Kno’s website is currently scheduled for maintenance, probably to update its users on the acquisition. According to the blog post on Intel Education’s company blog all content on the platform as well as the existing partnerships with 75 international publishers are part of the deal.
The acquisition of Kno boosts Intel’s global digital content library to more than 225,000 higher education and K-12 titles through existing partnerships with 75 educational publishers. Even more, the Kno platform provides administrators and teachers with the tools they need to easily assign, manage and monitor their digital learning content and assessments.
As the story is still developing I am going to update it as soon as there is more to share. In the meantime you can watch an early interview with Osman Rashid, founder of Kno (also co-founder of Chegg) from back in October 2011.
Emerge Venture Lab launches its Edtech Accelerator in London
On Thursday the team of Emerge Venture Lab opened the doors to their new edtech accelerator program in London. Located at Level 39, the startup hub at the top of London’s Canary Wharf, Emerge Education is now accepting edtech startups for their first class to start in January 2014.
Besides the usual accelerator package of a £15k living stipend, office space (with a view) at Level 39 and business support, Emerge Education wants to offer a highly specialized set of services to the participating education technology startups.
The selected teams will get coached by successful European edtech founders like Bernhard Niesner of busuu, Jan Reichelt of Mendeley and Ben Whatley of Memrise. Emerge Education also provides access to a network of educators and progressive institutions and help with consumer testing and market distribution.
Emerge Education also partnered with Arbor Education which will give the startups access to its data model, enabling them to seamlessly integrate with Arbor’s international customer base of schools.
The deadline for applications to the first class is November 17th.
Veduca, a MOOC platform we covered early on, announced a new seed round by its previous investors Bolt Ventures (formerly Mountain do Brazil), 500 Startups and Macmillan Digital Education (disclosure: Macmillan Digital Education is a supporter of EDUKWEST).
With its recent partnerships Veduca not only offers certificates by top Brazilian universities but also launched the first open online MBA course. If you want to get an overview on the latest developments, I wrote a longer and more detailed piece on Veduca in my weekly column for edCetera.
£29 Aakash to be available in the UK by the end of the year
Datawind’s CEO Suneet Singh Tuli confirmed at Wired 2013 that the company plans to release a £29 tablet in the UK by the end of this year. We have covered the ups and downs of the Aakash project over the years, but it seems as if the most troublesome years are finally over and Datawind is able to keep up with the growing demand in low cost tablet devices.
Rosetta Stone with new app and partnership
Two news items from Rosetta Stone this week. The first one being a strategic relationship with Academic Partnerships, a service provider in the higher education space that helps universities bring their degree programs online. Through this relationship AP can offer English language instruction to its partner universities. Students enrolled in programs at those universities get free access to Rosetta Stone Level 1 and 2 and have the option to receive access to higher levels at a reduced rate.
The basic offer is most likely to be embraced in markets like Brazil. Coming back to Veduca, its CEO Carlos Souza said that only 2% of the population understand English well enough to benefit from free educational resources like video lectures. Hence getting free access to basic English language training might be a compelling offer. If those students then have enough money to pay for the higher levels even at a reduced price is the question yet to answer. All in all, this partnership is probably more of a PR play for Rosetta Stone.
More interesting, to me at least, is the launch of a new mobile learning app by Rosetta Stone called Arcade Academy. Available on iOS devices it’s an edutainment play similar to what we know from startups like MindSnacks which, notably, just launched their first app outside of the language learning space with U.S. Geography.
Other than Rosetta Stone’s first app Kids Lingo Letter Sounds, which is currently #2 in the Kids section of the App Store, Arcade Academy is targeting adults. The app teaches 50 words and sentences in 12 games.
As you have probably noticed, there was no Sunday Review last week due to the preparation of our first EdTech Pitch Battle on Thursday. Therefore, some of the stories are past their official shelf life yet still relevant in my opinion.
remind101 raises $3.5 million – still no business model
remind101 was part of imagineK12’s first batch of startups back in 2011 and already raised a $1 million seed round. I interviewed Brett Kopf, one of the co-founders shortly after the startup left imagineK12 and since then they have attracted 10% of K12 teachers in the US as users who are in contact with over 6 million students and parents.
