VIPKid’s Cindy Mi is Taking Down Language Barriers in China with American Teachers | woman at work

VIPKid’s Cindy Mi is Taking Down Language Barriers in China with American Teachers


We all have memories of that one dreaded teacher at the school, where we would be interested in anything but listening to him or her. If that class turned out to be a language class like that of French or Sanskrit, we might as well have said a goodbye to good grades. Being in school was no different for Cindy Mi, VIPKid’s CEO, so she decided to learn from her experiences to provide a better learning framework for millions of Chinese students who wanted to learn English.

An Early Beginner

With a 17.3 billion population and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, you know opportunities are galore for China. Cindi Mi was quick to notice a profitable opportunity in China’s US$ 4.5 billion online learning market. As a child, Mi was very passionate about learning English but the lack of ample guidance didn’t make the task very easy for her. However, not the one to give up easily, she taught herself the language which up till a few months ago was completely new to her. At an age when most kids are busy planning careers and choosing colleges, Mi founded a language teaching company ABC English Classroom with her uncle at the age of 17. It’s here that she says that she learned the ropes of business.

Twin Benefit

VIPKid helps Chinese students interact with North American instructors and learn English. On one hand, it helps the instructors earn some extra cash and on the other, it helps students become more confident with their knowledge about the English language. VIPKid offers Chinese students one-on-one video sessions with English instructors, which span over 30 minutes, at a price of RMB 30 (£15).

Going Back To Roots

Mi was no stranger to Chinese parents’ mentality about education being a game changer. In an interview with a magazine, she had said, “Parents in China spend nearly $15 billion every year to teach their kids English. The market is four-time bigger when it comes to a subject like mathematics. When it comes to after-school tutoring, parents spend close to 15% of their incomes yearly.” These facts when analysed against the scarcity of English teachers in China—roughly 27,000 North American teachers—give a clear picture about the size of the market.

An Uphill Climb

Armed with a degree in English literature and an MBA from Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, Mi aims to inspire confidence and self-expression among kids. However, the journey wasn’t that easy. On being asked about the challenges she faced as an entrepreneur, Mi says it was difficult initially to convince parents about the efficacy of online teaching. Between 2017 and 2018, the company has added over 24,000 instructors along with 200,000 paying students. Mi expects VIPKid to touch the million student- mark within the first quarter of 2019.

Image credit: Zimbio

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