8Byte Creative Studio is one of our star I-Cube startups that graduated at the end of 2018 from the first cohort of our year-long I-Cube Business Incubation Program. 8Byte is a software company that provides complete preschool management and a learning system through their ‘Kopila app’. The Kopila app was built to bridge the communication gap between teachers and parents, allowing both parties to focus on the child’s progress and development. The app enables smooth communication and keeps track of everyday activities of children, easing the administrative burdens for schools and teachers to track homework, attendance and performance.
Founded in 2016, the company and its app have had an interesting start. 8Byte co-founders, Bipin Bhandari and Amit Bista, then students at Islington College, had constantly changing class schedules where students had problems remembering class locations and routines. A group of enterprising problem solvers: Amit, Bipin and 3 of their friends came up with an app called ‘Routinizer’ at their college. Their app was an instant hit! This success inspired Bipin and Amit to continue their work as a company and sell their system to various other colleges. After registering 8Byte Creative Studio in 2016, they provided website development and management services, as well as a school management software package to various colleges in Kathmandu.
8Byte joined Nepal Communitere’s I-Cube program in 2017. As part of the program, they used the Human-Centered Design framework to conduct market research on user needs and discovered that this app was actually a great value addition in the preschool market. The company successfully received equity financing of 18 lakhs from a pool of 10 seed investors during the I-Cube Demo Day.
The current pandemic, however, has made it difficult for businesses to sustain themselves, and it has had a severe impact on SMEs and startups because of their high vulnerability, low market resilience, and usually inflexible and insufficient funds. How is the 8 Byte team tackling this daunting challenge and keeping up with their work? I sat down with Amit Bista, co-founder and Business Development Head at 8Byte Creative Studio, to understand how their team is surviving amidst the crisis and how they’re iterating and adapting to this fit this new norm in education.
How has the pandemic affected 8Byte?
Our core product at 8Byte is the ‘Kopila app’ which is a preschool and learning management system. As almost all preschools are currently closed due to risk of COVID-19, our business is severely affected. Our sales through Kopila decreased by more than 80% in this time. Another big challenge we faced due to the pandemic was that the lockdown started during our peak sales time: Chaitra 2076, which marks the start of the new school year in Nepal. Our existing clients had to renew their subscription of the app and we were also looking forward to adding a significant number of new preschools to our client list but instead, our client list decreased. This has urged us to find new revenue streams for our business, and focus on where we can use and sell our expertise to bring in income.
What are some specific projects you’re focusing on right now?
Currently, we are working intensively to create a brand image for our product ‘Kopila’ as this is the perfect time for planning and building strategies for the future so that we can cover up the negatives after the market improves. We are conducting useful webinars for preschools, and preparing child development activity content for preschools as well as parents so that we can stay close to our customers at this time as well. The content and ideas we push even allows children and parents to be engaged in various activities and engage in our app. At 8Byte we are firm believers of the saying: ‘No matter the situation, children’s learning should not stop.’ We also have made some significant updates to Kopila for smooth online learning such as online classes and homework sharing. For meeting our immediate financial and operational needs, we have diverted our effort to doing some more freelancing work including software development, website development and management work for the survival of our company. Besides Kopila, we offer complete solutions on mobile/web app development, website development, and SEO and digital marketing, which have supported us during this time.
Is 8Byte team rethinking its business model or strategy? What’s new for your customers?
Yes definitely. We are thinking of pivoting our business model to adapt as well as improve our offerings with the changing market. Kopila has changed a lot from how we initially started. It is now a complete solution for preschools with the addition of online billing, parents-teachers solutions and child portfolio management system rather than just a ‘communication tool app’. This change will definitely be a value increase for our customers.
Survival is the most important thing for any startup during this period. I believe that the government also has an important role in helping startups and SMEs survive through supporting access to finance- provide flexible funds for SMEs, low interest rates for business loans, waivers etc. Most importantly, startups need support from mentors who can help us with new direction and perspectives and help us validate our ideas during critical times.
“We greatly value our mentors and still meet informally with Anil dai, our I-Cube business coach from Nepal Communitere, 8Byte board members as well as mentors from Safal Partners, who have been managing and administering our seed fund. Guidance and mentorship is more valuable to a startup than anything else right now!”-Amit Bista
It is an honor to see our I-Cube graduates scaling up as well as tackling this crisis by iterating and adapting constantly. You can find the story of 8Byte and other I-Cubers and their innovative tactics to tackle the pandemic featured in Nepali language by Bizmandu.com this month!