Like back in 2011 the app is free to use and remind101 is currently more interested in growth than “turning on the revenue” through premium features. One could say this is somewhat a signature strategy by imagineK12, getting a product in as many teachers’ hands as possible to then have a solid basis for negotiations with school districts about paid versions.
Learnist surpasses 1 million users, launches Android app
In our talk Farb and I touched on the importance of second screens, how people might use their tablet devices to launch in-depth learning experiences while watching content on their TVs. We see something similar with Amazon’s Kindle Fire strategy, with a focus on the entertainment sector obviously, as the X-Ray feature gives you more information on movies and actors.
According to TechCrunch Learnist sees some substantial growth in China. Adding an Android app might further drive the adoption of the platform in developing countries.
Educational apps for early learners and preschoolers are a hot market, even with more and more critical voices coming up who doubt that handing a tablet to toddlers is the best of ideas. busuu, which just recently celebrated 20 million app downloads, launched language learning apps for young learners earlier this year.
Academia.edu raises $11.1 million
A couple of months after the Berlin-based science and research social network ResearchGate raised $20 million from Bill Gates and others its closest competitor Academia.edu follows suit with a $11.1 million round led by Khosla Ventures, bringing the total funding raised to $17.8 million. According to TechCrunch, Academia.edu has 4.3 million registered users which would be 1 million more than ResearchGate states on its homepage.
Elance University combines learning and assessment with job search
Elance, one of the biggest platforms for freelance job offers, joined forces with SkilledUp and Smarterer to create a hub where digital workers can not only learn new skills but also get assessment and potential job offers.
SkilledUp is a curation platform that currently has 70k courses from over 300 providers in its database. Curation services like this come in pretty handy, especially since the MOOC hype has added lots of new online courses to the Internet. We had another startup in this space pitch at the EdTech Pitch Battle. SkillAcademy out of Egypt came in second place and has 10k courses listed.
Smarterer brings in the assessment part of Elance University. The Boston-based startup is a crowdsourced assessment platform and wants to kill the classic resume through quizzes and tests that show employers the real skills of a candidate.
Yesterday Duolingo released a new promo video on its YouTube channel. Marketing and feel-good / world-changing agenda aside, the spot has a pretty telling message: Language, free at last. (emphasis mine).
I also just got an email stating that
“Since its launch 15 months ago, Duolingo has reached 10 million students and become the most popular way to learn languages online. No ad campaign, no gimmicks; just your support and a mission of free language education for the world.”
Looking a few years back the premise of language learning startups like Livemocha, busuu and babbel.com was to make language learning more affordable compared to their chosen nemesis Rosetta Stone. Since then Livemocha’s newsletter has turned into a sales channel for Rosetta Stone after the acquisition, promoting RS products at 60% off.
As a funny side note: if you follow the link to Livemocha’s YouTube channel on the bottom of the email, you will still find the legendary Livemocha spot with the (infamous) yellow boxes.
But back to Duolingo. If you talk to folks in the language learning industry you notice that most (all) of them are not happy about the new competitor. How can you compete with a free product that also seems to work quite well according to a study.
What Duolingo does is essentially disrupting the former disrupters or at least establishing itself as the third alternative method. busuu’s success is clearly its global community of language learners and babbel.com has chosen a more technology based approach similar to Rosetta Stone.
Now, of course we all know that there is no free lunch and, to use another catch phrase, if the product is free you are the product. Duolingo is selling this over a call to join a movement, giving your language learning a bigger purpose
“With Duolingo there is no tuition or subscription fee. It’s 100% free. Instead students like us give back by helping to translate websites, news and Wikipedia articles. It gives our personal language learning journeys a bigger purpose.”
I can see why many folks in the space see this storytelling as misleading. In fact Duolingo users are Mechanical Turks but instead of getting paid a couple of cents per task, they get “free” language lessons in return. Sounds good but they should also know how much their work is actually worth and whether language lessons, as good as they might be, are an adequate recompense.
The new spot is definitely a step-up from the first one that was more toned down yet also mentioned the business model behind Duolingo, adding the layer of being part of a global movement to better the world through language learning.
I also think people underestimate the power behind such global communities. Just recently Viki, the online community around translating and adding subtitles to popular TV shows, got acquired by Rakuten. One of the rumored bidders was Google.
