Vietnam Innovator: Kalpha’s Quest To Make Personalized Learning Accessible
Kalpha Vietnam's co-founders. | Source: Kalpha Vietnam.
Launched in 2019 in Singapore, Kalpha is a mobile application allowing individuals to connect and share skills, experiences and knowledge on a one-to-one basis. In 2019, the education startup raised a 6-figure seed round investment with Vietnam-based VC firm Nest Tech, becoming the leading peer-to-peer platform in Singapore and nabbing the “People’s Choice 2019” prize at ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards.
The brainchild of Singaporean entrepreneurs Jack Soh and Jaden Teo, Kalpha’s leadership team now counts among its ranks Tri Nguyen, a Vietnamese startup entrepreneur turned social media influencer. Tri joined the team as a co-founder and CMO for Vietnam’s operations when Kalpha expanded into the market.
Having studied in Singapore and the UK, Tri chose to return to Vietnam and contribute to his country’s growth. Before becoming an influential YouTuber, Tri worked in the advertising industry as well as serving as the CMO of xpath.co, a travel startup connecting tourists with local tour guides. Accustomed to fielding invitations to join startup teams, Tri was in no rush to commit to anyone while he was waiting for the right opportunity. That moment finally arrived with Kalpha’s expansion into Vietnam.
Source: Kalpha Vietnam.
We ask Tri about Kalpha’s potential to transform Vietnam’s society and learn why it was important for him to join a company whose founders’ vision chimed with his own outlook.
What trends have you observed in Vietnam’s education system?
Vietnamese are still relying heavily on traditional teaching materials which might not be updated with relevant real-life knowledge. But I believe that there are different ways to learn, not just from school, but also from practical experience.
There are many successful individuals who are self-taught and didn’t go through the traditional education system: businessmen running multi-million dollar companies without an MBA degree, coding wizards who didn’t bother with a computer science diploma or successful athletes who skipped sports academies.
These individuals won’t be employed as teachers in traditional schools because in the eyes of academia they do not have the right qualifications. But they have great real-life skills and practical experiences that they can impart as mentors.
How is Kalpha helping to improve the education system?
Everyone has some knowledge that they want to learn, and everyone has some knowledge that they can share. By allowing everyone to share their knowledge on Kalpha, Kalpha provides the local community access to vast options of affordable yet quality knowledge that they are not able to obtain from traditional schools.
Kalpha is now creating a valuable community where individuals can learn affordably any real-life skills, knowledge and experiences: career-related, self-development, languages, overseas experiences, arts and crafts, music, sports, etc.
You can be a mentor to someone who is getting started in your field and do it pro bono or make it a source of income. We also see ourselves as a connector, a cross between Facebook and LinkedIn, connecting people for both personal and professional reasons.
Source: Kalpha Vietnam.
How does Kalpha work – for sharers and for learners?
When sharers (of skills, knowledge and experiences) register on Kalpha app, they are asked to describe what it is that they are willing to impart as well as sharing their availability and preferred location. Interested learners can then contact the sharers in-app to arrange for a convenient time and date to meet up. Both sharers and learners can view each other’s profiles before proceeding to the next step. When the sharing session concludes, both parties must acknowledge their attendance through the app to enable reviews and testimonials.
Kalpha encourages users to share what they know at no cost to students. Those who choose to charge for the sessions, must cap the price at 300,000 VND per session. The idea behind the price cap is to ensure that the sessions stay affordable and accessible to everyone.
Source: Kalpha Vietnam.
What is the motivation behind Kalpha?
As a public figure, I have many people reach out daily seeking advice for all sorts of personal and professional struggles. Some need help finding a new career trajectory, others are dealing with loneliness, depression and family issues. I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount of requests and unfortunately unable to help all of them, not to mention I might be out of my depth in certain areas.
With Kalpha, I found a solution. Our vision is to make personalized learning affordable and accessible for everyone. We believe that the best form of learning is through an offline setting on a 1-to-1 basis, from someone who is experienced in the field, regardless of his/her academic background.
Someone who has been through the same ups and downs would be able to provide you better advice than someone who is academically certified yet without any field knowledge. One-to-one learning also allows people to connect on a much deeper level, without making mentorship and coaching feel like a transactional relationship.
What makes Kalpha different from all other education startups?
I would say our strength is in connecting individuals for learning purposes on a one-to-one basis. Many education players are focused on imparting academic knowledge, which is of course necessary to a certain extent, but real-life knowledge is way more valuable. With Kalpha, we are trying to bridge the gap between what’s available and what people actually need.
Also, we see that many educators are shifting towards conducting large online classes. In a digital age where almost everything can be found online, personalized mentorship and coaching can be extremely valuable for individuals and that’s what Kalpha is focusing on. And thanks to our face-to-face model you also make new friends.
Source: Kalpha Vietnam.
What challenges did you face with Kalpha’s launch in Vietnam?
In Vietnam, the concept of meeting a stranger to learn from him or her is relatively new. To put users at ease, we ask mentors to describe themselves in their profiles while giving students an option to chat with sharers in-app. Only once they feel comfortable to meet face to face, they schedule an in-person session.
An additional security step is our points system that gauges how active the sharer is and allows learners to contribute reviews. In Vietnam, we’ve realized that most of the meet-ups take place in coffee shops so now Kalpha has a network of partner cafes where our users can meet up safely and enjoy special discounts. With the outbreak of COVID-19 we had to adapt, of course. As an alternative, an online meet-up option is currently under development, and we're expecting a Vietnamese release in the near future.
What’s next for Kalpha?
Currently we are focused on growing in Saigon. The next phase is to expand into other tier one cities and provinces in Vietnam. By converging social elements with learning, Kalpha aspires to become the go-to platform enabling one to learn and share skills, knowledge and experience in a personalized manner.
We want ‘Kalpha’ to become synonymous with ‘learning’. As in, when you want to meet someone, learn something or share something, you simply say “Let’s Kalpha it”. During this time of COVID-19 when people are often encouraged to stay at home, our innate need to connect with others has really come to the fore. Hence our belief that learning through meet-ups is an evergreen industry, and so is Kalpha.