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February 27 2014


February 25 2014

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February 10 2014

McGraw-Hill Buys Engrade For ~$50M As It Moves Away From Textbooks, Towards A Future Of SaaS
FotoFlexer_PhotoThis week, Engrade put the finishing touches on an emblematic story in the world of education startups. High school student Bri Holt heard enough complaining from classmates (and teachers) about the fact that there were no good tools to let them view their grades online. So, having taught himself some web development skills, he decided to build a simple online gradebook for his school. Holt’s gradebook found favor among his teachers and at his school, but it took time. Holt soon graduated and moved on to other pursuits. In 2010, seven years later, the online gradebook had found significant organic adoption among teachers, enough that Holt decided to officially turn it into a business and expand it into something larger — Engrade. Fast forward to this week, and publishing giant McGraw-Hill Education agreed to purchase Holt’s online gradebook — now better known as Engrade — for what TechCrunch hears from sources was around $50 million. To education entrepreneurs, it’s an enviable outcome and a path (albeit perhaps not a totally replicable one) worth emulating. All in all, the process, from founding to sale, took over 10 years. Building and selling an education company (for any real return) takes years, maybe even decades. If you build something that solves a problem and that your customer really needs, adoption and customer acquisition will happen for you. Teachers love simple tools that make their lives easier, and if you build one for them, and work with them to improve it, they’ll take care of you. In the end, it appears to be a positive outcome for Engrade’s founders, its team and its investors. The company had raised about $8 million total over two rounds, including from NewSchools Ventures, Zac Zeitlin, Expansion Venture Capital, Kapor Capital, Javelin Venture Partners, Rethink Education and Samsung Ventures, among others. But what’s Engrade and what does it do? Saying that all entrepreneurs need to do is build, amazing tools for their customers, and they’ll have it made makes it sound easy. It’s not, and in education, it’s even harder. Building a simple, well-designed online gradebook is all well and good, but Engrade wasn’t alone. Others were trying to do the same — and building great products at that — but many of them were forced to pivot or join up with other tools to build an education suite. Plus, in the end, a gradebook is more feature than

February 04 2014

Red Hot Remind101 Gets $15M From John Doerr To Bring Free, Secure Text Messaging To Teachers
Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 2.41.01 AMBrothers Brett and David Kopf launched Remind101 out of Imagine K12 in late 2011 to tackle what they saw as one of the key problems in primary education: The lack of simple, user-friendly tools that help teachers better communicate with both students — and their parental units. Today, in spite of how critical effective communication is within the K-12 learning equation, schools continue to rely on intercoms, PA systems, paper-based permission slips and phone trees. In other words, the same tools they’ve used for 50 years. Remind101 released mobile apps for Android and iOS last year to help bridge that communication gap, creating a mobile platform that enables teachers to send reminders to students and parents via text and email — be they about permission slips or deadlines — and that acts as a secure, private communications network. The app caught on quickly among teachers and the demand hasn’t slowed down since. By September of last year, Remind101 had six million teacher, student and parent users, a number which today has grown to 10 million, and over 65 million messages are being sent via the Remind101 platform each month. The 10 million user number puts the startup in exclusive company in the education technology world — a fact which has not gone unnoticed by investors. That’s why today, a little over four months after it closed $3.5 million in series A financing from Social + Capital, Yuri Milner, Maneesh Arora and a handful of angel investors, Remind101 is adding another lump of coin to its coffers. Today, the startup announced that it has closed a $15 million Series B round, led by Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, with additional participation from its previous investors, including Social + Capital and First Round Capital. As a result of the round, Kleiner partner and veteran investor John Doerr will be joining the startup’s board of directors, alongside Social + Capital founder, Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined the board as part of Remind101′s Series A investment. Although Kleiner Perkins has had its ups and downs of late, adding a veteran investor like Doerr is a big win for the two-year-old startup. While his own investment record, as we’ve noted before, isn’t perfect, there’s a reason that Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page has been quoted as saying that Doerr “sees the future first.” Doerr has been a Kleiner partner since 1980, and has backed companies

January 31 2014

New European Edtech Accelerator Kicks Off Search For 10 Startups Eager To Disrupt The Classroom
european edtech incubatorAnother development in the European edtech ecosystem: early stage startups with a plan to disrupt education are being encouraged to apply to join a new incubator that will kick off its first programme this September.

