ePals launches ePals China

I first covered ePals almost three and half years ago, highlighting the emerging safe social network and email-based collaboration tools for K12 students. Since then, we've seen them roll out a full-featured social learning platform, layer their role-based communications tools on top of Live@Edu (now Office365 for Education), and finally raise $23 million in an IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange in August.

I first covered ePals almost three and half years ago, highlighting the emerging safe social network and email-based collaboration tools for K12 students. Since then, we've seen them roll out a full-featured social learning platform, layer their role-based communications tools on top of Live@Edu (now Office365 for Education), and finally raise $23 million in an IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange in August. On Monday, the company continued its rapid development into a global learning network by launching ePals China.

I had a chance to speak Miles Gilburne, ePals CEO, and Ed Fish, President of ePals about the new venture. While many details need to be worked out, ePals has partnered with Kaleido Co. Ltd, a Chinese investment group with deep connections to education in that country. The partnership not only establishes ePals China but includes significant investment in ePals by Kaleido. In fact, ePals will have a 49% stake in ePals China if the terms of the memorandum of understanding between the two groups is approved by various regulatory agencies in China, Canada, and the United States.

Gilburne explained that this is just the beginning of a growing number of international partnerships and expansions that ePals envisions in the years to come. What this means for current and future users of ePals here in the States, though, is one heck of a powerful network that teachers can leverage to expose students to an increasingly broad world view. In my first post on ePals, I highlighted a use case that Ed Fish had called out for me:

Recently, a classroom of Chinese-speaking students learning Spanish posted a "want-ad" on ePals (part of their classroom matching service). A classroom of Spanish-speaking students who were learning Chinese responded and now the two classes are corresponding regularly to practice Spanish and Chinese together

Three years ago, this was cool. Now, these sorts of really meaningful international connections are critical. It's the sort of network, in fact, that can address the "same ol' same 'ol" I lamented Monday. Ed Fish discussed the benefits of the partnership in greater detail. As he described, the partnership

  1. Extends ePals reach into a potential market of over 200 million students and 10 million teachers across China with safe, secure ePals learning solutions.
  2. Delivers a cloud-based learning platform that scales, is budget-friendly and can meet the needs of consumers at home and in school -- across China’s urban and rural districts. At the heart of this is ePals LearningSpace.
  3. Encompasses both home-based products and school based products to deliver compelling – globally connected solutions.  The number of Chinese citizens connected to the Internet now is larger than the US population. At the same time, as shown by the growth in private schools and supplemental educational services across China, parents and the entire nuclear family are motivated to provide educational opportunities for students.

However you look at it, the launch of ePals China (along with ePals' Canadian IPO) represents growth opportunities for the company that eclipse anything we've seen as we've literally watched the company "grow up" on this blog since its infancy. Perhaps more importantly, it represents an interesting business model that we will see more and more in the education space as markets mature.

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