Manico is a Swedish EdTech startup co-founded in 2012 by Carl Lindgren, who together with his mother and father combined their deep expertise in sales, teaching and engineering to bring collaboration back to the education sector.
Technology as an enabler, but also problem creator
Single user handheld devices (such as phones and tables), combined with immersive software, have brought great benefits to education. But, they have also brought with them important problems, such as disconnection and seclusion from others due to technology.
Carl and his team saw and heard from teachers who wanted to bring the element of collaboration back into classrooms so that children no longer were separated by screens, but instead brought together by them to learn and collaborate.
“We saw a clear market gap and started out as a manufacturer of large classroom screens. Now we have grown and instead develop and produce large, robust multi-touch tablets named FunTable and FunBoard that enable collaborative, engaging and wholesome digital experiences in schools, elderly homes, museums, lobbies, or wherever such solutions are needed”
explained Carl Lindgren, Co-founder and CEO of Manico.
Manico's products are a much-needed step forward in the digitalization of schools, education and collaborative digital environments as outlined in The Digital Education Action Plan, a renewed European Union policy initiative that sets out a shared vision of high-quality, inclusive, and accessible digital education in Europe. It aims to support the adaptation of the education and training systems of Member States to the digital age. Manico's mission is to provide the tools to achieve this and expand digital collaboration globally.
Building to ensure quality and sustainability
Having started as a hardware company with manufacturing in China (like most of their competitors still do) in 2018 they decided to move their manufacturing and today every element of their product funnel is environmentally friendly and made in Sweden. Manico also shifted from using outsourced software providers to launching their own SaaS solutions that re-imagine digital education and real-life, collaborative digital playgrounds.
Listening to their customers' needs, Manico created three different software divisions, focusing on education, entertainment and customizable learning solutions that can be adjusted by teachers to meet specific teaching curriculums. Carl sees this as the future of EdTech where game modules and templates are built, but users are able to customize according to their needs to ensure optimal learning and engagement.
“By moving our manufacturing to Sweden, and taking control of our software development, we are no longer dependent on third party partners, and I know it is a major competitive advantage for us. Unlike others, we can ensure and secure that our products and software are of superior quality and it also allows us to focus on what’s most important, the customer and their needs” stated Carl.
Completing this shift in a year naturally required risk taking and investment, but according to Carl it has all been worth it to own their product funnel. With a solid business foundation now built, they can focus their attention on expansion and growth.
Exploring new customer segments
Having found product market fit quickly, Manico is well into their expansion phase as 60% of their customers are international, with presence in over 20 countries including Japan, Canada, India and the US. How did they manage to go global with their ‘Made in Sweden’ offering? Through diligent attendance at conferences, outbound sales, and utilizing their extensive network of contacts and building a reliable partner distribution network.
Next, they aim to create an even stronger foothold on the vast US market with its technology driven education system. Also armed with their experience from building up the educational touchscreen market, new verticals are coming to a head with demand for elderly care homes experiencing strong growth. Elderly loneliness was a severe problem during the pandemic and enriching games and entertainment that not only keep minds sharp, exercise motor skills and bring people together has proven successful over the past 3 months.
In order to tap into these new segments, Carl and his team are working on expanding their software offering to developing games for 12+ year olds as well as the elderly. Key in this development has been in building software that is usable on other units than Manico’s own hardware. This way they amplify their reach and can foster collaboration, even when users are on other brands' devices.
Advice to other startup CEO’s
When asked what advice Carl has for other startup CEO’s, he has plenty of great insights which boil down into three themes; stay on top of your financing, perseverance is key and don’t be afraid to take risks.
Startups with a combined offering of hardware-software solutions typically require significant capital to get off the ground, but by staying on top of your costs and saving where you can makes a big impact. Capital will most likely always be one of your recurring challenges, so make sure to research your funding alternatives and create long term relationships with investors. Investors are usually also a good source of finding mentorship and a network of good contacts.
In regards to perseverance, Carl mentions to be prepared for things to take longer to build than expected and have patience.
“Building a stable business takes time, so don’t get discouraged by your first few setbacks. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I urge all CEO’s to have the courage to take well calculated risks and dare to make mistakes. You always learn from mistakes and come back smarter and stronger” Carl summarized.
If you are interested in learning more about Manico please reach out to Carl at firstname.lastname@example.org +46 707 93 68 95.
About Katalysen Ventures
We are a venture developer who advances early-stage ventures as an active partner by providing hands-on expertise, capital and access to networks. For Manico, our value add has focused on a holistic repositioning of Manico from a Nordic, hardware-led edtech company, to a global, software-led edtech champion. In addition to necessary strategic-planning, we have gotten hands-on in developing Manico’s brand and website, assisted in the auditing and acquisition of new software code, and we have helped explore US market opportunities through our San Francisco office. If you are an early-stage startup in need of a hands-on venture developer to help you grow your company, learn more about our approach and reach out to Jakob Eck from team Katalysen to get the ball rolling.
Photo credit: Henrik Lenngren for Dagens Industri