When Rith came back to Cambodia, he travelled around the country through a grant from the US embassy to help students in rural areas apply for scholarships.
This was when he realised that the biggest problem these students faced was not a lack of information about possible options for furthering their studies. Instead, it was their lack of proficiency in the English language that hindered them.
Digging deeper, Rith realised that this lack was not because students didn’t have the funds to engage an English teacher. It was because the teachers in the rural areas did not have the capacity to handle higher level content.
To tackle this issue, Rith started Edemy – a startup that seeks to offer quality English education using offline technology and local teachers.
Today, Edemy is part of Cambodia’s first ever year-long incubator programme EPIC, where Rith is looking to scale up his project and pitch it to investors to secure more funding.
Geeks in Cambodia met up with Rith to have a chat about Edemy and its journey in the EPIC programme so far.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, language and flow.
How does Edemy reach students in rural areas?
Rith: Right now, what we do is to rent a house in the rural area, setup our technology, hire a local facilitator and get them to run a class. The technology we use is called Raspberry Pi which originates from the UK. It allows us to write our own software, generate quizzes, stream videos and lets up to 30 devices access its content at once.
Students will make use of this technology when they come in for classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays by connecting to our device through a laptop. If they don’t own one, we provide them with tablets.
Then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they will study with the help of our local facilitators who use content designed by someone with a Masters degree.
With the current model, Edemy is able to reach one area at a time but do you have any plans to expand the model so it can reach out to more students?
Rith: Well, we are exploring a little bit of a franchising model where we work with those who run schools in the rural areas. Then we speak to them and ask them if they are keen to adopt and use our content in their curriculum, especially if some of the teachers don’t have the capacity to handle the higher level English content that is required for students to enter university.
Aside from reaching more students, how do you hope to see Edemy develop?
Rith: Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring a balance to the opportunities available to students in the rural areas and the students in the city. For us, our students pay between $3-$8 a month and they have access to all our materials including the tech devices we use and the textbooks. From there, we hope to be able to change the ecosystem in the country.
The ecosystem right now is that there are a lot of schools in the rural areas but they may not have the necessary expertise or resources to offer quality education. So we want to help by bringing quality education to the rural areas while paying only what they can afford.
Another area we are looking into is to infuse gamification into our curriculum to make it a little more fun for our students.
What impact do you hope the project will have on Cambodia?
Rith: I think a lot of research has shown that English is key for developing nations to increase their GDP. It’ll help the next generation increase their employability and have access to better quality education. So that’s the impact that I hope the project will have on Cambodia.
Alright! So let’s talk about the EPIC programme, how has your experience been so far?
Rith: As someone from an academic background, coming into EPIC and learning about finance, team management, business principles, how to scale up your idea and how to prepare your startup for investment is something that’s been a big part of what I’ve been learning.
One of my key takeaways from the programme so far has been the Business Model Canvas which is a one page document that helps you plan out your business without wasting too much time when a lot of things are yet to be set in stone. For me, this was really interesting because it breaks the idea that people always have – to run a business, you need a full business plan.
What would be your advice to fellow budding entrepreneurs?
Rith: My advice would be to do something that is interesting. Not just to focus on the money, but to make sure that there is a social impact to what you are doing as well. Don’t do something that anybody can do, do something that is interesting.
That was Geeks in Cambodia’s interview with Rith, the founder of Edemy. It’s really great to see entrepreneurs making use of technology like the Raspberry Pi to bring better quality education to Cambodia which can have a really positive impact on the next generation.
This article is part of Geeks in Cambodia’s collaboration with Impact Hub’s EPIC Programme. Check out the other articles part of the series here –