What next for education start-up Simplilearn?

Venture firms backing the Bengaluru-based start-up include Mayfield Fund, Kalaari Capital and Helion Venture Partners.

Venture firms backing the Bengaluru-based start-up include Mayfield Fund, Kalaari Capital and Helion Venture Partners.

Bengaluru: When Krishna Kumar started a personal blog in 2009 and posted free video lessons and a practice test there, the idea wasn’t to do business.

It was to kill boredom.

Six years later, the blog has become Simplilearn Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a leading education start-up, employing 450 people and training 20,000 people every month on the back of $28 million it has raised from multiple funds. The company trains IT professionals online to help them earn certifications in areas like project management and analytics.

Earlier, Simplilearn operated offline centres, but moved completely online in the last year. “Post moving to the online model, our costs have moved down a little bit, but we’ve also been able to increase the payouts and benefits that we provide to our trainers in order to attract and retain the best trainers from across the globe,” said Kumar, chief executive officer of Simplilearn.

However, online does not mean cheap. Each hour of video costs about Rs.2 lakh to produce, with shelf life for each being about just six months, as technologies constantly evolve.

Venture firms backing the Bengaluru-based start-up include Mayfield Fund, Kalaari Capital and Helion Venture Partners. Its most recent fund-raising round of $15 million in April last year enabled it to buy Silicon Valley-based digital marketing training company Market Motive for $10 million, enhancing its portfolio of about 250 courses to cater to a fast-growing digital marketing field.

According to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), the firm reported an increase in revenue of 10% for the year ended 31 March 2015 to Rs.51.8 crore in fiscal 2015 from Rs.47.02 crore a year earlier, while losses widened by more than five times to Rs.30.16 crore until March from Rs.4.68 crore in the year-ago period. These numbers reflect Simplilearn’s aggressive investments to create course content and expand its portfolio.

Experts say this is not unusual for a company in the education sector.

“Typically what happens in education companies is they have to invest ahead of their market. You make investments in terms of developing course content, you make investments in terms of acquiring trainers, marketing and sales expenses and building a brand, and all of these get offset as losses,” said Anand Sudarshan, founder, Sylvant Advisors, an education advisory firm, which currently incubates 19 education start-ups.

Simplilearn, which has subsidiaries in the US, Australia and Singapore, claims the RoC numbers represent only 30% of its overall revenue, with the rest coming from other regions. It competes with global companies such as Lynda.com (which LinkedIn Corp. bought for $1.5 billion), Udemy Inc. (which raised about $113 million so far), Udacity Inc. (which raised about $160 million) and Indian start-ups such as U Education Management Pvt. Ltd-run UpGrad (which raised $15 million) as well.

The company follows a differentiated pricing strategy for different regions. For instance, a Big Data course that costs about Rs.20,000 in India could cost $1,000 in the US.

“Our courses result into a certification. If you want to become Android certified by Google, you should come to us because we will teach you how to learn Android as well as how to write the Android exam that is conducted by Google. Learn Android, pass the test. If you don’t, get the money back,” Kumar said.

Going forward, Simplilearn is looking to focus on expanding its tie-ups with corporations as well as enhancing its revenues from B2B (business-to-business) operations.


Freshdesk launches new support product Hotline.io for mobile-first businesses

This is Freshdesk’s third product since its launch in 2011. The other two are Freshdesk, which is a cloud-based comprehensive customer support platform, and Freshservice, launched in 2014, which helps companies meet their internal IT support requests.This is Freshdesk’s third product since its launch in 2011. The other two are Freshdesk, which is a cloud-based comprehensive customer support platform, and Freshservice, launched in 2014, which helps companies meet their internal IT support requests.

Bengaluru: Customer support platform provider Freshdesk Inc. on Wednesday announced the launch of a new product called Hotline.io, which allows businesses to provide support to their customers from within apps.

The news was first reported by technology website Venturebeat.

