Tag Archives: funding

InstaEDU

A Tutor Cloud in a MOOC World – InstaEDU raises $4 million

InstaEDU

Back in March 2011 I wrote about the concept of a 24/7 teacher cloud that would allow learners to take instant lessons with educators at any time of the day. The obvious issue with such a service is, needless to say, scale as you need to make sure that enough teachers are actually connected at any given time.

InstaEDU seems to have cracked that task in a couple of verticals and therefore raised $4 million Series A led by Battery Ventures with participation of The Social+Capital Partnership who led InstaEDU’s $1.1 million Seed Round.

From the outside it seems that InstaEDU is actually building its startup against the stream. In times where the focus is set on self directed learning and learning sprints, InstaEDU grows 50% month over month by offering virtual 1:1 tutoring with an average session length of one hour.

Back in 2012 InstaEDU sold its offline branch Cardinal Scholars to Course Hero, another startup in the education space. The growth InstaEDU has shown since doubling down on virtual tutoring seems to confirm that decision.

Like every online teaching marketplace since the days of eduFire or WizIQ, InstaEDU features a full blown virtual classroom with interactive whiteboard and what have you. But to me the killer feature of InstaEDU is the estimated waiting time. According to the site, students have to wait less than 30 seconds on average to be connected to one of the 3000+ tutors which is really impressive.

I just wrote briefly about Hoot.Me which followed a similar approach by connecting learners and tutors via Facebook, turning the social network into study mode. The team just joined Civitas Learning with the aim to develop new features that help to decrease dropout rates based on data analysis. So flesh and blood tutors still have a niche in a world that moves towards adaptive learning.

The additional funding is planned to be used for a nonprofit branch, mobile applications and global expansion.

I had the chance to ask Alison Johnston Rue, CEO and co-founder of InstaEDU some questions which you find below.

KW: With education currently going towards more asynchronous, self paced learning options like MOOCs, InstaEDU seems to go against the trend. Yet you managed to grow month over month. What is the place of 1:1 tutoring in online education?

AJR: With MOOCs, academic content is easily scaled from one professor to thousands of students at once — which is pretty phenomenal. However, if you’ve been following the news about MOOCs, the numbers aren’t always encouraging. Most courses only have a 10 percent completion rate and San Jose State recently suspended a pilot program with Udacity after less than half of the students participating in the program passed the final.

So what does this all have to do with InstaEDU? We believe that scaling one-on-one academic support is just as important as scaling the one-to-one-thousand lecture hall experience. The conversations you have with your TA, study sessions you have in the library and late night homework help from roommates about the next day’s problem set are all critical to the learning process. Online learning platforms will need to replicate these relationships in order to be successful.

KW: Your tutors earn $20/h. Can you give us an idea of what the top tutors on InstaEDU earn per month?

AJR: The average active tutor on InstaEDU makes $70/week. And some of our more active tutors are making hundreds — even thousands — of dollars every month.

KW: In the press release you mention global expansion. What are your first target markets and do you think the same model is going to work in Europe or Asia? How are you going to make sure that students outside the US have the same choice and low waiting time?

AJR: We’ve already started recruiting tutors from top schools in Singapore, the UK, and Australia – places where English is the first language. This helps us meet our promise of having tutors available 24/7, and we also have some very active students in those areas. Part of this funding will allow us to more aggressively expand in those countries and a few others. Our site isn’t yet localized, so at this time we’re primarily focused on English-speaking countries.

KW: Your most popular subjects are computer science, statistics and calculus. We see a similar trend at learning platforms like Udemy on which courses around tech subjects are the most popular. Do you think that learners in those subject matters are more tech-affine than those who study liberal arts?

AJR: While computer science majors are probably more tech-savvy than, say, English majors as a group, the same STEM focus exists in offline tutoring, so I don’t see that as the primary driver. In most cases, it’s just more obvious when you need a hand with math or science. If you have a calculus assignment that you don’t understand, often you can’t even get started. In contrast, students who don’t really understand an English assignment can often muddle their way through it, without really knowing how good (or bad) their work is. In short, any subject in which a student has to seek out a “right” answer is one where it’s going to be more obvious that extra help is needed.

