Course Hero acquires LitCharts, founded by the creators of Sparknotes

I’ll admit it: I was the student that tipped the teacher off that half of our English class, including me, was using Sparknotes to “read” Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, instead of actually reading the text itself. The site, which offered cliff notes and summary of books on a chapter by chapter basis, was the best way to review novels before a quiz — or, was the best last-minute savior if you procrastinated too much and never got around to opening the book in the first place.

History in mind, it makes sense that the creators of everyone’s favorite procrastination tool, Sparknotes, are getting noticed by an edtech unicorn. Litcharts, an offshoot of Sparknotes, got scooped up today by a newly-minted edtech unicorn, Course Hero. The price of the deal was undisclosed. That said, Course Hero last raised an $80 million Series B in August 2020, and assumedly a portion of that check went to this deal.

The creators of Sparknotes, Ben Florman and Justin Kestler, created LitCharts as an extension of their initial success. LitCharts gives notes, definitions, translations, on over 2,000 literary texts. Similar to Sparknotes, LitCharts is all about making complex passages less complex. Grauer estimates that about 30% of LitCharts’ subscribers are teachers and educators.

“We want to make sure that we have the best solution for a specific area, and then at the right moment in time, be able to make a really authentic recommendation of another tool or another offering that can be helpful for you [as a student],” Grauer said, of Course Hero’s long-term ambition. That webbing – or connecting students from one resource to another – could be one of the benefits of virtual education, because there is essentially a history log of every error, stumble, and pause that a student makes as they’re going through a lesson.

The heart of Course Hero, per founder Andrew Grauer, is to create a question and answer platform with extreme levels of specificity for students. It sells subscriptions to students, which unlock access to all of its learning and teaching content, which include course-specific material created by teachers and publishers. Naturally, a big part of Course Hero’s strategy is to offer material on common subjects that students struggle with – English being one of those subjects.

“We’ve been looking at the data on the platform, and where students are actually getting stuck the most, where they need the most help, and where they are asking the most questions,” said Grauer. “And that’s quite informative.”

The company has been building out its literature library for the past five to six years. With LitCharts underneath its wing, Course Hero is putting a significant investment in its literature library, which is chockfull of videos, illustrations, and notes on texts.

This is Course Hero’s second acquisition in the past eight months. In October, Course Hero acquired Symbolab, an artificial intelligence-powered calculator that helps students answer and understand complex math questions. That deal helped bolster Course Hero’s math offering, and today’s acquisition should help Course Hero deepen its literature resources. Both of these brands will continue to operate independently – a choice that Grauer says is part of his operating thesis of supporting the “decentralized, empowerment of entrepreneurs.”

“If you centralize everything, maybe there’s power to that [since] it all looks the same, but actually in doing so many times do you can actually move slower, and not be able to move fast and make decisions and make progress towards the goal because you’re optimizing for so many small specific use cases,” he said. The two recent startups that Course Hero acquired have been operating for over a decade, and Grauer thinks that their scale and brand power is worth keeping as is, instead of forcing into an umbrella brand.

Across its various platforms, Course Hero estimates that it will hit between 2 million to 3 million paid subscribers this year, up from 1 million subcribers the year prior.

#course-hero, #edtech, #tc

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Emile Learning bets it can make high school students study, not scroll

Edtech has realized it needs to build for the TikTok generation. It’s part of the reason we’re seeing a rise in supplemental, aspirational companies such as Outschool and Masterclass, which both lean on snappy editing, engaging content, and most of all, on demand learning.

But a nut that is yet to be cracked is how to add measurable outcomes to the mix. As with every edtech startup, a common tension exists: the platform has to be hard enough to teach consumers something, but fun (or easy) enough for them to actually use it.

The latest startup to throw its hat into the ring of frictionless learning is Emile Learning, which offers on-demand high school classes, accredited or not, with high-quality production. The startup just closed a $3 million seed round led by Kleiner Perkins, which has also backed the likes of Duolingo and Coursera.

Other investors include the Softbank Opportunity Fund, Uber Alum Syndicate, Owl Ventures, John Thornton, the former president of Goldman Sachs, Steven Galanis, founder of Cameo, and Ankur Nagpal, founder of Teachable. With the round, Emile’s total capital raised to date is $5.3 million.

