UVA Darden Alumna’s Startup Builds New Model to Teach English in China
University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumna Rong “Shirley” Wang (MBA ’05) founded BuzzKID in 2018, and the startup marks her second entrepreneurial online education project.
In a recent Alumni Spotlight on the Darden website, Wang shared how she discovered a unique, untapped niche for BuzzKID’s target market amid an otherwise crowded online education field.
“BuzzKID is aimed at high-grade students in elementary school and middle and high school. It belongs to the later stage of English learning and is still a blue ocean,” she said. “It strives to build a decentralized interactive English learning platform initiated by and guided by children.”
Wang said the Darden network — particularly the school-aged children of alumni — helped the startup get off the ground.
Wang tapped into the Darden alumni network to find her first generation of “faculty” for the platform. After learning about her business plan, Wang said the children of Darden alumni opted in to become BuzzKID’s first teachers. And those live teachers are a competitive advantage over competing products on the market that lean on artificial intelligence-based teaching.
As of summer 2020, Wang said the number of paying users of BuzzKID has surpassed 10,000. The repurchase rate of BuzzKID is over 70 percent and the recommendation rate is as high as 80 percent, according to Wang.
While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced Wang to pivot plans for the business and survive massive disruption to the education industry, she said she looked at the wave of closures of in-person education and training institutions as an opportunity to learn.
Wang has embraced the mentality that entrepreneurship is a process of re-understanding human nature. The adversity helped her learn and pivot. During the pandemic, she has worked hard to realign the BuzzKID learning ecosystem; joined hands with downstream learning and education institutions that were locked into a year-round shutdown; and leveraged BuzzKID’s platform, technology and supply-side advantages to overcome the difficulties.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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