EDUKWEST Sunday Review

Sunday Review: Grockit sells to Kaplan, Voxy raises $8.5m and Hoot.Me joins Civitas Learning

EDUKWEST Sunday Review

Grockit brand and technology sold to Kaplan, team rebrands to Learnist

The writing was somewhat on the wall for a while as Farbood Nivi, founder and CEO of Grockit made clear that the focus of the team had shifted from the test prep platform towards their new product Learnist. Farb and I talked about this in January during our EDUKWEST interview.

Back then he stated that though Grockit was still a very good business he felt that he and the team had achieved pretty much achieved they could do with the startup and that Learnist was far more exciting and had a big potential as a key player in the lifelong learning space. I also imagine it to be pretty difficult to have two totally different products under one roof, as Learnist up to the deal with Kaplan was basically just a product within Grockit, not a startup of its own.

The acquisition of the Grockit brand and technology by Kaplan and the rebranding of the team to Learnist once again shows that Farb is one of the smartest founders in edtech today. It’s a win-win for all sides involved. Kaplan gets a great brand, product and potentially nice group of customers, Farb and the team can now go all in with Learnist with some extra cash in the warchest. Though the details of the deal have not been made public, Farb told AllThingsD that

“Selling Grockit gives us considerable runway without any dilution of shares.”

The interesting part now is whether Kaplan will be able to integrate Grockit into its business and build on the brand. I don’t know how much about the strategy is out there already, but I can say that the “product owner” of Grockit is going to be a familiar face to the EDUKWEST audience. As soon as he has settled into the new role, we are going to have him back for a talk.

Voxy raises $8.5 million from Pearson and Rethink Education

If people ask me about interesting companies in the mobile education space, Voxy is definitely among the names I mention. Paul Gollash and his team have built one of the best mobile experiences in the language learning space, leveraging technology and content in a way that actually make sense.

If you want to know how it all started, I did an interview with Paul just after his first appearance at TechCrunch50.

The latest Series B round led by Pearson brings the total funding to $16.5 million according to CrunchBase. Pearson is planning to integrate Voxy’s technology into its own products for English learners across the globe.

Which leaves us with two questions.

1. Are mobile learning startups FNACs (feature, not a company)?
2. When is Pearson going to acquire Voxy?

To the first question, right now there are not many examples of startups in the mobile space that have managed to create a huge company compared to classic web based companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google etc. Sure, the future is mobile, no doubt about it, but if you take a look at Instagram which built up a huge audience you also see that it ended up as being a part (feature) of Facebook. Vine and Twitter is another example and Rovio is probably the only startup at the moment that made an impact comparable to web startups.

So there is the question if Voxy (or any other mobile first learning startup) is going to be big enough to stand on their own or whether they all end up being part of an established player that has a larger footprint throughout different verticals like publishing, physical schools etc.

Which takes us to the second question. Investing in a startup to later acquire it is a strategy we have seen quite often with Pearson. I would say depending on the acceptance of Voxy among the Pearson audience and the general performance I give Voxy a maximum of three years as an independent startup.

Hoot.Me joins Civitas Learning

I learned about this “acquihire” through a LinkedIn update by Hoot.me founder Michael Koetting who now is product manager at Civitas Learning. There are no terms disclosed but Michael told me via email that

Hoot.Me is now part of Civitas Learning and will continue to be fully supported.

Michael and his co-founders created Hoot.Me after they were not able to get answers to difficult questions in their massive college seminar classes. Over the years more than a million interactions took place on the platform and as more and more colleges and universities jump on the MOOC bandwagon, real interactions with real people could be a key success factor for many students.