Founded in 2020, Emile is built by a trio of Latino founders: CEO Felix Ruano, a McKinsey and Harvard alum, COO Michael Vilardo, an Uber and Nike alum and CTO Jon Quiros, a Dun & Bradstreet and CSU Pomona alum.

“We want to create the go-to platform where a student, anywhere in the world, can access content in the most frictionless way possible,” Ruano said. “Not just for fun, not just logging into Youtube on the weekends, but instead a full end-to-end course and receiving high school credit for it.”

And given the fact that “Zoom University” has struggled with accountability and engagement, the founder is optimistic that its a good time for Emile to launch more broadly.

The company serves up virtual, high-quality production high school classes, ranging from AP language and AP biology to personal finance and acting. Emile began as a way to help students prepare for AP exams – since a good score can help a student get college credit once they enter undergrad and save them thousands of dollars.

Now, less than a year since founding, it added on an accredited set of classes that can be used in high school, too. Students can get high school credit via a WASC accredited transcript, in addition to college credit via AP classes.

Vilardo explained how APs were a wedge to get them into the minds of high schoolers, but thinks the bigger opportunity will be for-credit within the schools themselves.

“The students may come for AP piece, but they’re gonna have a chance with low risk, high potential to engage in some of these experiential style courses, and maybe they end up deciding early in high school if they love finance or they love coding,” he said.

To create its content, Emile company sources top high school and college teachers across the United States, flys them to Los Angeles and shoots content there. Right now there are over 20 classes on the platform, with the goal of getting to 30 classes by September.

Over 50,000 students have used its platform to date, the company claims.

‘99% of investors still have no idea’

Emile charges students an annual fee to use its platform, a sum that can range between $100 to $200. While this is more economically accessible than private tutoring, the team isn’t set on this as Emile’s only monetization strategy.

“The way this becomes a billion-dollar company is the government-funded system,” he said. The COO estimates that around $600 billion flows into high school education in the United States every year from the government. The COVID-19 relief fund, which has recently begun hitting high schools, is part of this wave – and Emile could be recipient of those dollars if it is successful.

Ruano explained how, even with a bigger spotlight on edtech in the wake of the pandemic, “99% of investors still have no idea” about the importance of optionality in high school coursework.

“On average, they’ve gone through the best learning experiences their entire lives,” he said. “The idea that there is a legacy edtech market around for-credit classes is a completely new concept to them.” The key here was finding investors who came from diverse learning backgrounds to understand the importance of Emile’s pitch.

There’s been a number of high-school focused startups that have raised in the past year, including Galileo, Fiveable and Sora Schools. Kleiner Perkins, the lead check in Emile’s seed round, took two days from pitch to check.

It will be key to see how these companies don’t repeat the history of AltSchool, a San Francisco-based edtech company that opened up physical schools to replace traditional grade schools. While investors flocked to the company, families and educators ultimately got frustrated at the pressure that scaling put on AltSchool students and outcomes. Unlike Emile, AltSchool was selling personalized education to younger kids – not high schoolers.

Nonetheless, the past has given any startup that aims to replace traditional schooling a clear message: go slow, and don’t break too many things when it comes to education.

#edtech, #masterclass, #tc

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#Brandneu – 7 junge Startups, die man kennen sollte


deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

Pionize
Das Passauer Startup Pionize kümmert sich um die große Smart Home-Welt. Die Plattform soll Onliner:innen “die langwierige Recherche zum passenden Smart Home-System” erleichtern. Nach einigen Fragen schlägt das Startup seinen Nutzer:innen ein “individualisiertes Smart Hom-System vor”.

elvah
Das junge Startup elvah bietet eine Ladeflatrate für Elektroautos an. “Für unsere Flatrate bezahlst du einen fixen, monatlichen Beitrag – egal wo und wann du lädst”, schreibt die Jungfirma aus Grafschaft, die von Gowrynath Sivaganeshamoorthy, Wilfried Röper, Sören Ziems gegründet wurde.

modelwise
modelwise entwickelt mit Paitron eine Software für Ingenieure, die der Zielgruppe bei der Automatisierung von Sicherheitsanalysen helfen soll. Dabei setzen die Münchner auf “bestehende Modelle aus Standard-Modellierungsumgebungen”. So soll zusätzlicher Schulungsaufwand vermieden werden.