January 14 2014

OpenSesame Lands $8M To Become The iTunes Of Corporate Training Content
Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.26.22 PMWith new technologies making it easier than ever before to share and distribute quality learning content, businesses are rushing to take advantage. Plus, with the pace that technology changes these days, companies want to help keep their employees up to speed and familiar with the latest version of Salesforce, Excel or whatever the case may be. Online training resources have been around for years, but OpenSesame is on a mission to make buying and selling eLearning courses and content as simple as buying a song or movie on iTunes. As the online training market takes off, OpenSesame wants to be the App Store or go-to marketplace for the best content, where any company can buy courses without paying for a subscription or expensive licensing fees. Through OpenSesame’s marketplace, businesses can search through over 20,000 courses from over 300 sellers. They can preview the content, read reviews from other buyers and learn more about the company selling the content. OpenSesame allows the seller to set the price of the content, offering the owner a 60/40 share of the profits for distributing through its marketplace. But the real value, says OpenSesame Joshua Blank, is what the company has done technologically to ensure that the content available through its marketplace is compatible with the Learning Management System (LMS) or whatever platform the buying company is using to display the content and offer to its employees. Companies use a wide range of LMS platforms to organize and manage their corporate training content, and Blank says that OpenSesame’s content is now compatible with about 75 percent of the options out there. With content from publishers and resources like FranklinCovey, Pearson and John Wiley, Blank says that OpenSesame has been able to land customers like DISH networks, Five Guys and Dun & Bradstreet and is now working with several hundred enterprise customers in total. As part of its effort to become the largest single source for business-centric eLearning courses, OpenSesame announced today that it has raised $8 million of Series A financing, in a round led by Partech Ventures. The round sees Partech General Partner Nicolas El Baze join the startup’s board of directors, and brings OpenSesame’s total financing to just over $10 million. With MOOCs changing the way that education content is delivered, OpenSesame is working to change the purchasing mechanism, drawing on the tried and true marketplace model of iTunes and many others. Offering training courses

December 26 2013

10:30 2 Weeks And 600M+ Lines Of Code Later, 20M Students Have Learned An “Hour Of Code”
Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 3.33.05 AMLess than a year ago, brothers Hadi Partovi and Ali Partovi launched to help advocate for computer science in the U.S. and increase participation in STEM education by making these subjects more available in schools and classrooms around the country. Today, it seems that what started as a whisper has grown into a roar. On December 9th, kicked off a new, nationwide campaign called the “Hour of Code,” which asked teachers across the U.S. to help introduce their students to the basics of computer science through the organization’s coding programs and tutorials. Timed in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week, the campaign has sought to change the perception of Computer Science in the American education system — chief of which is the fact that, today, 9 out of 10 schools in the U.S. do not offer Computer Science classes. After months campaigning and lobbying for change at the state level, in which the Partovis and have asked states to begin offering programming classes for credit, it seems that their work has begun to pay off — both at the policy level and through the “Hour of Code.” Alabama, Maryland and Wisconsin have announced (or are planning to announce) policy changes at the state level, while both the Chicago Public Schools and the New York City Department of Education have unveiled plans to bring computer science to their classrooms. What’s more, at the culmination of Computer Science Education Week, the Partovis told us that more than 15 million students had participated in the “Hour of Code,” collectively writing more than 500 million lines of code during the campaign. While Computer Science Education Week came to a close on December 16th, the campaign has continued, and the number of students participating has since crossed 20 million, with over 675 million lines of code now in the books. All told, Hadi Partovi told TechCrunch, more than 20 million students have participated across 170 countries. However, factoring out non-U.S. students and adults, claims that just about 1 in 4 students in K-12 schools in the U.S. participated in the “Hour of Code.” What’s more, Partovi tells us that “more girls participated in computer science in participating schools in the last two weeks than all students in the history of U.S. public schools combined.” To breakdown the “Hour of Code” stats even further, tells us that, of the 20 million-plus