Civitas Learning just raised $8.5 million in June for its data driven platform that aims to reduce dropout rates through predictive technology.

internmatch.com

Rock Climbing and Other Challenges in Growing InternMatch.com from Three to Ten Employees

internmatch.com

InternMatch.com is dedicated to helping companies hire interns and helping students find amazing internships.  I started it with my friend and co-founder Andrew Maguire, in May of 2009, and since we have participated in 500 Startups, grown to serving over 500,000 students a month, and recently raised $1.2 million from top investors.

The experience has been one of the most rewarding of my life, particularly when we receive emails like one we got last month from an Argentinian student who learned everything he now knows about applying to jobs in the US from our site, and got his first ever internship on InternMatch.

The experience has also been one of the most challenging.  Elon Musk, one of my favorite entrepreneurs, compares starting a company to “Staring Death in the Face.”  Likewise, one of my favorite talks from Dave McClure was at Seattle’s Startup Day on why not to start a company, because it is hard, and you will likely lose your money, girlfriend, looks, and more in the process.  While both statements are dramatic, the fact is that few things are as challenging as starting a company.

One of things that surprised me though, is that while I anticipated a number of the early challenges of starting our company (certainly not all), I neglected to think about all the new and difficult tasks that emerge quickly as the company grows.  I am rock climber and compare this to the short sightedness of reading a route.  Usually before a climb, good climbers look up and down the rock wall trying to piece together their future moves and determine what parts will likely be the hardest to navigate.  Newer climbers tend to only look at the first few moves assuming they will figure the rest out as they go.  If you only read the first half of the wall it’s easy to get worn out or stuck halfway up.  So on this piece, I wanted to share some of our growth stage challenges, so that other edtech entrepreneurs on Edukwest can better anticipate future challenges and avoid getting stuck.

The Importance of Team.

When we were first starting InternMatch managing our team was easy.  Andrew and I had known each other for ages and we worked and lived in a small 2-bed room house in Seattle.  As we grew from two people to nine, so did the responsibilities of the team.  Bringing together a diverse and talented team who were as ambitious and passionate about the problem we were solving as we are, turned out to be an enormous task.

I now believe that finding people who fit your culture and team is one of the most important determiners of startup success and something that gets defined by employees 4-10, not employees 1-3.  Cultural fit is something that is incredibly hard to define and even harder to make a hiring decision on when you need good people fast.  However, messing this up can turn your office into a place you no longer enjoy working as happened to Tony Hsieh at Link Exchange or cause your team to be out of sync and fail.

After investing heavily into the hiring process, I am happy to say our team is one of the key reasons why coming into work every day and solving tough challenges is so much fun.

It Gets Harder.

When first starting InternMatch I expected that going from zero to our first funding would be the hardest part of the company.  Ultimately, that was not the case.  While challenge abounds in convincing smart people and early investors that your unknown startup has the legs to change the world, the challenge of building upon that success to get continued growth and recognition within an industry is harder.

As you dig into any new space, you realize the channels for large-scale expansion are busier, more expensive, and require more creativity and risk-taking than your early channels did.  If you like challenge then this stage of a company is even more fun, but don’t expect your startup to ever get easier.

Time Management and Giving Back.

Similar to the point above before starting a company I also used to think that after hitting critical benchmarks more breathing room would become available, which would open up my time to give back to the community, other entrepreneurs, and friends who helped our company succeed.  Instead, as teams get larger it becomes even more important to focus action and energy on critical goals and free time becomes scarcer.

Ultimately, the average startup takes 7 years to succeed (if it lucky enough to get that far), so if you haven’t done so already, you need to set priorities on what matters to you (family, friends, personal health, giving back?) because if you don’t it won’t make it onto your schedule.

I remember writing recommendations for Nathan Whitson, one of our first ever interns, who was applying for jobs at Yelp and Amazon (and landed one) at 2 in the morning.  I remember doing likewise for another of our interns, Tara Seshan, who was applying for the Theil Fellowship (and got in!) at 2 in the morning another night.  While, I am confident they both would have gotten the roles without any of my help, giving back to the entrepreneurial and student community is an important aspect of starting a company in my mind and something I would have neglected had advisors not been upfront in telling me that telling yourself that you will find time for personal priorities later, is not a viable option.

