Who teaches as many students as the Los Angeles Unified School District and has on its platform as many teachers as New York City? A China-based global education technology startup valued at over $3 billion.

VIPKid is an online classroom where more than 500,000 mostly Chinese students learn English from 65,000 mostly American teachers. In 2015, the Beijing-based startup served just over 3,000 students. Teachers on the VIPKid platform teach over 180,000 classes daily.

The split screen video conferencing platform shares a lesson and picture of the student.

Founded in 2013, VIPKid (@TheVIPKIDLife) has raised $825 million in seven rounds. The $500 million round last summer was the largest financing round in the online education sector globally. With a valuation of over $3 billion, VIPKid is the world’s most valuable online education company.

The 200 times growth in the last four years makes it one of the fastest growing startups not just in education but in all of China.

Founder Cindy Mi (middle in the image above) struggled in school and dropped out in 11th grade. Ironically, she became a tutor and began teaching English. She co-founded a brick and mortar English training institute with her uncle when she was 17, before founding VIPKid in 2013. She learned that two 25 minute sessions per week are more engaging and more effective than long in-person sessions.

Mi, who went on to earn an MBA, was in New York last week advising a US education startup, Whittle School & Studios, where she also serves as an Academic Advisory Board Member.

She said staying focused on teaching English and providing flexible hours and strong support for teachers has been key to success.

Teachers can work anywhere and any hours they choose. Most work 10 to 20 hours per week and earn $14 to $22 per hour.

VIPKid is rated as one of the top three remote working platforms and as one of Fast Company’s  most innovative companies in the world in both 2018 and 2019. Glassdoor named VIPKid one of the  Best Places to Work in 2019.

More than 17 million babies are born in China each year and parents remain enthusiastic about English language acquisition but there are only 27,000 North American English teachers in the country–not even enough to service demand in Beijing alone, said Mi.

She explained that after-school tutoring accounts for about 15% of household income in China, making it a giant market with tremendous growth potential.

To prepare teachers, VIPKid has an extensive onboarding process that includes coaching from another VIPKid teacher on best practices for online teaching.

“About 50% of the communication is nonverbal,” explained Mi. “It takes about three classes to get used to teaching online.” A little practice results in great student interaction.

During every sixth class, there is an evaluation where a different teacher reviews the first five classes to monitor student progress. The company also analyzes the level of student engagement.

“I’m always wondering how to make our classes more efficacious,” said Mi.

Mi will be back in the US for the VIPKid “Journey” regional teacher conference in Chicago on March 9.

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This post was originally published on Forbes.

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