When I launched FilmDoo at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, it existed solely as a film streaming platform for independent and international films. However, an interesting discovery led us to expand into online education.

In 2019, we noticed that over 80 per cent of our traffic came from language-related searches and keywords. By then, FilmDoo had one of the world’s largest international film catalogues online but also had top ranking SEO for language search terms, so many people found us, for example, by searching, “I’m learning Japanese, where can I watch Japanese films?”

Consequently, we ran a survey, and 70 per cent of our users said that the main reason they are watching a film on FilmDoo is that they are learning a foreign language.

The more we looked into this finding, the more we recognised a significant opportunity to expand into online learning by leveraging the power of film and video. 

Hence, we repositioned FilmDoo to be an entertainment and edutech – or rather, edutainment platform. We launched FilmDoo Academy, a game-based edutech platform where we supply our licensed library of over 3,500 movies to language schools, international schools and corporate training providers.

The organisations can use our course authoring tool and turn any film and video into an interactive game and lesson in just a few minutes! 

FilmDoo is currently targeting three types of customers: 

Language schools and teachers

FilmDoo is the perfect solution to help serious language learners such as expats, linguists and multicultural families keen to keep in touch with their cultural heritage. Most language learning solutions do not currently take a learner all the way to real-world usability and fluency.

Unlike textbooks or stock videos, films do not divorce language from cultural context. Additionally, regular access to authentic content and the way natives speak via dialects and slang would help learners achieve a practical understanding of the language.

A Spanish teacher shared in a testimonial that the use of FilmDoo’s films in her lessons has the advantage of allowing her students to discover different Spanish accents without being forced in textbooks. 

Also Read: Edutech is surging, but here are the 3 issues it is facing

We also target upper primary and high school children where teachers may be struggling to keep students engaged. Using film and video-based game methods garners a better response from most children.  

Teachers and schools will also be able to search for courses created by other teachers and edit and use these for their own students. In the background, FilmDoo also has our own proprietary AI-driven content recommender that can recommend films according to a student’s language level.

International schools and private schools

Almost overnight, schools needed to go online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to find a cost-effective solution to help raise student engagement online has never been higher.

Furthermore,  the average Gen Z student now spends at least four hours per day watching online content, and traditional teaching methods now struggle to keep these digital native students engaged.

With film and video-based learning, we can raise their overall engagement and help improve learning outcomes. Specifically for language learning, this tackles an industry-wide problem of high dropout rates of 90 per cent.

According to a UK study about incorporating films into the curriculum, 99 per cent of the teachers surveyed agreed that film is a means of getting young people enthusiastic about their subject.

In fact, engagement with learning was a major theme throughout the questionnaire and was corroborated by pupils’ responses. 

This finding is unsurprising given that film provides an active form of learning which keeps students engaged. Furthermore, on FIlmDoo, students from multiple locations can watch a film simultaneously while playing along with the game in real-time, unlike other traditional quizzes and assessments.

Our edutech platform is flexible and adaptable, allowing the same game to be played in classrooms, as part of an online lesson or for homework and independent self-study.

Corporate training for diversity and inclusion training

This is a relatively new sector for FilmDoo, but findings from our recent pilot have been very encouraging, and we are looking to expand further in this sector. We recently completed a successful pilot with RBS and Natwest bank in the UK, where we provided diversity and inclusion (D&I) training and awareness-raising corporate programmes for the bank.

Post-training research found that 94 per cent of participants said this edutech helps with understanding complex D&I issues, and 100 per cent of all participants agreed that receiving D&I training in this way would help them in their role D&I champions in their organisations.

Opportunities and challenges of the Southeast Asian market

With the expansion of edutech language learning and the importance of learning English in SEA rapidly growing, FilmDoo is perfectly positioned to deliver to the region. The urgent need for upskilling and language learning as ASEAN works to rebalance their economies post-pandemic make now the ideal time for edutech expansion.

The area is already a massive potential edutech market.  Looking at the English language learning market alone, the opportunity in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are worth US$188 million, US$714 million, and US$560 million, respectively. 

That said, the biggest challenge of the SEA market is that it is not one country. The region consists of countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia, viewing education differently. To deal with ASEAN from a company’s perspective, we need to ensure a strategy to achieve regional and local goals. 

Also read: How edutech startups can accelerate active learning

From my experience as a management consultant, I observed that when US or foreign companies expand to Asia, most of them initially think of SEA as one homogenous market. They may have developed a cookie-cutter go-to-market strategy that they would like to roll out simultaneously in the different countries at the same time.

However, I would caution against that. Such a high-level approach often fails to recognise the intricacies and differences in each SEA country as a separate market.

It is often better to start with one or two countries where the management team already has previous ties or connections, then get some traction there, which can build momentum to scale to the other countries in SEA.

In addition, because each country can operate in a different language, it can be beneficial to find a reliable local partner who can help you develop local brand awareness and be your marketing partner. 

Mass adoption of FilmDoo in SEA

Currently, we are considering running a series of competitions and free trials to create traction and inspire mass adoption of our edutech solution in Southeast Asia. We are currently running one such competition in partnership with Singapore Education Network for Southeast Asian schools.

Any teacher who signs up from August till the end of September to FilmDoo Academy has a chance of winning a school-wide license for all their teachers until the end of the year. We are also looking at creating more ready-to-use English lessons for free or at a meagre cost to help drive the awareness of the platform to education centres. 

Furthermore, FilmDoo has also been running pilot programmes with different companies and institutions across the globe.

The list includes The Language Flagship Programme in the US, Globish Thailand, English Gang, Sripatum University and EduTech in Thailand, English Today in Indonesia, and iLeap in India. 

I also decided to join 500 Startups Global Launch Singapore’s accelerator program as it was the perfect program for helping us to help us grow our network in Singapore and eventually set up in Singapore and use that as a base to expand to Southeast Asia. 

Through the program, I met Michael Klemm, my mentor and the founder of the Singapore Education Network and who is now actively working to help us grow FilmDoo in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Additionally, I got to meet many cohort mates who are similarly based outside the region and learn from their go-to-market strategy and companies such as Qwork and, who are based here and can share deep localised insight into Malaysia’s market. 

From that perspective, the program was able to help us build our local and industry network and expertise in Southeast Asia, laying the foundations to help us expand in the region.

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