What’s next?

Despite the challenges InternMatch continues to grow rapidly and I could not be more excited for the future.  Here are two big milestones I am excited about heading into 2013.

Creating a better internship ecosystem.

We built InternMatch as a social enterprise, looking to help students gain access to great internships regardless of connections.  While we have always been passionate about helping students, now with thousands of companies using our site we have found another avenue for social impact—encouraging employers to build more in-depth internship programs and starting a movement away from unpaid interns.

Out of all our employer guides, I am most excited about our recently launched internship compensation ebook, which helps explain the benefits of paying interns in terms of both applicant quality and volume.   In the near future we hope to bring the benefits of paying interns to a national spotlight as well as better reward companies on our site for making this choice.

Launching Entry-Level Roles.

What I am most excited about in 2013 is expanding out platform to also include entry-level jobs.  When we started InternMatch 3 years ago we knew that internships are a huge need for students.  In fact, over 80% of students complete an internship before graduating and yet three years ago few resources existed to help them on this front.  That said, the movement to offering entry-level jobs is something that students and employers both pushed us towards.

For employers, internship programs are often built as a tool to evaluate and hire full-time employees.  For students, taking on internships is the number one way to transition into the professional world.  For all these reasons it is exciting to build tools and resources that help guide both parties along this critical next step and to take all the data, recommendation insights, and more we developed in the internship space to make a word class product for entry-level jobs.

review:ed #28

review:ed #28 A Look Back on 2012 and 2013 Predictions

review:ed #28

In this episode of review:ed Chris and Kirsten talk about the big stories in 2012 and give their predictions on how the edtech space might evolve in 2013.

Of course they talk about MOOCs and anti-MOOCs, Pearson, funding, the edtech bubble, textbooks, the flipped classroom, Khan, crowdfunding and much more.

Subscribe to review:ed Subscribe to review:ed Video via RSS Subscribe to review:ed Audio via RSS Subscribe to review:ed Audio via iTunes
Download Episode Download Episode Video Download Episode Audio
PlayPlay
Udemy

The Winner takes it all? Udemy raises $12 million

Udemy

About a year after their $3 million Series A round Udemy announced the completion of a $12 million Series B round earlier today. This round brings the total funding to $16 million.

One might argue that this is a sign of times given to the hype of MOOCs and the big rounds Udacity, Coursera and edX received right from the start. But we must not forget that up to this point the team at Udemy has been pretty clever about spending their funding, investing in people and their product.

And, probably even more important, Udemy is generating revenue for itself and the experts who publish their courses on the platform. Back in May Udemy shared that its top 10 instructors collectively earned more than $1.6 million and in November we learned that 25% of all approved teachers on the platform earn $10k or more.

I always like to point out that Udemy is clearly a niche service at the moment and that most of this revenue is probably tied to a tech audience that knows it needs to invest in critical skills like coding, design or social media skills in order to get better jobs. I am not sure if the same success can be recreated in other verticals like let’s say language learning or more classic topics like business administration.

And that’s what Udemy and its new COO Dennis Yang are now going to test, I suppose. According to the press release, which you can find below, Udemy is planning to expand the range and types of its content offerings as well as expanding across new platforms. Udemy just released an iPad app and I am pretty sure that Android and Windows 8 apps will follow, soon.

For a dash of nostalgia, here is my interview with Gagan Biyani, co-founder of Udemy who took care of business development and PR in the very early days of Udemy.

It’s kind of sad that the early stories of hustling tend to fade away in the burning light of VC investment announcements. Who remembers that the Udemy team and some interns spent the whole summer vacation to curate and catalog tons of free video lectures in order to offer people something to learn on the platform?

But that’s exactly what made Udemy into what it is today. The hustle and the initial content the team put on the platform. There were enough other players in the space before Udemy started, yet they seem to be the winners in the race for now.