With the rapid rise in smartphone adoption, the number of businesses that are mobile-first and app-only have also risen. These businesses require newer, more mobile-friendly platforms for customer support, and Freshdesk is looking to tap into this area with the new product.

“Phone and email are not ideal channels for mobile app users. Mobile-first businesses face a unique set of challenges that need specific solutions. Support needs to be in-app, engagement should be real time, context must be readily available, and the solution has to be massively scalable. We built Hotline with these in mind,” said Girish Mathrubootham, chief executive officer, in a statement on Wednesday.

This is Freshdesk’s third product since its launch in 2011. The other two are Freshdesk, which is a cloud-based comprehensive customer support platform, and Freshservice, launched in 2014, which helps companies meet their internal IT support requests.

Hotline.io was built leveraging Freshdesk’s acquisition of Konotor, which helps businesses chat with their consumers inside apps, last December. Konotor was founded in 2012 and enables businesses communicate directly with their users to share announcements or promotions, and also allows users to talk to support teams—features that have been incorporated into Hotline.io

Konotor works with more than 40 million users through the apps it works with and has customers such as restaurant-discovery platform Zomato Media Pvt. Ltd, online financial services company BankBazaar.com (A&A Dukaan Financial Services Pvt. Ltd) and food-delivery service Faasos Food Services Pvt. Ltd.

Zomato is also one of Hotline’s early adopters and Freshdesk claims that companies like these have witnessed a 40% reduction in issue resolution time with Hotline.

On Tuesday, Freshdesk announced the appointment of two sales executives to the company, former Cisco veteran Bobby Jaffari as vice-president of sales, North America, and former sales director at AppNexus Arun Mani as managing director, Freshdesk Continental Europe, as it looks to expand its footrpint in mid-market enterprises and in Europe. Last November, it hired former LinkedIn India managing director Nishant Rao as its chief operating officer.

Earlier this week, Freshdesk also bought Framebench Technologies Pvt. Ltd, a company which lets users collaborate on files (documents, images, videos) in real time to allow its support teams to better interact with customers, marking its fourth acquisition in seven months. Apart from Konotor and Framebench, the five-year-old firm acquired Frilp, a social recommendation app in October, and 1CLICK.io, a video chat platform in August.

Freshdesk, which has so far raised $95 million from venture capital firms Accel Partners, Google Capital and Tiger Global Management Llc, has 50,000 customers globally, and competes with global heavyweights ZenDesk and Salesforce.com. The company is based in San Bruno, California, with offices in London, Sydney and Chennai.


Deadpool Is the Ultimate Date Movie for Your Bromance

Deadpool Is the Ultimate Date Movie for Your Bromance

Of late, you’ll find Deadpool just about everywhere, and he’s become one of those characters that even non-comic book fans will recognise. Deadpool also has an excellent video game to his name that manages to mix together humour and mayhem with elan. As a movie character though, he’s had a less successful past – we were first introduced to the character in the (honestly bad) X-Men Origins: Wolverine – where he was played by Ryan Reynolds, who did a fair turn as wisecracking Wade Wilson, and then the film stitches his mouth shut so he can’t speak. It was a really bad decision that soured people on the character.

Yet here we are again, with Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool a second time, in an all-new origin story that actually works really well. This time around, Reynolds’ Wilson gets to keep talking throughout the film, and it’s a good idea because he carries the movie with his non-stop wisecracks. What’s more, Deadpool is true to the comics, and fans of the character – whether they know him from the comics or from the games – will definitely not be disappointed.

deadpool_and_fight.jpgFor Reynolds, who was not just connected with Deadpool’s previous disastrous appearance, but also with 2011’s objectively awful Green Lantern movie, this new version of Deadpool was a shot at redemption, and he’s certainly made the most of the opportunity. The movie, which is written by the same writers as Zombieland, also takes digs at both the earlier Deadpool and Green Lantern through fourth wall breaking jokes. Deadpool’s character has always directly addressed the reader and the movie doesn’t shy away from this, with jokes about actors playing the parts.

