How to start a startup, the “Pandai” way! (Bonus Video: co-founder of Pandai Sharing His Journey) (Y-Combinator S21’) Malaysian based edtech startup founded by Khairul, Akmal, and Suhaimi who did their undergraduate education at Purdue University, RPI and MIT.

by YouthOS

How to start a startup, the “Pandai” way! (Bonus Video: co-founder of Pandai Sharing His Journey)
The co founders of From the left, Suhaimi, Khairul and Akmal. (Image Credit:


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The road to (business) mastery.

Co-Founders of Pandai, from the left, Suhaimi, Khairul and Akmal. (Image credit:

There are two ways to do business; where you move fast and break things or you move steadily and build a strong foundation. Imagine building a company that grew from, 300 users to around 800,000 in 2 years without any marketing spend. That is the definition of speed in execution; always answering customers’ calls, on-demand. But one can’t do that without proper training. It’s like in Kung Fu Panda, Po did not become the dragon master by just pure talent. Ash Ketchum’s Pokemon journey took more than 10 years. 

Ideation: From Friendship to Partnership, Connecting the Dots and Filling the Gap.

The team from Aidan Group of Companies. (Image Credit:

It is not an understatement to say that the founders of Pandai have plotted their way to build a fast-growing company when they were in high school. is a fast-growing Malaysian-based educational technology company founded by a group of friends who met in high school. The founders of Pandai; Khairul, Akmal, and Suhaimi did their undergraduate education at Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), respectively. Prior to creating Malaysian fasted growing Edtech company, they actually co-founded a few businesses together. In fact, when they first started, they registered four companies at the same time. AdentEdu; an educational company focusing on competitive-based learning, has local rights to global programs such as Kangaroo Math and Beaver Computational Thinking. Also Aidan Technologies, a software development house focusing on building digital solutions such as and Pandai is a marriage between both industry; education and technology. Talk about connecting the dots backward.

Validation: Maximising Speed of Execution Based on Users

Popular features on Pandai App. (Image Credit:

Initially, it was just an idea on a napkin. Pandai was meant to just give out quizzes; 5 questions per day, to only form five students, and only one subject; Mathematics. The reason was so human, it’s faster to do it this way than to have question banks that cover all topics. Plus, it was less taxing to design five questions. The aim was simple, to promote life-long learning. The list of features grew based on customer's behavior and needs. When they first started, they waited outside the school compound to find users and do user interviews. A pivotal moment was when they saw a mistake made by more than one student; instead of tapping at the next button, they swiped; a feature that has yet to be implemented in the Pandai App. Within 48 hours (not weeks), they implemented the swipe feature because it’s a natural behavior of the user.

Fundraising: Side-Quest to Silicon Valley

Co-founders of Pandai at Golden Gate Bridge. (Image Credit:

They are a group of Malaysian founders that is obsessed with serving the user's needs. To further develop this skill and intuition, they applied and got accepted into the Y-Combinator batch Summer 21’; the mother of all startup accelerators (they coined the term Accelerator). They travel back to America, now to Silicon Valley, and start their journey of learning how to build a product that people want. Other than first funding, they met and learned intensively from the world's best founder who has dominated their respective industry. They came back with a new drive and managed to secure USD 2 million in funding from various investors such as Harvard and 500 Global. Their main tip for fundraising is to solve customer's problems fast and track every metric. Quoting from Khairul, “In building a startup, there is only one clear winner. Number two is the first loser!”.

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Improving: Evolving into a Learning Ecosystem

For any startup, the biggest pain is acquiring users. Pandai’s first 300 user came from their network, just by using WhatsApp. They grew to over 200k users in 2 years without any marketing. Post-Covid was a bit scary for Pandai as a lot of EdTech funding started to shrink. But because they have achieved product market fit, their numbers tripled. This was due to heavy recommendations from teachers and parents of the students who use the Pandai App to study. Today, they have over 800k users from different countries and education levels. To test new features, they first do a soft launch with one segment of a student, gain feedback, do some tweaks, and launch it app-wide. They are now doubling down on gamification with the aim of helping students get better grades. With over half a billion questions answered, they also beefed up their technology stack by integrating Artificial Intelligence. Pbot is their version of ChatGPT built to enhance the student learning experience. Other than that, they have launched an ecosystem of tools to serve other segments of users such as parents and teachers, enabling them to keep track of the students progress.

Chapter 2 and Beyond…

Some of the team members of Pandai. (Image Credit:

While for some, this might be the height of their journey, for Pandai, the stage has only started to set. Being in an industry with heavy hitters such as Chegg and Byju, as decades-old companies such as Pearson, Pandai is still in its infancy. It is clear that in Malaysia, more high school students know about Pandai than Sasbadi, but based on our conversation, we know that Pandai is ‘pandai’ enough not to be Sasbadi

(BONUS VIDEO) Check Out Khairul Anwar, the co-founder and CEO of Pandai, Sharing His Journey During Chill+Pitch Episode 1.

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