December 19 2013

Curious Launches On The iPhone To Let You Watch Bite-Sized, How-To Lessons On The Go
Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 6.51.11 AMFollowing the launch of its iPad app in August, today Curious continues its expansion into mobile with the launch of its first native iPhone app. With its new app, users can now access Curious' library of micro-video lessons -- and learn the ukelele or how to dice a tomato -- while on the go.

December 17 2013

WyzAnt Lands $21.5M From Accel To Take Its Tutoring Marketplace Global And Mobile
Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 9.40.08 PMBuilding an online marketplace for local services is a tricky proposition, especially at scale. It takes time to recruit a stable of service providers, to offer deep coverage within local markets and maintain the quality of service (and the trust of customers) as the marketplace expands into new cities. For local service providers, though, moving online can be a boon for business, reducing costs and providing access to a new pool of customers. While products and businesses are increasingly moving online, Mike Weishuhn and Andrew Geant founded WyzAnt in 2005 to bring an online marketplace to a market where service providers still live mostly offline: Tutors. Today, following in the same mold as names like Uber, Etsy and Angie’s List, WyzAnt is building a national company that functions as a hyper-local marketplace, offering students an easy way to find and connect with tutors in a range of subjects. Starting with college campuses in and around Washington D.C. and advertising its new tutoring service with fliers and via craigslist, WyzAnt began building a stable of local tutors and customers, slowly expanding into new markets. Today, WyzAnt has quietly become one of the largest online tutoring platforms in the U.S., serving 500,000 tutors and over one million students. The founders have bootstrapped the business to more than $100 million in gross sales to date, with a 120 percent annual growth rate since launch. After resisting outside investment for nearly eight years in favor of staying lean, the WyzAnt founders are looking to expand their tutoring business into new markets and beef up their team. To do that, WyzAnt is taking on its first capital — a $21.5 million Series A round from Accel Partners. As a result, Accel partners Ryan Sweeney and John Locke will be joining the startup’s board of directors. While it’s somewhat unusual to see an initial round of funding like this come from one backer, it’s a somewhat familiar market for Accel, which has also backed online marketplaces like Etsy and 99 Designs. It also marks the second significant investment in online education the firm has made this year, following the $103 million round it co-led with Spectrum Equity in video-based education platform, WyzAnt and have similar stories in many respects, both bootstrapped online businesses that, over years, managed to organically turn simple business models into millions in revenue., for example, went 17 years without

December 10 2013

Codecademy Releases Its First Educational App, A.K.A. My New Subway Time Killer
1-2-1Today Codecademy released its first foray into the mobile space, an app-based intro course to coding designed to take less than an hour to complete. I had a lot of laundry to do, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

