Vietnam after-school learning startup Marathon raises $1.5M in pre-seed round

Marathon Education was created after its founders realized after-school education in Vietnam hadn’t evolved much since they were kids. Some of the most popular tuition centers in big cities teach hundreds of students at once.

Pham launched Marathon six weeks ago with his brother-in-law Tran Viet Tung to make after-school learning more accessible in Vietnam. Today the startup is announcing it has raised $1.5 million in pre-seed.

Marathon is currently focused on math and science courses for grades six to 12 of the National Curriculum developed by Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), and will eventually cover all MOET subjects.

“If you speak to students, I think the biggest issue we’re seeing is accessibility,” said Pham. “If you’re a student in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get into classes run by top tutors.” Meanwhile, students in other areas often travel to Tier 1 cities before major tests, like university entrance exams, staying in a hostel for about a month while attending prep courses.

For teachers, running a center means handling administrative tasks like marketing, admissions and parent communications, which cuts into the time they spend designing their courses.

Before joining Marathon, teachers go through a screening process, including how many of their previous students passed exams or improved their grades. Marathon pairs them with teaching assistants who work directly with groups of about 20 to 25 students during online lectures, answering questions through instant messenger, and then manage breakout rooms to go through the lessons in detail.

Marathon plans to continue its online-only model after lockdowns end and kids go back to in-person classes for regular school.