Taktile
Das Berliner Startup Taktile, das von Maximilian Eber und Maik Taro Wehmeyer gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Art Low-Code-Plattform für Machine Learning. “Taktile enables enterprises to easily develop business critical Machine Learning applications”, teilt die Jungfirma in eigener Sache mit.

Sportstandort24
Sportstandort24 möchte Sportvereine und -unternehmen bei der Digitalisierung ihrer Angebote unterstützen. Die Gründer schreiben: “Mithilfe unserer innovativen Software hat Deine Organisation zum Beispiel zahlreiche Möglichkeiten, detaillierte Sportangebote einzustellen und zu verwalten”.

wryte
Das Münchner Startup wryte, das von Philipp Kramer und Matthias Schadhauser gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “Mitschrift-App mit automatisierter Speicherung”. Zielgruppe der Jungfirma sind Schüler:innen. Dabei organisiert wryte auch die Zuordnung zu Fächern und Heften.

Sophia
Das Linzer Startup Sophia möchte Beratung “effizient und bequem machen”. Auf dem Marktplatz der Jungfirma finden Nutzer:innen anhand von Themen angeben, nach welcher Expertise sie suchen.Die Terminfindung erfolgt direkt im Anschluss. Der Austausch erfolgt dann über digitale Meeting-Räume.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #brandneu, #edtech, #elvah, #grafschaft, #internet-of-things, #linz, #meerbusch, #mobility, #modelwise, #munchen, #passau, #pionize, #smart-home, #sophia, #sportstandort24, #startup-radar, #taktile, #wryte

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Mapping out one edtech company’s $200M bet on lifelong learning

Mumbai-based Emeritus, an edtech company that works with universities to create online upskilling courses for employed folks, just spent a big chunk of cash to break into K-12.

Emeritus, which is part of the Eruditis group, announced today that it plans to acquire iD Tech, a STEM education service for children. The acquisition, which has not yet closed, is estimated to be around $200 million and leaves iD Tech operating as an independent brand for now.

In order to execute on lifelong learning, a company needs to be able to seamlessly transition its audiences — from high school to college to post-employment — between products.

In August, Eruditis raised a $113 million Series D from investors including Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Sequoia India and Leeds Illuminate. Today, the startup has more than 200 programs, from bootcamps to online degree programs, that are offered to career folks in partnership with more than 50 of the world’s top universities, including MIT, Harvard and Columbia. ID Tech brings a whole different set of customers to its umbrella: The startup offers courses for elementary through high-school students across the globe taught by college students in the U.S.

The acquisition will allow Emeritus, which has been on a hiring and fundraising tear as of late, to grow beyond adult learning and well into the world of lifelong learning. It’s a trend we spotted back in a January edtech investor survey: Investors then mentioned how remote education needs to extend beyond school hours as learners become more multilayered. Edtech companies would soon have to find ways to create value for students throughout their educational experience, starting from early childhood into post-employment.

Breaking into lifelong learning sounds great, but it’s a complex goal, given that a freshman in high school learns differently than a full-time employed professional with six years of experience. Emeritus CEO and co-founder Ashwin Damera spoke to TechCrunch to explain why it makes sense from a product and revenue perspective.

“Last year we started seeing a lot of K-12 teaching moving online,” Damera said. “Then we opened our eyes and said, we used to think that this audience is not ready to learn online, but maybe we should relook at that assumption.”

The universe of universities

In order to execute on lifelong learning, a company needs to be able to seamlessly transition its audiences — from high school to college to post-employment — between products. In Emeritus’ case, Damera explained how the two companies already overlap in the middle of that chain: higher ed.