Since I first heard about Duolingo and its concept I was pretty sure that the startup is one of the upcoming acquisitions by Google. Not only did Google acquire Luis von Ahn’s first startup reCAPTCHA but if Duolingo can prove that a global community can offer nearly instant translation of every web page, Google just has to write that check as it perfectly fits the overall strategy that we can see with Google Glass, Google Translate and other related services.
And if you think about it, von Ahn also took a site out of Google’s playbook in terms of the business model. Give the users a great service for free and make money based on their data and content.
This week busuu made the news having achieved 20 million downloads. And while this surely is a nice number we all (should) know that vanity numbers alone don’t say anything about your business. Just ask Livemocha. Luckily busuu has more to offer than the glitzy baits that get you on TechCrunch.
If you look deeper into the press release you should notice something that is far more interesting.
The general shift to mobile learning is further demonstrated by the fact that busuu users now complete 33% more exercises via the app than online.
There has been written a lot about learning sprints and mobile learners but having hard data to prove that people are actually learning and completing tasks on their mobile devices is pretty fascinating.
If you take the time and look at people during their commute in public transport you will notice that over the years the number of people looking down on a smartphone of some sort has risen dramatically. It has become a somewhat personal zone of privacy in an increasingly noisy and hectic environment. And this is what makes it perfect for learning sprints.
You know exactly how much time you’ll have to spend and frankly, there is nothing much you could do otherwise. I mean talking to people? Come on. Hence people either check their email; social media or catch up with the latest news. And while some people add a round of Words with Friends (is this still a thing?) or any other popular mobile game, some actually use this time bubble to learn a language.
It really is a perfect learning environment. Nothing that may distract you and a fixed amount of time to complete a task. When you are doing the same thing at home in front of your computer, a lot can and will happen to interrupt the learning from spouses to children and pets. But don’t write off learning on a computer just yet.
I asked busuu’s co-founder and CEO Bernhard Niesner whether there was a difference in the time people spend learning on mobile devices compared to computers and he told me that the session time on a computer is twice as high than on mobile devices. On the other hand, busuu now has more users that learn with its mobile products.
Learners now can also further personalize their learning experience by setting their own goals. Niesner told me that for now most users choose the beginner levels which might indicate that people find language learning more entertaining when they are not drilled too hard.
This of course leads to the inevitable question of how serious most people are about learning a foreign language and what most learners feel is good enough, but I guess this has always been the case. For the vast majority language learning was a tedious task. Now startups like bussu, babbel.com, MindSnacks and others turned the basics into an enjoyable, game like experience.
More serious learners will always go deeper and probably prefer learning on a computer where it is easier to type, interact with more complex tasks or set up a video call with a language partner. Mobile learning is an essential part of the overall process, it can be an “entry drug” but for now it won’t replace the web based experience.
EDUKWEST in partnership with Macmillan Digital Education is going to host the first EdTech Pitch Battle on Thursday, September 26th at 6pm BST | 7pm CEST.
The event is going to be streamed live via Google Hangouts on Air, EDUKWEST’s YouTube channel, EDUKWEST and EDUKWEST Europe.
Five education technology startups from across Europe and the Middle East are going to pitch a panel that is made up of one leading edtech blogger, one seasoned edtech entrepreneur and one edtech investor. The event is moderated by Kirsten Winkler, editor-in-chief of EDUKWEST.
The Twitter hashtag for the first EdTech Pitch Battle is #EPB01
The pitch battle starts with the 60 seconds elevator pitches of all contestants. After the jury listened to all the pitches, the jurors are invited to ask further questions to clarify certain aspects of the product or service.
After this Q&A session the judges allocate their points. The panel votes on two aspects, pitch and the startup’s potential to make an impact in its market. Each judge can allocate 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points to the contestants per aspect. The startup with the most points wins the pitch battle.
The live audience on YouTube and social media is also invited to vote for their favorite startup. After the pitches and Q&A EDUKWEST is going to share the link to a poll. The startup with the most votes here wins the Audience Choice Award of the EdTech Pitch Battle.
Startups that get my attention are companies creating tools that help students create videos/ podcasts/ and interactive media.
Richard Byrne is best known in the educational technology community for his award-winning blog Free Technology for Teachers. On a daily basis Richard’s blog Free Technology for Teachers reaches a subscriber base of more than 57,000 educators.