Press Release

Udemy, the leading online education marketplace, today announced the completion of a $12 million Series B financing round led by Insight Venture Partners, with additional support from existing investors Lightbank and MHS Capital, bringing Udemy’s total funding to $16 million The new capital will be used primarily for expanding the range and types of Udemy’s content offerings as well as extending the content catalog across new platforms. Udemy will continue to bring on the best content from the world’s leading experts, publishers and universities. In addition, the company announced the hiring of Dennis Yang as president and chief operating officer.

Launched in early 2010, Udemy is democratizing education by making top-quality content from the world’s experts dramatically more affordable for anyone, anywhere. The site currently offers over 5,000 courses – with over 400 courses added in October 2012 alone – covering a wide range of subjects, including professional, business, technical, academic, creative and lifestyle. Courses are delivered on demand, so adult learners in particular can take them at their own pace when and where it is convenient for them. Those teaching via Udemy are able to build a curriculum based on videos, slide presentations, PDFs, documents, articles, links, photos and live conferences with their students.

Yang, who previously served as executive advisor to a number of start-ups and held leadership roles with 4INFO and Good Technology, will lead Udemy’s business and operations-related activities, working closely with chief executive officer and co-founder Eren Bali.

“Our marketplace model has allowed us to double our course offerings in just 12 months, grow our user base to over 500,000 students, and increase our revenue 400% over last year,” noted Yang. “Udemy is already a top destination for online learning. This round of funding will allow us to continue to build the most amazing and unique content library in the world, expand our content and platform offerings and capitalize on the disruptive market dynamics of MOOCs and other online learning platforms.”

The Series B investment is Udemy’s third round of financing, having previously raised $3 million in October 2011 and $1 million in August 2010. The company recently announced a strategic partnership with The Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University to offer online leadership development solutions, and last month launched an iPad app, making its content even more accessible to students who want to learn anytime, anywhere. In May 2012, Udemy reported that its top 10 instructors collectively earned over $1.6 million.

review:ed Audio Podcast

review:ed #25 Money in the Ed Game (Audio)

review:ed Audio Podcast

review:ed Episode #25

“Money in the Ed Game”

  • recorded: April 20th 2012
Subscribe to review:ed Subscribe to review:ed Audio via RSS Subscribe to review:ed Audio via iTunes
Podnova Player button Miro Video Player
Download Episode Download Episode Audio

Links

  • Ed News Ticker #2 April 14th 2012
    Source: EDUKWEST
  • There Are A Million Education Startups And No One To Acquire Them
    Source: Business Insider
  • We need a Dividends instead of Exits Mindset in Education
    Source: Disrupt Education
  • Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools–Now and in the Future
    Source: Amazon
  • Are Teacherpreneurs the future of education?
    Source: Good
  • EdTech Link
    Source: TeachPaperless | Prezi
  • Top Tier vs Low Cost in Education
    Source: Disrupt Education

Fundings in April 2012 so far

  • $25 million Minerva
  • $26 million + $10 million 2tor
  • $16 million Coursera
  • $10 million StraighterLine
  • $8 million Boundless Learning
  • $6 million Schoology
  • $4.75 million Treehouse
  • $2.4 million LearnZillion
  • $2.3 million Voxy
  • + several smaller fundings
Play
review:ed #25 Money in the Ed Game

review:ed #25 Money in the Ed Game

review:ed #25 Money in the Ed Game

In this week’s edition of review:ed Kirsten and Chris focus on one big topic: funding startups in education. They discuss the big funding month as more than $110 million went into education startups in April alone.

But what does this mean for education in general. Do those startups all need an exit like the Business Insider suggests and if so, who is going to buy them? What role do crowdfunding and entrepreneurial teachers play in this, what are the differences between them and startup founders that come from outside of education?