#ec-edtech, #ec-news-analysis, #edtech, #education, #higher-ed, #tc

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#DealMonitor – Yova sammelt 11 Millionen ein – shyftplan bekommt 7 Millionen – Tink übernimmt FinTecSystems


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 18. Mai werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Helsing
+++ Die zalando Macher Robert Gentz und Rubin Ritter investieren gemeinsam mit Lansdowne Partners in Helsing. Das junge Münchner Unternehmen kümmert sich um “die Entwicklung und der Vertrieb von Produktlösungen im Bereich der künstlichen Intelligenz”. Das Unternehmen wurde von Gundbert Scherf, Niklas Köhler und Torsten Reil gegründet. Köhler etwa führt bisher das Unternehmen Hellsicht, das sich ebenfalls um Künstlichen Intelligenz kümmert. Mehr im aktuellen Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Yova
+++ Carole Ackermann und Christoph Sutter und der eidgenössische Technologiefonds investieren 11 Millionen Schweizer Franken in die Impact Investing Plattform Yova. Über die Plattform können Anleger:innen bereits ab 1.000 Franken in nachhaltige Unternehmen investieren. Die Jungfirma teilt dazu mit: “Du musst kein Finanzexperte sein, um mit Yova anzulegen. Du entscheidest, welche Themen Dir wichtig sind. Wir kümmern uns um den Rest”. Yova wurde von Tillmann Lang und Erik Gloerfeld gegründet.  Der Start in Deutschland wird derzeit vorbereitet.

shyftplan
+++  DIVC und Altinvesoren wie Coparion, Unternehmertum Venture Capital (UVC) und Senovo investieren 7 Millionen Euro in shyftplan. Das Berliner Unternehmen, das von Jan-Martin Josten und John Nitschke gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “cloudbasierte Softwarelösung für Workforce Management und Mitarbeiterkommunikation”. Mit dem frischen Kapital “soll der weitere Ausbau des Großkunden-Bereichs in der DACH-Region vorangetrieben werden”. Mehr über shyftplan

Quantum-Systems
Die Münchner 10x Group, hinter der Felix Haas, Jan Becker, Andreas Etten und Robert Wuttke stecken, investiert eine siebenstellige Summe in das Drohnenstartup Quantum-Systems. “The investment round will support the company’s continued expansion as it takes advantage of accelerating market demand for next-generation sUAS with electric vertical take-off and landing capabilities and onboard edge AI”, teilt das Unternehmen, das 2015 gegründet wurde, mit.

CareerLunch
+++ Wingman Ventures, Scout24-Gründer Joachim Schoss und Xovis-Gründer David Studer investieren 1,1, Millionen Schweizer Franken in das junge HR-Unternehmen CareerLunch. Das Startup aus Sarnen in der  Schweiz, das 209 von Simon Hofer und Konstantin Nesterov gegründet wurde, bringt Jobsuchende und Unternehmen “zum informellen Karriere-Austausch über den Mittag zusammen”.

be+
+++ Business Angel Bernd Geilen, etliche Jahre bei ING tätig, und die Altinvestoren investieren eine siebenstellige Summe in be+. Das Startup aus Schwabach, das 2020 von Frank Nobis gegründet wurde,  kümmert sich darum, “Benefit-Programme im Unternehmen einfach nutzbar zu machen”. Dabei verspricht die Jungfirma: “Auch aktuelle Themen – wie die Corona-Testpflicht im Unternehmen – wird digital auf der Plattform abgebildet”.

vCoach
+++ better ventures, also Christoph Behn, und Angel-Investoren wie Björn Kolbmüller (Zenloop und Flaconi), Josef Arweck (Arjos Invest) und Klaus Mantel investieren eine sechsstellige Summe in das Edtech-Startup vCoach. Das Münchner Startup bietet “skalierbare, App-basierte Soft Skill-Trainings, bei denen Teilnehmende ihre Kommunikationsfähigkeit schnell und nachhaltig verbessern können”. vCoach wurde im Frühjahr 2020 von Stephanie Mayer, Benjamin Gumpp, Dr. Clemens Lechner und Tobias Hölzer gegründet.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Kyto
+++ Das Nürnberger Unternehmen Müller Medien übernimmt das Berliner Startup Kyto. Das 2013 von Project A Ventures angeschobene Unternehmen unterstützen Unternehmen bei der Digitalisierung Ihrer Marketing-Aktivitäten – etwa durch die Platzierung von Firmeneinträgen in Branchenverzeichnissen. Müller Medien investierte bereis 2015 in die Jungfirma, die von Paul Wulff und Martin Mittermeier gegründet wurde. In den vergangenen Jahren flossen rund 4,5 Millionen Euro in Kyto. Mehr im aktuellen Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

