- Polish startup The Village has recently raised $710,000 during a seed funding round led by Movens Capital.
- The company, which is run by a group of three women, has developed the Wioski.co project to support the development of children and make it easier for moms to return to the workforce.
- The childcare industry (early stage education) has been largely ignored by investors up until now, but The Village was able to succeed in drawing attention to it.
The Village is the Polish startup behind the Wioski.co SaaS platform which aims to help mothers return to their jobs by facilitating easy access to quality childcare. At the same time, the Village is also participating in the creation of new jobs for early stage educators. While the childcare industry hasn’t received much attention from investors up until now, The Village has recently managed to secure $710,000 in funding from Movens Capital that will help them continue the development of their platform.
“The mission of these Villages is to support mothers and educators in running their own local daycare centers around the values of attachment parenting, non-violent communication and the Reggio Emilia philosophy – a helpful pedagogy supported by the latest research on the development of the child’s brain. The project is also based on the idea of democracy and cooperation, which is needed so much in the modern world where we often forget how important small, neighbourhood communities are,” Aleksandra Kozera, founder and CEO at The Village told ITKeyMedia.
The Village welcomes people from all walks of life and provides the needed support so they can become educators for the Wioski.co project. As Kozera explains, basically everyone who is passionate about working with children can open a “Village”. However, the vetting process is quite meticulous, as all potential village owners are verified to meet quality standards.
“To work as a day carer, future village owners must have necessary qualifications or finish a course created by The Village and licensed by the Ministry of Family and Social Labor. After finishing that course and our additional training, a village can be opened,” described Kozera. “Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a nanny, a parent who wants to share a nanny or an educator who wants to make a difference for their local communities, you will receive the necessary training, support and knowledge to open and run your own daycare – a place where children can thrive,” she added.
Putting Funds to Good Use
Through dedication and hard work, The Village has succeeded in putting itself on the investors map. Speaking with Przemek Jurgiel-Zyla, investment director at Movens Capital, ITKeyMedia discovered that the firm’s first contact with the startup was through one of the friendly accelerators for startup.
“We caught the excellent energy quite quickly, and the idea presented by the company started to smoke in our heads. At Movens, we have a strong focus on marketplace and SaaS companies, and the girls’ project Wioski.co is a perfect example of a SaaS enabled marketplace model. The direction was also intriguing – combining an impact business with an endless need – locally and globally. The quality of the founders’ team was also critical to us. The girls won us over from the first conversation,” he said.
There were several other aspects that influenced Movens’ decision to invest in the startup. Firstly, the founding team – the experience and motivation of the founders was the key decisive factor for them.
“Next, the drive to create technology and products for an unaddressed segment of the market. The third one was a global benchmark – the education market is changing very strongly, a lot of micro-nurseries are being built in the United States and Western countries. Parents (worldwide) are becoming more and more sensitive to the models of bringing up children (without violence, respecting rights, with an engaging educational program). The company also has the aspiration to go international quickly, and we actively support the team in this aspect too with our commitment,” added Jurgiel-Zyla.
With the funds recently raised, The Village seeks to continue to perfect its IT platform to allow it to facilitate the opening and management of the village from administrative, communicative, and pedagogical perspective.
“Part of the investment will be used to prepare for expansion into new markets and exploring new target groups with the Polish market. This year, there will be over 100 such places across Poland,” Kozera added.
How Is the Reggio Emilia Educational Approach Different?
Villages employ Reggio Emilia pedagogy to sustain their educational processes. But how is this approach different from the “standard” type of education?
The Village’s representative explains that the Reggio Emilia philosophy lays a foundation for the whole company, even from an operational perspective. Inspired by this pedagogical approach, the startup believes that children are capable, strong and valuable members of a wider community who can model their own learning.
In addition, the Reggio Emilia approach is based on current neuroscience research on how children learn – it is based on numerous studies and recommended by different authorities from the early childhood education sector. The first 5 years of life are the most crucial for future learning, health and well-being, and a curriculum based on Reggio Emilia allows children to thrive, explore and build relationships with other children, adults and environment.
Lessons Learned From the Pandemic
What the pandemic showed everyone is that the current education system, including early childhood education, simply does not work as it should. At the same time, the startup observed how essential childcare is for society.
“For us, it was a time when we could verify and test a model of small, at-home villages and that is the model we would like to further develop and introduce to various regions of Poland. We envision The Village as a place where parents can find high quality childcare they can trust and where every potential Village owner can find the necessary toolkit to start changing the way children are cared for and educated from their homes,” explained Kozera.
At the moment The Village has 26 active villages with plans to open at least 100 villages by the end of this year. As for now, the startup is focusing mainly on interregional growth – more and more villages will be opening in smaller cities in Poland, with the plan being to keep stable growth in bigger cities.
“However, at the same time, we are doing initial research on childcare in different countries in the EU and beyond to be prepared for our international expansion in the upcoming year,” Kozera shared.
Alexandra is a slight synesthesiac with a love for words. Passionate about new and emerging technologies, she always stays on top of the current trends and enjoys sharing the latest stories with others.