Belfast educational technology company Komodo Learning said today that it has seen a fourfold increase in global demand for its maths learning tools as parents look for resources to help their children keep learning during the coronavirus lockdown.
Founded in 2015, Komodo is a maths learning system for children aged 5 to 11 which is designed to supplement primary school maths at home. It provides animated video guidance and short practice exercises that can be accessed on smartphones, tablets and computers, with learning individually tailored to each child’s needs by a maths teacher.
Before the coronavirus crisis, the company already had over 5,000 families using their site around the world, including in all 50 states in the US, but founder and CEO Gerard McBreen said the lockdown in many countries has resulted in increased interest from parents looking for resources they can trust.
Gerard said: “Komodo has been helping parents to support their children’s maths learning for years but since schools have closed, we’ve been called upon by even more parents who have had to become their children’s sole educators. It is not how we expected to grow the business but we are responding to the rise in demand.
“Komodo was never intended as a replacement for school, but with schools closed it can provide a structured learning programme to develop maths skills. It’s designed for ‘little and often’ learning in 15-minute sessions, which means kids aren’t kept at the screen for a long time and parents can fit them in between their own work.”
Gerard, who is a former maths teacher, acknowledges it is a difficult time for families whose livelihoods may have been affected but who still need assistance with their children’s education.
“We’re helping new and existing subscribers who are experiencing financial difficulties and we have also made a lot of resources available free of charge on our blog. There is a lot of information online, but it can be really hard to navigate and find what works for your children if you are new to it or not confident in your own maths ability,” he said.
His advice to parents, who will already have discovered the need for patience and compromise when home-schooling, is not to be too hard on themselves.
“Teaching young children at home can be very difficult. It’s never going to be the same as school but you can find a way that works for you; remember that learning can be found in the most unusual places. With young children, twenty minutes is a realistic time to spend on one learning activity. If you can organise three or even two of these per day you’ll be doing well,” he said.
Komodo is part of Belfast’s growing tech ecosystem. The company’s investors include several NI-based ‘angel investors’ as well as two local funds, CoFund NI and Techstart, which are backed by Invest NI.
“Having built Komodo from the ground up, we empathise with fellow startup founders who are struggling at the moment. But we have so many innovative, resilient, high calibre founders here in Northern Ireland that I’m confident the sector will continue to thrive when this crisis eases,” adds Gerard McBreen.
“We want to continue to play our part in growing that ecosystem. Parents are becoming more aware of the importance of maths as a gateway to STEM career opportunities but often don’t realise their child’s maths ability isn’t predetermined. Anyone can do well in the subject provided the foundation is strong enough.”
Claudine Owens, from Clarendon Fund Managers, which manages Co-Fund NI, said: “We are really pleased to see Komodo, along with a number of our other portfolio companies, continuing to flourish and providing great resources and useful services to aid communities in these unprecedented times of Covid-19.
“Over the past few weeks businesses like Komodo have benefited greatly from the skill and commitment of their business angel investors. Their wealth of expertise and experience is a welcome and valuable support for local entrepreneurs.”