FinTecSystems
+++ Das schwedische Open-Banking-Unternehmen Tink übernimmt die Münchner API-Firma FinTecSystems – siehe Finanz-Szene.de. Das Family Office Reimann Investors investierte 2017  gemeinsam mit den Altinvestoren Ventech und Littlerock 4,5 Millionen Euro in FinTecSystems. Das Unternehmen wurde 2014 von Stefan Krautkrämer und Dirk Rudolf gegründet. Der Kaufpreis ist nicht bekannt, dürfte sicherlich aber im zweistelligen Millionenbereich liegen.

financeAds International
+++ Die verticalAds Group übernimmt das Berliner Unternehmen financeAds International, das sich seit 2015 um “Performance-basiertes Onlinemarketing für die Finanzindustrie” kümmert. “Der FinTech-Investor finleap hat seine Anteile als Minderheitsgesellschafter von financeAds nach sechs Jahren erfolgreicher Zusammenarbeit in einem profitablen Exit am 11. Mai an die verticalAds Group verkauft”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. financeAds International war eines der ersten Projekte des FinTech-Investors finleap.

stashcat
+++ Das Unternehmen secunet Security Networks übernimmt stashcat. Das Startup aus Hannover ermöglicht “sicheres, DSGVO-konformes Messaging mit integrierter Dateiablage und Videokonferenzfunktion”.  Der Business-Messenger, der 2016 an den Start ging, verfügt nach eigenen Angaben über mehr als 1,3 Millionen Nutzer:innen und ist bei mehr als 8.500 Unternehmen, Behörden und Organisationen im Einsatz.

STOCK MARKET

Hear.com
+++ Das niederländische Unternehmen hear.com, das in den vergangenen Jahren rund um das Berliner Hörgeräte Grownup audibene entstanden ist, sagt seinen IPO ab. Beim Börsengang an der New Yorker Börse wollte das Unternehmen ursprünglich rund 100 Millionen US-Dollar einsammeln. In der Presseaussendung heißt es: “hear.com today announced that it has postponed plans for its initial public offering due to current challenging equity market conditions. The company will continue to monitor the market for more stable conditions”. audibene wurde 2012 von Paul Crusius und Marco Vietor in Berlin gegründet. 2015 wurde das Unternehmen vom Hörgerätehersteller Sivantos, der von EQT finanziert wird, übernommen. Über 1.200 Mitarbeiter:innen wirken weltweit für hear.com. Das Unternehmen erwirtschaftete 2020 einen Umsatz in Höhe von 194 Millionen Dollar. Auch die MeinAuto Group hatte ihren IPO zuletzt abgesagtMehr überhear.com/audibene 

DIE HÖHLE DER LÖWEN

mysleepmask
+++ In der neunten Folge der neunten Staffel investierten Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel und GreenTech-Löwe Nico Rosberg 100.000 Euro in mysleepmask und sicherten sich dabei 40 % am Unternehmen. Hinter mysleepmask verbirgt sich eine Schlafmaske, die auch Ohrenstöpsel und Gelpads beinhaltet. Ursprünglich wollte Gründer Fabian Karau 100.000 Euro für 20 % seiner Firmenanteile einsammeln

mellow Noir
+++ In der neunten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Beauty-Löwin Judith Willimas 100.000 Euro in mellow Noir, einer Naturkosmetik-Linie zur Hautpflege, und sicherte sich dabei 35 % am Unternehmen. Ursprünglich wollte Gründer Julian Köster 100.000 Euro für 20 % seiner Firmenanteile einsammeln.

