Chinese edtech startup KnowBox closes $150m Series D round led by Alibaba

Students at the Shichahai sports school attend a class in Beijing, China, May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/Files

China’s online education startup KnowBox on Friday announced the completion of its $150-million Series D funding round led by internet giant Alibaba. The startup also announced an identity makeover by changing its name to SmallBox Technology.

SmallBox, which was set up in Beijing in 2014, offers two main learning services: private teaching and family counselling.

SmallBox will use the proceeds to scale up its AI-based learning content, to offer new courses and services and to enhance user experience.

SmallBox founder and chief executive Liu Ye said in a statement that AI courses can provide students with personalized learning services on a large scale and at low cost compared to traditional classes.

“Since 2017, SmallBox Technology has invested a lot of resources to develop an AI curriculum system that provides students with personalized and adaptive learning counseling services, which was dubbed as ‘small box classroom,” he said in a statement.

Aside from Alibaba, Yunfeng Fund, C Capital and BAI (Betasman Asia Investment Fund) also participated in the funding round. The Series D round brings the company’s total funding to date to over $290 million.

The startup previously secured funding from Haoweilai, Baidu Ventures, New World Development Co Ltd, Legend Star, TAL Education Group, Liu Qiangdong, and investment firm Genesis Capital.

“SmallBox Technology uses innovative models to optimize product supply, and in the future, there will be opportunities for more children to obtain high-quality and cost-effective educational resources due to technological development,” Alibaba Group vice president of strategic investment Gang Feng said.

SmallBox has been used in 100,000 schools, in nearly 400 cities and 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities across China. It has 3.7 million daily active users.

The company claims over 40 million primary school teachers and students use SmallBox’ products, courses, and counselling services.