Seattle tutoring app Kadama gets quick lesson in success as it raises $1.7M, grows social following


The Kadama team, from left: Marwan El-Rukby, Amin Shaykho and Dani Shaykho. (Kadama Photo)

New funding: Kadama, the Seattle-based tutoring app which seized on its quirky social media presence to attract millions of followers and customers, has raised $1.7 million in a seed round announced on Monday.

PREVIOUSLY: Seattle tutoring app founders learn to harness TikTok to build a huge base of potential users

The startup: Kadama was founded five years ago at the University of Washington as a multi-services idea, but launched several months ago in its current educational iteration. Through its free iOS app, the company provides an online tutoring service for both students who need help and tutors who are looking to connect with those students.

Amin Shaykho, the CEO, is leaving his full-time job as a software engineer at Apple; COO Marwan El-Rukby, is leaving his full-time job as an analyst at Getty Images; and Dani Shaykho, the VP of product marketing, is still a computer science and marketing student at UW.

Growth: Kadama seized on the pandemic to attract Gen-Z users forced into remote learning. Much of its promotion has been through TikTok, the video-sharing platform where Dan Shayko offers up an endless variety of “hacks” related to everything from homework to smartphone shortcuts.

The app rose to a No. 2 ranking in the App Store under education and Kadama has 2.5x revenue growth month over month. The brand has attracted 2 million followers on TikTok and Instagram and 500 million views on those sites.

“As a team of students and recent college graduates, we are shocked to see the level of virality and relatability our brand has towards millions of students,” Amin Shaykho said. “We have never seen people our age talk about learning apps outside of the classroom.”

New features: The startup has introduced Kadama Events, which includes such things as weekly trivia and gaming tournaments, engaging with students beyond their tutoring needs. Kadama Rewards is also new, as a way for students to win rewards for getting help on Kadama. The more lessons a student gets, the more prizes they can win. Tutors can also win rewards for helping students and unlock badges that display on their profile.

Investors: The funding round was led by Grishin Robotics. Russian investor Dmitry Grishin, founder of Mail.ru, has joined the Kadama board.

“This past year has made it clear that existing models of education are outdated,” Grishin said in a statement. “Kadama exists where Gen-Z students already spend their time: on their phones, on TikTok and social media.”

What’s next: Kadama will use the cash to hire software engineers to help build its upcoming Android app and develop new product features on its iOS app. It will also be expanding its marketing efforts by partnering with large social media influencers that appeal to Gen-Z. The team is expected to grow to seven to 10 people and there are plans for a new Kadama headquarters in the Seattle area, which will include a studio for creating and expanding its content.

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