a world where technology is an important vector of economic development.”

Success = Quality + Satisfaction

In order to ask for these tariffs, which are by no means cheap, you have to offer a quality product that justifies the said economic effort.

adaptive learning. Although Smartick’s idea is based on the Kumon method, one of the problems with this system is that it can be very repetitive and monotonous. The application solves this problem by proposing short daily sessions – about 15 minutes – and customized content, personalized and adapted to the student’s development, thanks on the one hand to a team of mathematicians and experienced mathematics teachers and on the other hand, to the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms.

Excellent service. Customer service is just as important as the quality of the system and its results. Although it is an online service, it pays special attention to this aspect. “The customer needs to see that there are people, a team and a service behind the product on the Internet,” he explains.