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AWS's EdStart gathering local education startups

Mr Quah says that when startups grow under EdStart they can scale seamlessly.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has stepped into online learning solutions to capitalise on one of the fastest-growing industries in the country alongside the digital economy.

The company, through EdStart -- its educational tech startup accelerator programme -- is aimed at helping local education tech startups build online learning, analytics and campus management solutions on the AWS cloud.

The number of online students has been increasing each year worldwide, driving demand for edtech platforms, said Vincent Quah, the Asia-Pacific regional head for education, research, healthcare and not-for-profit at AWS.

There are limited resources in edtech, while online educational platforms are disjointed, not in a proper ecosystem.

According to a recent survey by Kasikornbank's research arm, the overall tutoring business in the country last year was valued at 8 billion baht.

Mr Quah said AWS launched its EdStart programme in Thailand last year in parallel with several countries in Asia.

The programme provides assistance to online educational startups through three categories: community, technical assistance and financial support, especially AWS's non-cash promotional credits.

"The challenge of online learning platforms is figuring out how students learn high quality content and how the educational tech startups can move faster in building and growing their businesses," he said.

Yesterday, AWS held an official press conference for AWS's EdStart, alongside the startup OpenDurian, which has been an adopter of the EdStart programme since early 2019.

Mr Quah said when these companies grow under the EdStart programme, they can scale their businesses seamlessly and go global by utilising 21 AWS Regions with 66 Availability Zones around the world to expand their products.

The EdStart programme targets educational tech startups that were founded within the last five years, and generated less than US$10 million (306 billion baht) in annual revenue.

Mr Quah said OpenDurian is an example of a startup succeeding under EdStart, though he did not reveal how many Thai companies are in the EdStart programme.

Chula Pittayapinan, co-founder and chief technology officer of OpenDurian, said the company was founded in 2013 with initial registered capital of 100,000 baht. The company booked its first revenue of 50 million baht last year.

The company provides free-test preparation materials and premium video courses through platforms aim at three targeted groups: first-time job seekers, college students and K-12 students.

There are now 3.9 million active users on the OpenDurian platform.

In the past, Mr Chula said students had to attend these examination preparation courses in person and some of these courses are costly.

OpenDurian develops online courses on subjects that are in high demand by students and working adults such as English language tests, General Aptitude Tests, Doctor Aptitude Tests, biology and mathematics.

Since joining the EdStart programme this year, Mr Chula said the company can experiment with new features using AWS machine learning technology such as Amazon Transcribe that generates listening and speaking material, Amazon Rekognition for vocabulary exercise and Amazon SageMaker for content recommendation.

"We [OpenDurian] hope to see 70 or up to 100 million baht in revenue this year or 100% growth from 2018," he said.

Mr Chula said the company's AI-powered edtech can provide quality content creation tools that are cheaper and more accessible, but will not fully replace humans.

There are three big online learning platforms in the country that generate combined revenue of around 200 million baht per year, growing at more than 200% per year.

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