December 07 2013

STI Buys Chalkable For $10M To Bring Its Educational App Store And Learning Platform To K-12 Schools
Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 3.02.13 AMWith entrepreneurs beginning to wake up to the huge demand for better learning tools, and the opportunity for technology to remove some of the long-standing barriers within the system, startups have begun to flood into the education market. As a result, venture investment has begun to flow into education, and with a new crop of entrepreneurial and engineering talent emerging, established players are turning into buyers. In October, Amazon stepped into education for the first time with its acquisition of math instruction company, TenMarks, and a new month brings another first-time buyer and another EdTech acquisition, as STI scooped up education-focused app store, Chalkboard. STI is the 30-year-old maker of education data management solutions for K-12 schools, which focuses its suite of products on Student Information Systems, parent-teacher communications and reporting, among others. With its acquisition of Chalkable, STI is yet another example of an veteran education player looking to keep pace with the demand for more accessible and user-friendly learning tools by injecting new talent and technology into its ranks. As a result of the deal, all nine members of the Chalkable team will be joining STI, and Michael Levy and Zoli Honig, the startup’s CEO and COO, respectively, will stay on as directors of STI’s new Chalkable team. Unlike some startup acquisitions, Chalkable’s product will remain active and, according to a source with knowledge of the deal, will be combined with technology from other acquisitions pipeline and STI’s SIS product, iNow, to give the company a revamped, modern product. As part of STI’s move to become a more modern (and visible) EdTech company, it hired a new CEO and COO, both with decades of experience at K-12 education and technology companies to help lead the charge. This also means that STI appears ready to put some capital to work to inject new talent, as we hear from sources that the company paid around $10 million to acquire Chalkable. The 500 Startups grad launched in September of last year with a platform that aimed to serve schools both as an app store and as a learning management system, serving 50+ institutions before it was acquired. The startup launched with $1.3 million in funding from 500 Startups, Expansion Venture Capital, Great Oaks VC, former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelley and former Facebook mobile platform lead, Luke Shepard, among others. Chalkable aimed to solve a nagging question among schools, parents

December 05 2013

Online Code School Bloc Raises $2 Million For Its Web Development “Apprenticeship” Program
blocA company focused on teaching anyone the fundamentals of web development, Bloc, has raised $2 million in seed funding in a round led by Harrison Metal, with First Round Capital, Baseline Ventures, and Learn Capital also participating. What's interesting about Bloc is that, while it's offering an online program that can be accessed anywhere a student has a computer and Internet access, it also retains the human element of teaching through a one-on-one connection between a learner and their mentor.

November 13 2013

Google Challenges Apple's Dominance In Schools With Google Play For Education, Now Shipping
Google is no longer the best-kept secret in education -- that is, if Google's presence in any market is ever "a secret." Over the last year or so, the search giant has been quietly expanding its footprint in education and is moving quickly to capture a greater share of the K-12 market.
In $187.5M IPO, Chegg Debuts On NYSE In Twitter's Shadow, As Shares Slump 15 Percent
It's been a long-time in coming, but eight-year-old education company, Chegg, debuted this morning on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "CHGG." In the days prior, Chegg priced its initial public offering at $12.50/share, outpacing its expected range of $9.50 to $11.50, raising $187.5 million in total at a valuation of close to $1.1 billion. Chegg is the first company to arrive on the public markets after Twitter's noisy debut last week, in which the veteran microblogging service priced at $26/share and raised $1.8 billion at a lofty valuation of up to $18 billion. Twitter quickly saw the price of its stock vault to around $41/share, where it's remained since.

September 19 2013

With 1M Users Now On Board, Learnist Brings Its “Pinterest For Learning” To Android
When Grockit first emerged back in 2008, it had set its sights on building a full-service, social learning service that would give students a better way to study for standardized tests, among other things. One of the first startups to combine game-ification with personalized adaptive test prep programs, Grockit enabled students to study solo or in groups by connecting with live instructors or perusing its library of video content.

September 18 2013

Now In 30K+ Schools, Remind101 Lands $3.5M From Social+Capital, Yuri Milner & More To Bring Texting To Teachers
While many industries in the U.S. have undergone massive changes in the last 10 years -- such that some almost seem unrecognizable -- the educational system appears much the same as it did 100 years ago. For the founders of Remind101, a young educational technology startup from San Francisco, there's no better example than the tools teachers use to communicate with students -- and their parents.

