21 Apr 2022
Photo of the Kami founders

Kami co-founder and COO Alliv Samson (right) stands with founder Hengjie Wang at the Westpac Business Awards.

Kiwi-founded education platform Kami has won a Westpac Business Award and been named in TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential companies list in the same month.

The ed-tech (education technology) classroom tool works as an engaging and interactive learning platform for students, allowing them to collaborate and discuss projects when online or make notes offline.

It has more than 32 million users across 180 countries.

REDnews spoke to founder Hengjie Wang after Kami won Excellence in International Trade at the Westpac Auckland Business Awards.

“The team was ecstatic to win [the Westpac award]. We think we won because as a company we’re all about putting our customers [students and teachers] first, with building interactive and engaging classrooms at its core,” he said.

Kami has increased its revenue ten-fold over the last three years, with a 1,177% increase.

Hengjie puts the company’s success down to focus and drive.

“Covid shut down a lot of schools and forced educators to teach remotely from home, leading teachers to realise the power of tech in the classroom.

“Now we’re back to some normality, it’s been great to see the continued momentum of digital learning tools which we’ve seen firsthand with continued platform adoption,” he said.

When Kami was recently named in TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Companies of 2022 list, Hengjie thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke.

“It took a while for the news to sink in. We were up there with global household names such as Apple, Google, Spotify and Allbirds.

“After winning the Westpac award, it further reiterated that you don’t have to be based out of Silicon Valley to solve these daunting problems. New Zealand has some of the sharpest names in tech helping to solve these global issues,” he said.

In fact, Hengjie recommends other budding tech startups go global before targeting the New Zealand or Australian markets. He says go global from day one.

“Kami focussed on creating a product that would work for users all over the world and then we used feedback from that global audience to continue product innovation, rather than just focusing on New Zealand and Australia first.”

Kami’s largest user base is in North America, but the app has users in almost every country in the world.

Despite Kami having 32 million users worldwide, Hengjie says they’re still only scratching the surface of their potential.

“There were 1.5 billion students affected by Covid, so our next business goal is to get to 100 million users.”

Kami was started in Hengjie’s co-founder Jordan Thoms’ living room. After multiple rounds of funding from family and angel investors, they built an award-winning education app that became profitable in year five.

Hengjie, Jordan and Alliv Samson, alongside their mentor Bob Drummond, co-founded the company in 2013 while still in university studying software engineering.

Co-founder and COO Alliv Samson told REDnews that Kami was created to solve a problem that they were experiencing at university.

“There wasn’t a platform that gave us a collaborative way to take notes in real time during lectures, so we decided to develop it ourselves.

“Kami started out as ‘Notable’ and then we made the decision to rebrand and hone in on the education sector, as that was a sector we felt would greatly benefit from this collaborative and interactive way of learning,” she said.


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