In addition to writing Free Technology for Teachers, Richard also maintains iPad Apps for School, Android for Schools, and PracticalEdTech.com. Richard’s printed work includes a monthly column for School Library Journal, contributing author to What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media, and columns for Teacher Librarian.
Richard has been invited to speak at conferences and at schools across North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Richard’s work is focused on helping teachers effectively use free technology resources in their classrooms.
I’m particularly interested in companies that are leveraging the mobile/social web to re-imagine the online learning experience as something engaging, connected, and transformative. For me that begins with innovative thinking about content, instructional design, and UX.
Matt leads content design/production, business development, strategy and sales at Nomadic Learning. Most recently the CEO of 50Lessons, one of the industry’s leading providers of business education content, Matt led the successful turnaround and subsequent sale of the business to SkillSoft, the world’s largest corporate e-Learning company.
At 50Lessons Matt formed close relationships with partners like The Economist, the University of Phoenix, Harvard Business Publishing and many of the other leading names in business education.
Before this Matt spent 7 years in China working in various media and education ventures, including as CEO of an AIM-Listed company.Matt is a fluent Mandarin speaker, a curriculum designer, and a graduate of Washington University in St Louis.
Frank Bonsal III has twenty-five years experience advancing efficacy, innovation and productivity in and around education and the knowledge economy.Frank is a Venture Partner with New Markets Venture Partners, which he joined in 2007 and where his focus is on early stage investments in education technology and service companies.
As a long term Partner with Bonsal Capital, and through his role at New Markets, Frank has invested in over twenty private education companies throughout the U.S.
On behalf of New Markets, Frank is currently the Board Director at Calvert Education, Questar Assessment and Think Through Learning, and a Board Observer at BetterLesson, Kickboard, PresenceLearning and Starfish Retention Solutions, and previously with Moodlerooms.
I am interested in edtech start-ups that provide solutions for problems that exist today. Technology can achieve many wonderous things but in order to create a business we need to solve the real problems we face at the moment.
After a short spell as a journalist, Charles joined in 1991 a then small venture capital group called Apax Partners. Over the next 8 years, he helped build the company’s investment banking media franchise and becoming, at the age of 29, the company’s youngest director. Apax Partners today is one of the world’s leading private equity fund managers with a significant presence in the media sector.
In 1998, Charles, together with other colleagues, spun off the investment banking business of Apax Partners to form a new group called Altium Capital. As the Managing Director responsible for European Media, he helped with international expansion of the group across 7 countries. Following this expansion, Altium Capital was successfully sold to a German financial services group.
In 2003, Charles decided to set up his own firm IBIS Capital together with a highly regarded Citibank media equity analyst called David Forster. IBIS Capital has been built over the last 10 years into a specialist media investment and advisory business spanning investment banking, venture capital and hedge fund management.
Charles is CEO of IBIS Capital’s investment banking operations and a senior partner in the venture capital division. In 2013, Charles co-founded and launched EdTech Europe an annual European summit for the companies and investors involved in the European e-Learning market.
Flooved saves students money by providing free, interactive and social eTextbooks in Maths and Physics written by some of the worlds best professors. In addition to being 100% free, our reading experience offers shared annotations and Q&A features (all enabling Latex!), helping students engage with their content and giving them that edge to succeed.
Linguistadores offers more relevant language learning: real-life content targeted to the users’ interest and proficiency level. Users learn by reading today’s news, watching popular videos and listening to latest songs. Linguistadores’ adaptive, student-centered approach is enabled by computational linguistics technology and can be integrated with any course curriculum.
SkillAcademy, is an online learning management system for corporates, NGOs, and other organizations helping them develop their people and community using existing MOOCs. Organizations plug-n-play a university-size e-learning platform with 10,000 courses and start to mix-n-match them in “skillcamps,” which are then sent to target trainees based on job role, seniority level, or project type.
TheHubEdu is a collaborative workspace for instructors and students to organize, share and discuss course resources both within and beyond classroom walls. Create public, private and community shelves of digital learning resources and share with others. It’s really that simple.
Launched in January 2013, WikiBrains is a quickly growing community where students learn faster, smarter, together. Their patent-pending technology leverages the wisdom of crowds to create a learning environment that’s powered by the collective curiosity. And it all starts with brainstorms.