As a result though, the film leans very heavily on humour – from the exaggerated jokes in the opening sequence, which is one of the most visually spectacular parts of the film, to the non-stop running of the mouth of most of the characters. Unfortunately, this means that things like plot and narrative take a back seat. Despite that, the movie is well put together, and even if you’ve never heard of Deadpool before, it has a good chance of leaving you laughing and enjoying the movie.

deadpool_and_vanessa.jpgHowever, as anyone who’s seen the Deadpool trailers would know, the humor has a very particular tone. It’s kind of like the “Scary Movie” of superhero movies, where a lot of the jokes are simple references, throwaway nods to the audience to say, “see, we know this cool thing you like,” instead of actually doing anything with the reference, and that can wear a little thin over time. The film also treats violent sociopathy as comedic fodder – much like Zombieland actually – and that can be a hit or miss thing for people as well. If you thought Zombieland was hilarious but could use some more jokes about testicles, then Deadpool hits the sweet spot; and we were definitely laughing, but the humour is not for everyone.

Speaking of not being for everyone – Deadpool has an A rating in India, unlike most of the other superhero films that play it safe for the broader teen audience. As a result, there are some visuals of gore and nudity, along with a lot of language, that you definitely won’t find in other superhero films.Censorship can be an issue in India, but we can confidently say Deadpool film hasn’t been cut to pieces until it loses all sense, and you can definitely watch the movie in the theatres.

deadpool_and_guns.jpgWhether you will enjoy it is a different matter – as we said, the film relies very heavily on humour, and the actual narrative feels a little predictable. The various characters do their parts, and can be quite enjoyable – Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the X-Men have small parts through the movie and are enjoyable to see, while sidekick Weasel can be quite funny as well. But although Deadpool keeps joking about being nothing like other superhero movies, the actual film plays out exactly like any other origin story. And while Vanessa might have a scene where she pegs Deadpool, this doesn’t make her a stronger character who’s different from what we’ve seen before either as she doesn’t really have much to do beyond looking beautiful, and becoming a damsel in distress.

There’s a lot that can be said in praise of the movie, from its stylish aesthetic to its enjoyable soundtrack to the fact that the movie is upbeat and funny through its entire run. Ultimately, Deadpool feels like the ultimate date movie for your bromance.


Apple launches ‘Podcasts Connect’ Web portal for managing digital content

Apple on Tuesday made it easier for podcaster to validate, publish and manage their content online with the launch of a new iTunes Connect-based Web service called Podcasts Connect.

From podcast submission to RSS feed editing, the Podcasts Connect portal keeps a bevy of content management tools — presented in an easy-to-use dashboard style layout — close at hand with Mac and PC Web browser support, an upgrade from the previous system that required clicking through the “Submit a Podcast” link in iTunes.

As noted by podcast hosting service Libsyn earlier this month, the new dashboard lets users create new podcasts or take control of existing feeds. Anyone with an Apple ID can submit a podcast for validation once they create an RSS feed and associated host URL.

According to Apple’s Podcasts Connect support webpage, users can submit, test and validate episodes directly from on the Web portal. The dashboard also provides content management tools, allowing users to refresh, delete, hide and unhide specific shows from the iTunes podcast directory. More advanced options include monetization and marketing management.

Since popularizing podcasts as an accessible, yet widely distributable, digital medium, Apple has generally taken a hands-off approach to the serialized Internet broadcasts. The company does, however, pre-install a first-party Podcasts app on iOS devices and hosts a corresponding content category in the iTunes Store. Most recently, Apple added a Podcasts app analogue to fourth-generation Apple TV boxes with tvOS version 9.1.1.

The Podcasts Connect portal went live on Tuesday and is accessible by anyone holding a valid Apple ID.