South African startup iGrow Academy, which provides low-cost online vocational and soft skill courses licensed by academic institutions, has expanded its operations to Canada with an office in Toronto.
The startup is also expanding geographically, with chief executive officer (CEO) Jared Koning telling Disrupt Africa the company has now established a satellite office in Toronto, Canada ahead of further launches in the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK).
Koning said three major e-commerce players based in Canada have shown interest in selling the soft skills courses, with iGrow Academy expecting to hit more than 4,000 students in the country by the end of 2016. The startup also sees an opportunity in educating immigrants into Canada.
“Currently there are over 300,000 immigrants coming to Canada every year with a further 16 per cent estimated by the government on a yearly basis,” Koning said.
“A high volume of these individuals are looking to settle down and contribute to the Canadian professional career market. A government forecast has shown there is much desire and interest to equip immigrants with the relevant skills to position themselves in the working society.”
Koning said iGrow has in recent months repositioned its business model to focus on more certified business skills and vocational-based short courses focusing on skills development.
“We have also identified a significant worldwide trend with the shortage of relevant soft skills,” he said. “After following the trends in various markets an opportunity was presented to launch in Canada where there are not many competitors yet a strong increase in demand.”
In South Africa, iGrow has more than 1,000 students registered on platform and paying for courses. The startup is targeting sales of ZAR1 million (US$80,000) in the next year. Koning believes the business can be a ZAR100 million (US$8 million) online learning college within the next 10 years.
“In South Africa there’s such a demand for education. We want to be the GetSmarter for soft-skilled and vocational training,” he said.
“People are saying we are innovative, we are different, we’re thinking beyond and providing a platform for people that couldn’t study before.”