Winemaster Bottle
+++ In der neunten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel 100.000 Euro in Winemaster Bottle, einer Schutzflasche für längere Haltbarkeit, und sicherte sich dabei 30 % am Unternehmen.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #audibene, #be, #berlin, #better-ventures, #careerlunch, #divc, #edtech, #financeads-international, #fintecsystems, #hear-com, #hr, #mellow-noir, #munchen, #mysleepmask, #quantum-systems, #sarnen, #shyftplan, #vcoach, #venture-capital, #verticalads-group, #winemaster-bottle

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Edtech stocks are getting hammered but VCs keep writing checks

After years in the backwaters of venture capital, edtech had a booming 2020. Not only did its products become must-haves after schools around the globe went remote, but investors also poured capital into leading projects. There was even some exit activity, with well-known edtech players like Coursera going public earlier this year.

But despite a rush of private capital — which has continued into this year, as we’ll demonstrate — edtech stocks have taken a hammering in recent weeks. So while venture capitalists and other startup investors are pumping more capital into the space in hopes of future outsize returns, the stock market is signaling that things might be heading in the other direction.

Who’s right? One investor that The Exchange spoke to noted that market turbulence is just that, and that he’s tuning into activity but not yet changing his investment strategy. At the same time, the recent volatility is worth tracking in case it’s a preview of edtech’s slowdown.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. 

Read it every morning on Extra Crunch or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Let’s look at the changing value of edtech stocks in recent months, parse some preliminary data via PitchBook that provides a good feel for the directional momentum of edtech venture capital, and try to see if there’s irrational exuberance among private investors.

You could argue that it’s public investors who are suffering from irrational pessimism and that private-market investors have the right to it. But since public markets price private markets, we tend to listen to them. Let’s go!

Falling shares

We’re sure that you want to get into the private-market data, so we’ll be brief in describing the public-market carnage. What follows is a digest of edtech stocks and their declines from recent highs:

  • Compared to its 52-week high, Chegg stock has lost over a third of its value.
  • After reaching $62.53 per share in April, Coursera has shed about half of its value and is trading close to its $33 IPO price.
  • 2U closed at $33.92 per share yesterday, its shares also losing half of their value compared to their 52-week high.
  • Staying on that theme, Stride (K12) closed at $26.77 per share yesterday, which is about half of its 52-week high.

    #chegg, #ec-edtech, #edtech, #education, #fundings-exits, #startups, #stock-market, #the-exchange, #venture-capital

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Morressier wants academic conferences to feel cutting edge

While a unicorn named Hopin tends to dominate the virtual conferencing space, a new startup just raised millions of dollars by focusing on what it believes is an untapped niche in the same universe: academic conferences.

Morressier, a virtual conference and publishing platform specifically for the scientific community, announced today that it has raised $18 million in a Series A round led by Owl Ventures. Existing investors Cherry Ventures and Redalpine Venture Partners also participated in the round.

Founder Sami Benchekroun spent a lot of time at medical and scientific conferences while growing up thanks to his parents, who were both pursuing careers in medicine. Eventually, he began recognizing a pattern between all of the conferences.

“People from around the world would come together and literally bring physical content like printed out posters [or] a presentation on USB keys, to these conferences, but after the three days, all that content is lost,” he said. “All the people [who] are working on cancer research and HIV research are coming to these conferences completely offline, sharing the ideas, and then everything is lost.”

The irony of it was distracting so, in 2014, he began trying to digitize the early exchange of knowledge at a conference.

“Democratizing sounds cheesy but it’s really that,” he said. “People from Africa or Asia have no chance to really get access to these really high profile conferences that are mainly happening in the States or Europe, so by actually making everything digital, we can give back.”

The company began with a focus on content ephemerality, and nearly 7 years later, Morressier has built an end-to-end software layer that it hopes makes the academic conference experience as cutting edge as the research within it.

First, Morressier works with a society to create a landing page for an upcoming conference. Researchers can apply there to present their research at said conference. Morressier then aggregates all the research submissions and begins conducting a peer review process, with academics from the society validating the research and deciding if its relevant. The peer review process can often happen offline on excel sheets and word documents, so Morressier helps move the entire operations online. Once the peer review is done, the startup creates a content library to go along with a virtual or in-person conference where it can live indefinitely.

Finally, it gets to hosting the dissemination of that content to giving post-event analytics to event hosts to understand how research is being consumed.

“In order to make a compelling, end to end solution for every society out there, we added that live stream video component only in the beginning of 2020,” he said.