The first time I heard about Viki was when Darien Brown, back then co-founder of YongoPal, told me about the startup off the record. That must have been in 2010 or maybe 2011, a long time ago if you count in startup years.
Back then, they were working on the angel round with Dave McClure’s 500 Startups and Darien said that this would be huge. Actually Viki already was kind of huge back then, showing tremendous community growth.
Viki is a great example for the power of communities around shared interest and content. Users spending hours on the platform to translate TV shows and other videos including time tagging the subtitles. Of course, there are also users who take care of quality control etc – all non-paid work. The return is basically the work of the other users and Viki’s growing library of content.
We wrote a review of the site over on Fair Languages if you want to dive deeper into the process of translating South Korean soap operas.
From the business point of view Viki is probably one of the startups that followed the rule “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission”. Instead of trying to make deals with the content owners from the start, Viki proved that they could add value by offering crowdsourced translation services based on (probably illegal) content on the Internet. Thanks to Viki’s huge community the platform can now offer translation services not only at a competitive price but also in a short period of time.
It is hard to say what Rakuten is going to do with the platform and its community but the power of such a global network of unpaid translators is pretty disruptive. So it’s no surprise that Google was among the potential bidders though I predict that Duolingo is their acquisition target.
Here is another reason why some people don’t want physical textbooks to go away: you can make some nice cash on the side. Students have sold their used textbooks to the next generation for decades, something that won’t be possible with digital textbooks as most models now involve time limited rental and DRM.
But that’s not the story of the week. Between 2008 and 2010 at least four school districts in Los Angeles were victims of a group of school librarians, office technicians, a campus supervisor and others who sneaked out textbooks only to then resell them to the schools they originally came from in some cases. All in all the group cashed in around $200.000 before they got caught. Corey Frederick, a “businessman” and the mastermind behind the scheme now faces 19 years in prison.
In other textbook news 9to5Mac reports that iOS 7 is going to feature textbooks in the iBooks store. Lately, there have been quite some reports on how people use their smartphones and interestingly more people read books on phones than tablets. So adding textbooks to the mix makes sense, I guess. End of July digital textbook platform Inkling debuted their iPhone app.
The Socratic Labs Soap Opera
Last but not least, I want to talk briefly about the Socratic Lab train wreck that played out over the week. If you are into this kind of stuff (I admit that I have enjoyed the drama quite a bit) you should definitely go back and read the post that started it all on David Cohen’s blog.
Here is a short rundown of the events. Cohen published an anonymous email in which a founder describes his/her horrible experiences in another incubator in juicy details. Although Cohen said he took out all the identifying content of the email it took the Internet basically no time at all to identify the accelerator in question, New York based Socratic Labs, the awefull director, Heather Gilchrist and the anonymous founder, Julian Miller of Learnmetrics. The story was so effed-up, it even made it on Valleywag.
Now there is of course a lot of he-said-she-said and I cannot judge who is right, who is wrong and what actually happened at Socratic Labs. But one thing’s for sure: this is a clear sign of an edtech incubator bubble.
Very much like many startup companies, Socratic has been a “lean startup.”
I think, this mindset is a recipe for disaster and comes close to the saying “The blind leading the blind”. Sure, another saying tells you that it is enough to be the smartest person in the room but in this situation that was clearly not the case, at least not for Julian Miller.
You cannot run such a program coming from a startup and simply hope for the best. At this part of the post I wanted to point out that Socratic Labs could possibly learn something about web design from their incubated startups etc, but interestingly the website now redirects to Socratic’s much better looking Angellist profile. A pun lost.
I am sure that this won’t be the last story about the rapidly growing accelerator and incubator scene. Places are limited in the established programs while the number of edtech founders is growing.
Udacity’s Thrun is close to creating Magic Formula
This week Udacity and San Jose State University shared the data behind their summer pilot program which indicate that student’s pass rates have improved. Compared with the spring pilot program students who scored a C or better were up whereas retention went down due to more flexibility offered to students who wanted to drop out.
According to SJSU and Udacity, key factors for this increased performance were the addition of more staff in the summer pilot, a new pacing methodology that warns students about poor performance and more time with the professors.
