Epic! Receives USD30M Investment, Gives Free Products to Teachers and Schools

Epic! has just received a USD30M investment from Evolution Media, the investment arm of Creative Artists Agency. Epic! is a five-year-old education technology company that seeks to make books more accessible to children. The company has grown into an award-winning subscription service, giving millions of families, schools, and teachers unlimited access to thousands of books, videos and quizzes from leading publishers to attain its goal of accessible education.

While a large portion of education technology capital is aimed at consumers, not classrooms, Epic! has made its growth, in part, by giving its product for free to teachers and schools. It takes pride in collecting more than 35,000 books, audio books, and videos from over 250 publishers including big brands like Sesame Street and National Geographic. Epic! even claims that their offerings are ‘three times the size of an average elementary school library’ even giving children ‘an environment where [they are] in control.’

Epic!’s reaches more than 10 million children

The giving of free products and services may hurt businesses in the long run but Epic! drastically increased its brand awareness with this model. The free access allowed more than a million teachers to sign up, covering more than 91% of American primary schools in just five years. In 2017, Netflix reported that Epic! was in approximately 54% of American households. This staggering extent of customer reach resulted to more than 10 million children to have read more than 500 million books on the platform. This reach allowed the company to gather more than 1.7 million paying subscribers since its founding. Companies like Amazon First Reads and Kindle Unlimited have only 10 million readers combined, which pales in comparison compared to Epic!.

Providing free products and services may be the best strategy for educational technology. Giving the product for free at school, for schools, allowed it to reach anyone connected with the institution.  It increases brand awareness, it allows them to experience the product, highlighting its unique value proposition to the target market. This is important especially in the burgeoning market of educational technology. What’s more, the EdTech company is not only climbing up the ranks in terms of brand recall, it also does what it wanted to do to begin with- making education more accessible for children. The success of Epic! sparked investor interest. With a growing 1.7 million subscribers and a 91% access rate, nothing is stopping the company from growing.

Recognizing a need

‘We recognized a problem,’ said Kevin Donahue an Epic! Co-founder. ‘That kids did not have a place designed for them, for reading. And when we look at the players, it looks like no one is addressing kids and families in a way that’s responsible and putting kids first and we have an opportunity to fill that void in a larger way that consumers are beginning to demand,’ he said. This also comes in well when we are talking about Generation Z children, who have different educational demands. According to a University Business survey, 66% of higher education leaders are researching the use of AI or artificial intelligence to analyze student data for a personalized learning. ‘This survey showed that higher education leaders see a lot of potential specifically in the combination of AI and academic video to create personalized education on a new level. It’s going to be fascinating to see how colleges and universities will use these tools in the future,’ said Kurt Eisele-Dyrli, the research editor for University Business. The generation of digital natives are also taught to use technology responsibly. Educators are teaching information literacy, the ability to determine whether information is credible or not, a step towards developing responsible digital citizens. The Generation Z students are also encouraged to take initiative in their own learning. With the use of technology, engaging and interactive experiences are easier to facilitate.

Gen Zers and Active Learning

The generation that grew up with the internet no longer responds well with traditional methods of teaching. With greater connectivity allowed by technology, members of the Generation Z, also known as Gen Zers, see active learning as important. They see technology as a crucial part of their lives. They expect easy and convenient access to information, something that they can always get anytime and anywhere using their smartphones and online devices. To them, collaboration is the norm, and a dynamic collaborative environment is much more appealing when learning.

Gen Zers even prefers learning from YouTube videos, with nearly 60% of those aged between 14 and 23 trusting the video-sharing company more than printed books. This is what Epic! was able to recognize. They capitalized on this need, to make learning convenient and accessible, and figured out a working marketing strategy to reach out to children and teenagers alike. But what is more interesting with Epic! is that they offer additional features like a read-to-me for younger readers, offline reading, and a fun and interactive badge system that rewards young readers whenever they accomplish a task. When reading books online, a child can earn badges and achievements which allows them to unlock new avatars, themes, and frames.

Other languages

Chinese and Spanish books are continuously added to  Epic!’s growing library. The company is also looking to add more languages in the future to stay true to its vision of making education accessible to all children. They are also preparing to go overseas to reach out more schools outside the country.

‘Given the funding, Epic! will be hiring, spending more on marketing and advertising and exploring partnerships in Asia where the company has recently seen a lot of demand for its app, even though its contents are for English-readers, specifically,’ Donahue said.

Free product as strategy

It is undeniable that Epic! owes its growth to its effective marketing strategy, partly due to schools and teachers being allowed to freely access their product. This is a strategy that has worked for many companies. When people are informed that your product is free, they find it easier to spread and promote it in their own networks. It allows for an improved brand recall, it drives customer traffic, and helps develop positive brand association.

Consumer love freebies. This is why popular companies like Procter and Gamble hand out free samples of their products for people to try, and every person who gets to try their product has the potential of becoming a lifelong customer.

This worked well for Epic!. From its inception, the company has 1.7 million paying subscribers. Imagine how much the company can earn from this number. The potential for growth is just endless, and it all started with Epic! allowing free access to school and teachers.

Burgeoning market

Educational technology is a growing market, with more and more people putting emphasis on education as a need. In 2017, EdTech investments reached a staggering USD9.5B, a burgeoning market waiting for the next company to innovate and create a better program for learning. The educational environment is beginning to shift from traditional to a more modern setup, incorporating technology for a tech-sensitive generation. We can learn from Epic! to grow our businesses. We can offer services for free and work from there. When people begin to realize how much they need your product, they will always be willing to pay.

Education is becoming a commodity that allows people to get ahead in life. With societies from all over the world putting a higher premium to education, the industry of educational technology will always continue to grow. What sets a successful company apart is an effective marketing strategy and a working technology that allows it to reach its vision. The possibilities are endless. But your start-up may be the next Epic! or even better.

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