HEI Schools takes Finland’s early childhood education global

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HEI Schools children playing together

EdTech startup HEI Schools is exporting the Finnish model of early childhood education to learning centres around the world. Learning and teaching based on play, creative activities and inspiration appeals to parents, teachers and learning centre operators throughout the world. The concept has raised €2 million in an investment round for financing international scaling.

Established in 2015, the impact-driven company has packaged Finland’s pedagogical model for early childhood education as tools and content that can be applied in different cultures. The latest financing round was co-led by Practica Capital, a Lithuanian VC investor, and Tesi.

“HEI Schools’ impressive growth and large customer base of premium learning centres around the world, as well as the fast-growing number of users in digital resources were key proof points of the value of its concept. We’re excited to be part of its growth story in leveraging technology to upskill early years professionals and bring progressive and valuable education to children at their most receptive,” says Arvydas Bložė, Investment Director at Practica Capital.

There are already 14 learning centres applying the HEI Schools model operating in China, Australia, Indonesia, Korea, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Finland. This year 16 new HEI Schools learning centres are also planning to open in the USA, Canada, Kuwait and Thailand. Over 50 schools are subscribing to HEI Schools’ digital curriculum model and over 200 teachers from 30 different countries are enrolled on the company’s teacher certificate program.

Optimal early education for as many children as possible

HEI School helps local entrepreneurs, that operate the schools and learning centres, and teachers apply the Finnish educational model in their own cultures. Finnish education knowhow interests parents worldwide.

“We ‘export’ in-depth knowhow about how children learn within the reach of as many families and children as possible. We have based our business on this vision, and it also gives us a way to make a positive social impact and improve the world,” CEO Milla Kokko points out.

At HEI Schools’ learning centres, children learn through play, creative activities and doing things together. Milla Kokko believes that the HEI Schools model appeals most to those parents who want a less stressful childhood for their young offspring than they had.

“HEI Schools stands out from the crowd in the market of progressive education, and we have something unique to offer,” Kokko says.

“HEI Schools stands out from the crowd in the market of progressive education, and we have something unique to offer”

HEI Schools approach based on the latest research in education

The close relationship that HEI Schools and the company’s founders enjoy with the University of Helsinki enhances the company’s credibility in its growth, and reinforces continuous development of its pedagogic methods and quality.

“Compared to other international EdTech players, we have in-depth expertise and a knowledge-based understanding of how children learn and develop, and how we can best support them in their learning. Another of our competitive edges is our holistic design. A detailed plan aimed at maximum effectiveness encompasses not only the premises and brand but also customer experience, the methods used by learning centre staff, and teacher training,” Kokko points out.

“It was quite a challenging year for us because the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to take our digital concept to market much earlier than we’d originally planned. Nevertheless, it was received enthusiastically, and it looked pretty certain that we’d raise the financing to expand internationally,” Kokko explains.

HEI Schools

What it is: HEI Schools, a Finnish EdTech startup established in 2015, with 14 early childhood education centres applying its model in eight countries, soon to be followed by 16 more in another four countries.

Founders: Pilvi Torsti, Lasse Lipponen, Milla Kokko, Anne Rusanen and the University of Helsinki.

Products: Licensing and SaaS for Finnish model of childhood education to operators of local learning centres.

Net sales: €1.3 million in 2020.

Personnel: 20 people in Helsinki in 2020.

Investors: Most recent investment round raised €2 million in 2021, investors Practica Capital and Tesi.

Milla Kokko

Who she is: Co-founder of HEI Schools and the company’s CEO since 2017.

Experience: Concept and brand strategies for Finnish and international companies.

Why HEI Schools:”I was interested in building an entirely new brand and concept from scratch, and I saw that HEI Schools has something valuable to offer. Now I’ve been involved longer, I understand more clearly that if you want to change the world there’s no better place to start than children’s education. I want to build a good business, but also to do something meaningful and make the world a better place.”