One startup present at the recent K-Tech China 2014 conference was Bapul, an EdTech company that provides a social Q&A platform for students. The name is short for Baro Pulki, Korean for “solve right away.” The K-Tech conference took place in Beijing Dec 18-19, and was co-hosted by the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning (MSIP) and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
At the conference, Bapul CEO Min Hee Lee pitched the company’s business model to attendees including MSIP Minister Yanghee Choi and representatives from local ICT companies China Mobile, Xiaomi, Lenovo, and Huawei. Bapul introduced an updated version of its app, which when released will add more course subjects to the platform. The app is available on Android, iOS, and the web.
Bapul is like Quora, but targets primarily middle and high school students. Setting out with a vision of making collaborative learning easy, Bapul was founded in 2011 as a social network site for posting tricky homework problems. To save students from having to use search engines not optimized for complex and narrow queries, the platform instead has its users post questions as pictures. Students use phones to take pictures of homework problems they encounter from textbooks, school, and hagwons, or private academies that are quite ubiquitous in South Korea.
Students able to help out their peers can reply to posted questions also with pictures of hand-written solutions, or write them right on the phone using the app’s pen mode. There is a comprehensive range of question topics, from the common school courses such as Korean, English, math and science, to standardized test questions including TOEFL and the SAT.
Q&A platforms are not new among Koreans, as those from tech giants like Naver Inc. have been around for more than twelve years. Such Q&A forums are known to host content that are insightful but mixed in with ads and horseplay. Bapul has yet to provide its own solution to the quality control problem. The platform however has risen since launch to become Korea’s second most downloaded app in the education category. It comes after EBS, the country’s state-run educational television broadcasting company.
Starting with its upcoming update, Bapul hopes to offer its discussion space in more languages, and with new features such as user levels to add an element of fun to the experience.
– Inspired by Platum