Granting free and immediate access to study materials to students in emerging markets.

Founders Tao Boyle Dacod Magagula
Sector Keystage 12
Location Cape Town, South Africa
Impact Granting free and immediate access to study materials to students in emerging markets

Aug 2020 FoondaMate launches

Feb 2021 FoondaMate joins XX accelerator in SF, growing to 100,000 users by April

Nov 2021 $2M seed round with LocalGlobe and Emerge

Nov 2022 FoondaMate hits 1 million users

Feb 2023 FoondaMate reaches 1.5 million users

What is it?

FoondaMate is a free, AI-powered study chatbot that provides students with instant access to educational resources such as exam papers and study guides in more than 10 different languages.

Why we invested

The founders

Dacod Magagula and Tao Boyle founded FoondaMate with a mission to democratise access to education. They met at the University of Cape Town (UCT) having arrived there after vastly different educational journeys. Dacod’s rural township school in Mpumalanga, South Africa, was resource-poor and had 50-70 students per class. At home, he had no electricity until he was seven years old. He saved up money to eventually buy a computer to access notes and past papers, enabling him to excel in school in the absence of teachers and textbooks. He graduated top of his class, becoming the first student from his school to be accepted into UCT. Tao also graduated top of her class but had attended private schools with no resource limitations and around 12 students per class. When they met at UCT, they bonded over a shared drive to tackle educational inequality, from which FoondaMate was born.

The problem

While talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. In many developing countries, the education system is failing its students and hindering them from reaching their full potential. High pupil-to-teacher ratios and a lack of qualified educators coupled with high data costs and low computer ownership leave students without access to physical or digital educational material. Research from the UN shows that, in Africa, only 4 out of every 100 children are expected to enter secondary or tertiary education. In South and West Asia, that number is 14, while in Latin America it is 36. In North America, that figure is 87. This disparity has serious economic consequences, with studies demonstrating that each additional year of schooling can increase future earning potential by up to 13.5%. It is critical to find solutions that can improve access to education and break down these barriers to learning.

The solution

FoondaMate is a free, AI-powered study chatbot that provides students with instant access to educational resources such as exam papers, study guides, and explanations for difficult words – in more than 10 different languages. Students don’t need wifi or a computer to access the materials. They can message the chatbot through WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, which are often offered free by network providers to attract users. It has already reached more than 1 million students around the world, in over 30 other countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Angola, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia.

The opportunity

With more than 300 million students in developing countries in need of support, improving access to educational materials and resources has the potential to create lasting impact by driving economic development and growth in these regions. FoondaMate is well-positioned to democratise access to education in traditionally underserved markets. Its positioning on popular messaging platforms, such as Facebook and Whatsapp, allow seamless referrals and a strong path to virality.

The impact

“I recently got the Whatsapp number where I chat with a robot – to be honest that robot is like a normal person and it get the work done, research, assignment everything under one roof. I’m currently a final year student at TUT and I feel so jealous that I should’ve discovered this number while I was still on first year. I have no much to say just thank you.” — Musimeki Fhatuwani

“Dear FoondaMate team. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for making me understand physical science and make it more easier. With your help I was able to pass physical science and my matric very well. I’m helping others now.” — Nonjabulo Zikhali 

“This robot is very helpful. I recommend it for all people and I rate it 10 out 10. I would like to say shout out to you guys and keep up doing the good work and good deeds helping our mates. And THANK YOU!!!” — Fortunate Thatego 


Quote from the Founders

The team at Emerge consistently offers valuable insights, ideas, and connections within the edtech industry. They’ve helped us address key infrastructural and foundational challenges in our industry, paving the way for us to focus on solving more specific problems. Their expertise and network of edtech professionals serve as a reliable resource for our ongoing efforts.

Emerge encourages us to pursue ambitious objectives while offering guidance based on the latest successful consumer edtech trends and benchmarks. Their up-to-date knowledge in the edtech industry enables us to integrate these learnings into our operations.

Their exceptional founder empathy and support during both the highs and lows of startup life have been crucial, particularly for us as first-time founders. They maintain a perfect balance between helping us stay focused on our goals and providing reassurance during challenging times.

By encouraging us to pursue ambitious objectives, Emerge helps us generate greater leverage within our company. Their proficiency in Product Market Fit and their extensive network of edtech experts have proven indispensable in addressing a wide range of issues, from organisational structure and recruitment to content creation, ultimately saving us invaluable time and resources.


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