We talked about Attila AlGharawi of Xeropan about the digital language teaching platform, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Attila AlGharawi: Last year was difficult for all of us. We’ve been pretty much stuck home for most of the year, but thankfully we had a lot to do. While COVID-19 is challenging on a personal level, it’s a huge opportunity for Xeropan.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Xeropan.
Attila AlGharawi: I used to be an English teacher running my language school in Hungary when Ferenc Mile, a successful entrepreneur, came to us to learn English after years of studying with traditional methods. Together, we worked out how to create the future of what became Xeropan. I saw the need for my students to practice conversations and decided to build an AI that would become the Siri of language teaching. It took us 3 years to go from a simple idea to a digital language teaching platform. Now, Xeropan offers 3500+ interactive lessons, summing up to 3 years of learning content from beginner to advanced level, and an AI-powered system that students can use to become confident in using the language.
We’re a team of 30, a group of linguists, scientists, software engineers, designers, teachers, marketers, and communication experts who believe there is a better way to learn and teach languages.
How does Xeropan innovate?
Attila AlGharawi: Xeropan’s mission is to accelerate language learning not only for students (our B2C solution) but also for teachers (our B2B2C solution) who are an important part of the process.
Learners can practice their conversational speaking skills with our artificial intelligence-driven conversational solution. There are different characters like Richard, the job interviewer; David, the hotel receptionist, and others with whom learners can actually freely speak to. They correct you, motivate and help you like native language teachers. Surrounding these speaking lessons, you have the vocabulary and video lessons to learn best from content that interests you, like popular YouTube videos, interviews, and film trailers.
Language teaching has changed significantly in the last few years; however, when it comes to digital solutions, teachers have been mostly excluded. We’ve created a Learning Management System in the form of Xeropan Classroom with which teachers enjoy a fully-fledged system that integrates learning content with accurate statistics of how their students are doing.
According to a recent independent empirical investigation with 312 students and teachers, 2 months of Xeropan is equivalent to six months of language learning in a traditional learning environment. See the full research paper here.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Attila AlGharawi: As a digital company, it affected our finances positively. We surpassed 1 million users, and we attracted a Seed Round investment of €2.3 million from Bonitás Asset Management Plc. and Hiventures Venture Capital Fund Management.
Education has come under the spotlight with the pandemic, and with that, Google selected Xeropan as one of the 9 most promising startups in the EMEA region, and through that, Xeropan was part of the new cohort of Google for Startups’ European accelerator program.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Attila AlGharawi: Thankfully, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t had any negative effect on our company, but there were some difficulties. We all had to leave the office and continue from home, and we’ve been working remotely ever since. It’s kind of like losing touch with people and colleagues around you, but we all experience that these days. At the same time, we wanted to help digital education and remote teaching as much as we could, so we made our PRO features free to use for schools. Tens of thousands of PRO licenses have been distributed to students and teachers alike at state-run schools.
Xeropan already has 1 million learners, and our latest 2.3 million euro round of investment allows us to go beyond teaching English only. This year, we’ll start teaching Spanish, French, and German.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Attila AlGharawi: COVID-19 caused a 30% uphill in all our KPI’s, and with that, incoming requests from our customers also increased massively. Centralized CRM tools allow us to respond to customer requests almost instantaneously. There are a lot of great tools out there, but actually using them and unlocking their functionality is the most important thing.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Attila AlGharawi: No.
Considering your involvement in digital teaching, in light of last year, do you have any thoughts on the future of education?)
Attila AlGharawi: We believe education is definitely moving toward digitalization more and more, but we also believe in the indispensability of teachers. This is why we want to help both individual language learners with Xeropan and teachers in schools with Xeropan Classroom. This year Xeropan will be teaching multiple languages like Spanish, German, and French. We’re also planning to integrate Machine Learning into their product to be able to tailor-make content selection for our learners. Our plan is to train data to make predictions or decisions that match learners’ preferences even better. So we do have a lot on the plate this year. One thing is for sure; we’ll continue innovating education, we won’t give up, we’ll work until we get there.