Morressier has over 700,000 accounts on its service, and has held conferences with the American Chemical Society, Institute of Packaging Professionals, and the Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers. The company makes money by working directly with the societies and charging them a flat fee for using the platform conference organization and managing their peer review process. It also has a per document-based fee structure so as more research is uploaded to its database, Morressier makes more money.

Image Credits: Morressier

While growth is the obvious next step for the freshly-funded company, Morressier hasn’t been exactly sluggish in the meantime. The company had 6x growth in number of authors and 13x growth in number of documents on its platform, bringing on $4.5 million in sales in 2020. The early-stage startup began 2020 with a 28-person staff, and plans to grow to 100 people by the end of 2021.

The founder, of course, accounts part of this growth to the pandemic, which took down some of the natural red tape that exists in education.

“I always try to play this down but quite frankly, in research and education, unfortunately things take longer [because of] government structures,” he said, of adoption speed. Indeed, the company took four years to raise its first check due to development. Now, three years after that, Morressier has closed another tranche of capital, thanks to a global understanding that virtual events are the future. Now, it’s just time for Morressier to prove its pandemic bump has paved a way for it to become a high-growth business.

#edtech, #morressier, #tc

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Fiveable makes first acquisition: a virtual study tool built by a 16-year old

Fiveable, an online learning community for high school students, made its first-ever acquisition earlier this week: Hours, a virtual study platform built by a 16-year old. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Fiveable is a free, online learning community for high school students with the focus of helping them pass Advanced Placement (AP) exams. It livestreams 5-hour “cram shops” focused on a specific subject, creates study guides, and manages a Discord with thousands of students.

“Students have Discord servers, they have subreddits, they have group chats and it’s happening informally on some of these different platforms,” founder Amanda DoAmaral said in March. “But we need a central place where social learning happens, where students get support, where they can find each other, where they can build towards their goals.”

She estimates that half a million students use Fiveable on a monthly basis – and it’s just so fitting that her company’s first acquisition came from paying attention to those same users.

She noticed students within the Fiveable community were using Hours a few months ago to host group study sessions. Hours allows students to create study sessions where each person has a task list and shared timer and playlist, which she describes as “a multiplayer experience “ that can increase motivation and accountability. There’s also a single-player experience version where students can pick “focus mode” and remove chat and highlight task lists.

Task display via Hours.

Put simply, Fiveable will be able to expand its community feel from an active Discord to a study-specific tool. In its 6 months as a product, Hours has been used by more than 17,000 students from schools including Stanford University, MIT, NYU, and over 120 countries.

“The experience of studying in Discord text or audio chats is similar to the Hours multi-player mode, but there isn’t a way in Discord to keep track of tasks or see everyone’s progress,” she said. “Hours is a better experience because it allows more flexibility within the group version of a study session and has the ability for students to study solo,” she said.

The startup decided to buy the platform rather than try to build the technology itself for two reasons: students already love the product, and it was built by a “very impressive 16-year old,” Calix Huang.

Huang, a high school junior in the Bay Area with previous tech acquisitions and startups under his belt, founded Hours in October 2020 in response to the siloed experience of studying during a pandemic. As part of Fiveable’s acquisition, Huang will join its team as a Lead Product Manager to work on Hours part-time.

“Calix will be a senior next year, so he will come on part-time until he graduates. Then he’ll have big decisions like the rest of his peers about what he will do next, which includes an offer to come on full-time,” DoAmaral said. Employing young talent isn’t new for the startup: Over 118 paid students work on Fiveable staff right now across all teams, from social to product to content. Every student works 5-10 hours per week as a part-time job and Fiveable pays them $15-23 per hour.

Fiveable plans to keep Hours as a free service along with its guides, trivia, and Discord. The company makes money in two ways right now: $25 for a cram-pass or $5 for live events, such as a 5-hour review the night before an exam. The startup has raised more than $3.5 million in known venture capital to date, from investors including Matchstick Ventures, Cream City Venture Capital, Spero Ventures, and most recently, Tennis legend Serena Williams. 

#amanda-domaral, #edtech, #fiveable, #hours, #tc

0

Duolingo swipes Tinder in a Clash Royale

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

For this week’s deep dive, Alex and Danny unpacked Natasha‘s latest project: The Duolingo EC-1. The 12,000 word four-part series was published last week and is worth a read. But, until you get to it, enjoy our podcast that doubles-clicks into its most interesting bits.