Since SJSU suspended another pilot program with Udacity due to low student performance, Thrun and his startup have taken in a lot of criticism. In a recent interview Thrun stated that he and his team are now close to a magic formula that will enable Udacity to build
“an online version of education that really works, that has great retention, great outcomes of education and really reaches people — not just the world’s most motivated 1% — but can be made to work for many more people.”
Thrun touches on an important point here. Self-guided or motivated learning is clearly not for everyone. I am sure that it is more than 1% who can succeed in this form of learning but clearly most learners need other forms of guidance and motivation along the way. Building a system that works for all learners is a hard nut to crack and if Thrun really succeeds it indeed would be a game changer.
What surprises me a bit though is the underlying notion that these findings were new or even revolutionary as the term ‘magic formula’ might suggest. Distance learning in its various forms has been in place for some 20 years, data and research about motivation, student retention and the challenges of online only exist already. (But I guess that not how it’s done.)
Of course, Internet rule number 1 applies: everything you put on the Internet is public by default, especially on social networks. Hence the district and Geo Listening are not spying but harvesting and processing publicly available data points to draw their conclusions. Apparently, they were already able to prevent one suicide in a pilot program initiated directly after the suicide which resulted in the lawsuit by the parents.
The idea is to stay one step ahead of students but I predict that kids and teenagers will eventually find ways to circumvent the tracking, either by using other ways of communication or by encrypting their messages.
I also think that the narrative is totally wrong and that parents if anyone should be obliged to track their children on the Internet, not the school. When the duties of the education system now extend into students’ private lives, they could also move in directly, no need to stay with the parents anymore. But that rant is for my personal blog. Moving right along.
Speakaboos raises $6.2 million Series A
According to TechCrunch Speakaboos, a startup that creates interactive storybooks for children raised $6.2 million from a group of different investors. Speakaboos offers a subscription service that offers access to over 150 children books by publishers like The Jim Henson Company, Pearson, Dr. Seuss, Penguin, Charlesbridge, Abrams and independent authors.
The stories offer different ways of interaction, children can read along with the narrator, interact and play with characters and choose their preferred topics from princesses to monsters.
As this Sunday Review started with data points, here are some from Speakaboos: children read an average of 40 books per month, spend 3 hours reading and complete 85% of books they started. On the other hand, 75% of parents or schools that subscribed for the service are retaining their subscriptions at the end of 12 months. Schools can purchase bundled licences based on the number of students.
All in all, pretty impressive numbers showing that reading is not dead and that tablets are the perfect devices for this kind of “edutainment”.
Catching up with one of the companies I covered in the early days, I learnt that Inigral went through some changes. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the name Inigral both in terms of the association I had with it and the accentuation. From what I’ve heard I wasn’t the only one. Those days have come to an end as Inigral just rebranded itself as Uversity which is a more catchy name.
That said, I immediately thought of the team at Iversity and how they might receive the name change. You must admit, it is pretty similar and both companies are in the higher education space. Well, as American companies tend to think very US-centric, a possible confusion of Uversity with Iversity probably went unnoticed or unresearched.
More importantly, Facebook seems to prove not viable for edtech startups, again. Uversity formerly Inigral was until now probably best known for its Schools App, an application based on the Facebook infrastructure, that allowed students to create private spaces within the social network.
Another failed attempt to build an app around college admissions with the aim to leverage Facebook was Acceptly and we also reported on the acquihire of Hoot.Me by Civitas Learning, an app that claimed to turn Facebook into studymode. The latter seems to still exist within Civitas’ portfolio, though.
Uversity recently released and iOS and Android app which is a clear sign of a push for more independence and less reliance on big players that might enter your space and eat your lunch. Though the launch of Facebook’s Groups for Schools did not have an effect on Inigral’s business according to edSurge it must have triggered the thought process that led to the new strategy. And LinkedIn’s recent launch of University Pages surely confirms the decision.
As I pointed out in an article on my personal blog, if you play in someone else’s sandbox you’re not in control and rules may change at any moment without prior notice, especially if the vertical you are in proves itself to be profitable. The big players and generalists that feel that they have reached their natural growth limit for now are increasingly looking for new ways to keep existing users through adding new features besides their efforts to tap into new markets like Google is trying with Project Loon or Facebook and others with Internet.org.
