Game-based learning platform Kahoot! is eyeing Asia-Pacific expansion after full IPO in Norway

Image Credits: Kahoot!

Kahoot! announced it started trading on the Oslo Stock Exchange under the ticker KAHOT.OL, according to a statement Thursday.

The Oslo-based company is a game-based learning service that lets players create and take part in multiple-choice quizzes.

Since the inception in 2013, Kahoot! has been backed by the likes of SoftBank, Microsoft, and Disney, with its total funding raised to date hit $325 million.

In an interview with JMDedu, Kahoot! CEO Eilert Hanoa said, “Our future plans definitely include further expansion in markets in the Asia Pacific as well as China more particularly.” Drops, one of its five acquired companies, has already launched the app in China to tap into more language learning potentials in the country.

Move to main Norwegian stock market

CNBC reported in January that Kahoot is “on track” to list on the main Norwegian stock market by the end of March, and Kahoot! CEO Eilert Hanoa confirmed the plan to JMDedu earlier this month. Now Kahoot! made it.

It announced on Thursday that it started trading on the Oslo Stock Exchange market, adding another milestone in the company history.

Hanoa said their shareholder base has exceeded 20,000, and they are ready to move to the main list, which operates with a different set of criteria and stricter requirements.

In 2019, the firm went to list on Oslo’s Euronext Growth market, a route for smaller Norwegian companies seeking a broader initial public offering.

Despite the growth in 2020, Hanoa would not say the pandemic-driven boom has somewhat sped up this route towards the full IPO.

“To do a main listing on the Oslo Stock Exchange has been in our plan for a long time, and it hasn’t been pandemic driven,” he said. “But our growth, which has accelerated further the last year, of course has confirmed that it is the right choice to advance to this marketplace. ”

As many Chinese unicorns choose to be listed in Nasdaq and NYSE for international audience of investors, Kahoot! decided to make this transition in its home country.

“For us the route to Euronext Growth and then on to Oslo Stock Exchange was a natural one as it provided us with a familiar path to widening our investor base,” Hanoa told JMDedu.

He added that Kahoot! is also considering a secondary listing, and they do not rule out US capital markets. “The US is our largest market in terms of users, customers, and revenue, and there is already a strong investor interest in the US market. Many of our current shareholders are also US-based.”

Kahoot! has already expanded to approximately 200 countries. North America is its largest market in terms of geographic distribution, followed by Europe and the Asia Pacific.

Our future plans definitely include further expansion in markets in the Asia Pacific as well as China more particularly,” said Hanoa. Language learning app Drops, one of its acquired products, is exploring the Chinese market.

Start from zero in 2013

As COVID-19 has sparked a surge in global demand for digital learning, Kahoot!, one of the online learning players, has also witnessed strong growth. “Turning point” and “pivotal year ” are used by the company to stress how important 2020 was.

According to the latest company presentation from March 2021, Kahoot! announced its platform had over 24 million active accounts in the last 12 months, with paid subscriptions reaching more than 550K, over 200% growth from 2019. Invoiced revenues in 2020 grew to more than $45 million, marking a 247% year-over-year growth.

Last year, it also closed two funding rounds totaling $240 million from SoftBank and other investors, which raised its total funding to $325 million. Disney and Microsoft are also among its existing backers.

All the growth shows that Kahoot! has made achievements. Every journey has a starting point, and Kahoot! is no exception. “It is never easy to scale from zero to where we are at today,” said Hanoa.

The firm was founded in Oslo in 2013. Originally, the concept of Kahoot! was developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology for higher education to foster engagement and social learning in university lecture classes.

However, the game-based approach to learning, along with fun visuals, music, and an easy-to-use interface, made the platform a great fit for the much larger field of K-12 education.

It then launched a beta version at SXSW in Austin, Texas in March 2013 and was released to the public in September. Since that time to 2017, Kahoot! has focused on the growth in the US and K-12, and has become the Top 3 tool in US education.

However, there are always challenges along the journey. In 2018, Kahoot! had to decide to start monetizing offerings that were given away for free to all users for several years.

“In order to continue thriving as an organization, we had to launch commercial editions for our education users as well as corporate users,” said Hanoa.

There was a fear that it would get pushback from their teacher users, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. “Turns out, many of our teachers were concerned about the company having sufficient resources to continue offering the platform as a free service.”

It currently adopts the freemium model, which allows players to use some free features and need to pay to unlock premium features. Most of the company’s revenue comes from paid subscriptions.

“We have steadily seen an uptick in paid subscribers currently at 550K paying subscribers (as of Q4 2020) that grew at a rate of 220% year over year,” said he.

For the full year 2021, Kahoot! aims to reach $90–100 million in invoiced revenues and one million paid subscribers.

Expand beyond K-12 to cover all learners

Kahoot! had a clear focus on the US market in the K-12 segment in 2013–2017, but it has an ambition to cover all learners. Based on the organic growth through a combination of both Kahoot!-created and user-created content, it also adopts an inorganic growth strategy to achieve the goal.

From 2019 to now, it has signed five acquisition agreements, among which the largest one so far was the $50 million deal with Drops, a game-based language learning app.

All five companies are based in Europe, and most of them are game-based learning tools. They focus on different areas, including math, reading, and language learning. That’s exactly why Kahoot! bought them.

On the website, Kahoot! separates its offerings into four parts: School, Work, Home, and the newly launched Academy, a community targeted at educators.

Kahoot! made acquisitions to serve these parts. For instance, DragonBox and Poio can be applied in schools and at home to help children learn math and reading. The acquisition of Actimo is to help Kahoot! further enable all organizations to build their corporate culture.

Hanoa said Kahoot! is likely to make more acquisitions and grow existing products. “The total addressable market is very significant and to limit ourselves only to organic development of products given also time to market would be unwise.”

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