September 13 2013

Free Massive Online Education Provider, Coursera, Begins To Find A Path To Profits
Online education providers may very well disrupt the higher education establishment, but, first, these for-profit companies need to find a way to finance the mammoth technical infrastructure needed to support millions of students. It's a challenge that all mission-based businesses wrestle with, and why many have wondered whether Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers will ever become big business -- or be around in five years -- let alone "transform higher education," as they've so often promised.

August 27 2013

With Funding From Top Flight Investors, Fast-Growing NoRedInk Is On A Mission To Rid The World Of Bad Grammar
The declining quality of humanities education (and student performance) in the U.S. has become a big problem. Last year, the College Board reported that SAT scores in reading and writing have hit record lows, while this year, the state of New York revealed its new, Common Core-based test results, which found that only 31 percent of its students in third through eighth grade met the standard in language arts.

August 02 2013

Developed By Literacy Experts, Learn With Homer Launches On The iPad To Change How Kids Learn To Read
Stephanie Hua spent the last ten years pushing for educational reform, first as the CEO of the Fund for Public Schools under former Chancellor of New York’s Department of Education, Joel Klein, and Caroline Kennedy, before becoming senior advisor to David Coleman at Student Achievement Partners (SAP). But as much time as she spent as a reformer on “the inside,” when it came time for Dua’s daughter to learn how to read, she struggled to find any quality materials for parents that could help get their kids started on the right path. With the help of former Google engineer Iris Tang, Dua created Learn With Homer, a business and reading app for the iPad of the same name, which launched on the App Store this week. The idea was to transform how kids age 3 to 6 learn how to read, but not just by creating another eBook or cute little game-ified learning app for the iPad. Instead, Dua and Tang wanted to bring together the latest educational research, learning techniques and teaching practices to create a better learning experience for both kids and parents. And one, importantly, that is aligned with the new standards of the Common Core, so that parents have assurance that their kids will start school (or kindergarten) ahead of the curve. To do so, the app blends a whole mess of custom learning content and stories taken from fairy tales, fables, and various mythologies with some killer, custom illustrations and art to make the content more engaging for young eyeballs. Alongside these stories, Learn with Homer includes a phonics program that aims to teach kids how words not only look, but how they sound and how they’re strung together. The motivation, Dua tells us, is to create a “comprehensive literacy program” for the iPad, where kids are not just memorizing words by sight as their parents read to them at bedtime, for example, but actually learning the sounds of the words as they go. The iPad then offers “field trips” that aim to bring the platform’s lessons into the real world by showing pictures of a fun range of animal characters and allowing kids to hear their own voices and words imitate those characters. Parents can also make recordings of their kids during the process, measuring their progress as they move through Learn With Homer’s 30 (free to download) lessons. Parental units can also add

July 10 2013

Coursera Lands $43M From The World Bank, Yuri Milner And More To Go Big On Global And Mobile Growth
It was just over a year ago that Coursera burst onto the higher education landscape with ambitious plans to throw open the doors to America’s top institutions, bring them online and offer an Ivy League-caliber education to the masses for free. Just two months after launch, the Mountain View-based startup put the finishing touches on an impressive $22 million funding round, backed by top venture firms like Kleiner Perkins and NEA as well as two of its university partners, The California Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania. Fast forward to the present, and Coursera continues in the same fashion with which it launched. Having spread across four continents and partnered with 83 of America’s top colleges, Coursera now offers 400 free college-level courses to over four million students around the globe. And today, Coursera is adding a huge new chunk of change to its coffers, announcing that it has closed a $43 million series B financing round from GSV Capital, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the investment arm of the World Bank, Laureate Education, Learn Capital and renowned entrepreneur and investor, Yuri Milner. With this new capital in tow, which brings its total to $65 million, Coursera has big plans ahead. Going forward, co-founder Daphne Koller tells us, the startup plans to begin making a big push internationally, including localization, expand its staff from 50 to 100, bring its platform to mobile devices, continue developing its API, which will third-party developers to build on top of its expanding ecosystem, and continue to add more elite higher ed institutions to its roster. Updating
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