Therefore, smaller players like Uversity need to go more niche and offer services big players can’t. This has also altered Uversity’s message and what they promise colleges and universities to do.
Whereas Inigral’s message was centered around social factors such as getting to know new people and making new connections even before meeting those on campus, Uversity’s message has become much more business oriented.
In times of budget cuts, student debt and increased competition from online alternatives, Uversity now sees itself as a tool that can help colleges and universities to market themselves to high school students who are still indecisive and to subsequently convince these to choose their institution over their competitors. Inigral’s offering was built on top of already admitted students to help colleges and universities with engagement, communities and retention and it attracted 140 institutions who paid the startup between $10.000 to $50.000 per year to use Schools App.
The new UChat product now probably aims at colleges that could not or did not want to commit to a five figure product. UChat is a widget that enables prospective students to chat with admission officers, students on campus or alumni. The chat partners are connected based on common interests, hobbies and majors and the aim is to gather data to make predictions on how many students are likely to enroll.
Uversity should also have some money left in the bank as it raised a total of around $10 million from a variety of funds including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. If you do some back of the envelope math, Inigral must have had between $1.4 and $7 million in revenue based on the number of partner institutions.
If you are interested in hearing what motivated the Gates Foundation to invest in Inigral, you will get the answers in my interview with Michael Staton, co-founder and former CEO of the company.
NoRedInk raises $2 million, postpones Business Model
NoRedInk, another teacher founded startup in the K-12 space, announced that it raised $2 million from Google Ventures, Social+Capital, Learn Capital, Charles River Ventures, NewSchools Venture Fund and others, or in short “the usual suspects”. The web based app helps students to work on their spelling and grammar.
Right from the start NoRedInk received some really positive reviews and has gained good traction. According to edsurge about 12.000 schools are using NoRedInk, already. Of course, the product comes as a free version but before the funding round there have been plans to charge schools $10 per student for a premium version of NoRedInk.
Those plans are now buried. NoRedInk’s founder Jeff Scheuer wrote the schools on the waiting list that they weren’t in need of their money thanks to the funding round. “Our investors want to see engagement” Scheuer told edsurge.
So once again we have a startup that drops revenue for growth. Over the past two weeks we wrote about two startups in edtech that got acquired due to a missing business model. If a NoRedInk had hundreds of schools on the waiting list for the premium offering we are talking about enough money to bootstrap the startup and grow without the need of external funding. If we estimate 200 schools with 150 students each were interested in a premium offer we would talk about $300.000 in revenue.
But I suppose that the game plan now is to grab as much market share as possible through offering the service for free, raise another round at the end of 2013 or early 2014 and then either “switch on” revenue or get acquired. As Audrey Watters tweeted
The Dutch O4NT (Education for a New Era) Foundation has launched its first seven Steve JobsSchools. As the name implies Apple products play a major role in the classroom. In fact the Steve JobsSchools are among the first with a 1:1 student to iPad ratio.
But reducing those schools to just the devices would not be fair as O4NT created a whole new teaching approach around the technology empowered classrooms. The Steve JobsSchools have no fixed schedule and are more a hub for learning activities. Children learn together in broader age groups and they can meet to play or learn all day.
Special software like the iDesk Learning Tracker which allows parents to follow their children’s progress or sCoolSpace, a virtual reality meeting application are also part of the program. Students also need to keep track of their learning with TikTik sCoolTool.
Betterfly and Google Helpouts – Canaries in the Coalmine?
It has been quite some time since I last wrote about startups in the online live video lesson space. After an initial hype five years ago no one seemed to be keen on tackling this vertical anymore. To the contrary, we saw edtech startups like Skillshare that explicitly pointed out the value of learning in the real world. But recently more and more startups offer live video lessons again, like InstaEDU that just raised $4 million for their tutor cloud. And even Skillshare added an online component.
Betterfly, another startup in the lifelong learning space that originally connected students and tutors for real life lessons has now pivoted its business into an online learning platform after raising an additional $1 million. Based on what the Betterfly team noticed on the platform, there is a clear shift of professionals moving their teaching to Skype or other VoIP services.
And even Google is interested in that space. Based on the Google Hangout infrastructure, Google Helpouts are going to enable experts to charge for their advice through Google Wallet. The service is still in closed beta but you can already subscribe to get notified when Google Helpouts go live.