Subscribe to review:ed Subscribe to review:ed Video via RSS Subscribe to review:ed Audio via RSS
Subscribe to review:ed Audio via iTunes
Download Episode Download Episode Video Download Episode Audio

Links

  • Ed News Ticker #2 April 14th 2012
    Source: EDUKWEST
  • There Are A Million Education Startups And No One To Acquire Them
    Source: Business Insider
  • We need a Dividends instead of Exits Mindset in Education
    Source: Disrupt Education
  • Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools–Now and in the Future
    Source: Amazon
  • Are Teacherpreneurs the future of education?
    Source: Good
  • EdTech Link
    Source: TeachPaperless | Prezi
  • Top Tier vs Low Cost in Education
    Source: Disrupt Education

Fundings in April 2012 so far

  • $25 million Minerva
  • $26 million + $10 million 2tor
  • $16 million Coursera
  • $10 million StraighterLine
  • $8 million Boundless Learning
  • $6 million Schoology
  • $4.75 million Treehouse
  • $2.4 million LearnZillion
  • $2.3 million Voxy
  • + several smaller fundings
PlayPlay
edukwest 56 shiv rajendran languagelab pic

EDUKWEST #56 with Shiv Rajendran of Languagelab

When Languagelab broke the news on their $1 million funding it was not only great news for the team and more importantly the business idea and I’m very happy for them but besides I was also very interesting in hearing how that took part.

Well, what easier could you do but simply ask and Shiv, the Director of Operations at Languaglab was so kind and shares some of his experiences and insights with us in this EDUKWEST.

At the beginning of our interview we talk a bit the way they had to take and the time it took Shiv to raise the round compared to what we see is happening currently in the US.

In the next part we talk about the areas the money will be invested in, specifically in team and also new products for English City as Shiv explains. He goes on talking about interesting new markets and customer groups such as more frequent requests from the corporate world and gives some examples why this is actually interesting for businesses and what LanguageLab are developing to serve those clients best.

I can only recommend to watch the interview if you are or at least think of raising money in Europe and particularly in the UK and are also interested about ESL teaching and learning concepts that take place in a virtual environment.

vodburner600x40

Audio only:

 

Additional Links:

Homepage: http://www.languagelab.com
Shiv Rajendran’s Blog: http://shiv.me
LanguageLab on Twitter: @LanguageLab
Shiv on Twitter: @shiv53
Play
mindsnacksfunding

MindSnacks raises $1.2 million

The team of MindSnacks raised a total of $1.2 million in funding from Felicis Ventures, 500 Startups, Mitch Kapor, Geoff Ralston, David Jesk, Oleg Tscheltzoff, Collaborative Fund, StartupAngel, ENIAC Ventures, Maneesh Arora, DreamIt Ventures, Startl, Theoria Capital and David Kim.

The money will be used for hiring new staff members like game designers and graphic artists.

Jeff Evans, co-founder of MindSnacks was already twice on EDUKWEST, in the last episode we talked in detail about the funding and what’s next for the mobile learning game startup.

EDUKWEST #33

EDUKWEST #53

languagelabfunding

Languagelab raises $1 million

The team at Languagelab recently closed a $1 million seed funding round. The money will be used to rapidly develop the virtual learning campus called English City, based on the popular platform Second Life.

The three investors in Languagelab are

Avonmore Developments
Avonmore Developments is the UK private investment vehicle of brothers Simon and Michael Blakey. Its focus is early-stage, platform technology-focused businesses and was the initial funder behind the likes of Groupspaces, Tagman, Specle, Commerce Decisions and Bybox.

Huda Associates
Huda Associates Ltd (HA) is a private funded venture capital firm with a fresh approach to the business of investment. Using the substantial resources at their disposal, they focus on helping early and expansion stage businesses enter international markets. Target companies operate in high-growth sectors with growth being driven by unique concepts, advanced technology and global potential.

Stephen Bullock
Stephen Bullock is a successful entrepreneur and serial tech angel investor with a portfolio focused on digital media, Web 2.0, software and B2B service companies. He takes an active non-executive board role and consults to a wide range of portfolio companies and is president of the London Business School Enterprise 100 Investment Club.

Shiv Rajendran, Operations Director at Languagelab was a two time guest on EDUKWEST.

EDUKWEST #7

EDUKWEST #38