Meet PowerZ, a new French startup founded by Emmanuel Freund, the founder of popular cloud gaming service Shadow, as well as former Shadow employees. The company wants to develop a video game that is as engaging as Fortnite, but with a focus on education. It is both an edtech startup and a video game studio.
PowerZ has raised a $3.5 million (€3 million) seed round from Educapital, Hachette Livre and various business angels, such as Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet, Michaël Benabou and Octave Klaba.
After turning Shadow into one of the most valuable French startup, Freund stepped back and took some time to think about his second act. He spent some time with his two children aged 5 and 8 years old.
“I realized that code learning tools for children are very lacking. So I turned to math because you don’t need any support material. There are 40,000 apps but they all look like holiday workbooks,” Freund told me.
From his experience, most education apps are focused on one knowledge area in particular and are somewhat basic. According to him, education hasn’t changed that much in the past 100 years. When you walk into a classroom, it still looks like a classroom.
At the same time, when you see a kid playing on Fortnite or Minecraft, chances are they’re hooked. You tell them to come for dinner and they ask you for five more minutes of playtime.
“What if we could build a sort of Ready Player One for education. An open world in which a child could learn new things,” Freund said.
Here’s what you can expect from PowerZ. First, it’s not going to focus on one area in particular. You can learn history, geography, math, but also botanical knowledge, astronomy and poetry.
Second, content isn’t going to be gamified to motivate you to learn more to do more in the game. You’ll be able to unlock some customizations but PowerZ is taking it easy with gamification.
Third, the game will evolve depending on what you’re doing. Some children will be better at math, others will be better at grammar. Some children like to learn new things in short sessions, others can remain focused for a while. This way, parents can get reports on what their children have been doing.
PowerZ wants to develop its game with a community of parents, teachers and children. There will be an alpha test in 2021, first in France and then in English-speaking countries. It’s still the early days of the company, but it’s going to be interesting to see how it evolves over time.