Duo, Duolingo’s mascot, flying around. Image Credits: Duolingo

Here’s how it went, after we got our morning allergy banter out of the way:

  • What’s an EC-1? A TechCrunch-style deep-dive into one of the startup world’s most promising, and interesting companies.
  • What’s with the flying vermin up above? That’s Duolingo’s mascot. Which is a combination of hypercutness and modest menace. (You will have fun learning a language. Or the owl will visit.)
  • Why did we write about Duolingo? No, it wasn’t only because Duolingo is edtech. Natasha dug into the company’s product-led growth mode, and its views on gamification, which were fascinating.
  • What’s up with today’s show name? As it turns out, Duolingo has a Tinder angle. In fact, Duolingo leaned on some of the biggest companies out there when it came to design and monetization.
  • And as with all edtech companies, we talked monetization and outcomes!

The Duolingo EC-1 comprises four main articles numbering 12,200 words and a reading time of 48 minutes. Here’s what’s in store:

And of course, use code Extra Crunch “Equity” for a sweet, and perhaps the best, discount to access this story and all of our best stuff.

Until Friday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#duolingo, #edtech, #monetization, #tc

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How Duolingo became a $2.4B language unicorn

At the heart of Duolingo is its mission: to scale free education and increase income potential through language learning. However, the same mission that has helped it grow to a business valued at $2.4 billion with over 500 million registered learners, has led to tensions that continue to define the business.

How do you survive as a startup if you don’t want to charge users? How do you design a startup that isn’t too hard to lose people, but isn’t too easy to compromise education? How do you balance monetization goals while also keeping education as a product free?

For my first EC-1, I spent months with Duolingo executives, investors, and of course, competitors, to answer some of these questions.

One of my favorite details in the story that got left on the cutting room floor was Duolingo co-founder and CEO Luis von Ahn comparing his company to the elliptical. I was pressing him on the efficacy of Duolingo, and the long-standing critique that it still can’t teach a user how to speak a language fluently.

“Now, there’s a difference between whether you know you’re doing the elliptical or yoga or running, but by far, the most important thing is that you’re doing something [other than] just walking around,” he said.

What von Ahn is getting at is that Duolingo’s biggest value proposition is that it helps people get motivated to learn a language, even if it’s just five minutes — or an elliptical workout — a day. He thinks motivation is harder than the learning itself. Do you agree?

If you enjoyed my series, make sure to check out other EC-1s and subscribe to ExtraCrunch to support me, this newsletter and the rest of the team. I’d also love it if you followed me on Twitter @nmasc_.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about Tesla, the morality of going public and verticalized telehealth.

There’s always a Tesla angle

When I was working in Boston, the newsroom saying was “there’s always a Boston Angle.” In a remote, tech-dominated world, I’ll tweak it: There’s always a Tesla angle. While we all prepare for Elon Musk to grace the SNL stage, there’s a story you might want to check out.

Here’s what to know: Tesla tapped a small Canadian startup to build cleaner and cheaper batteries. The price tag will shock you, but the story tells a bigger narrative about patented technology, and the outsized impact that a tiny startup has on Tesla’s route to batteries.

Literally moving us along:

Tesla electric vehicle china

Image Credits: Getty Images

The clash of the CFOs

While Equity usually keeps it light and punny, we chewed into a deeper topic this week: the morality of going public. Startups are staying private longer than ever before, but one CFO argues that it’s a moral obligation to leave the nest and provide returns to the general public. We had that CFO on the show, along with another CFO at a company pursuing a SPAC. It ended up being the most interesting clash of the CFOs I’ve been a part of.

Here’s what to know: The growth of venture capital as an asset class has a role to play in this whole mess and has kept the nest warm for many startups. We talk about if the tides are turning, or we’re saying goodbye to a world in which a company like Salesforce would debut price for $11 per share.

While you’re focused on Twitter’s tip jar, here’s other money news you may have missed in the meantime: 

Image Credits: Getty Images / dane_mark

Where telehealth goes from here

As I start to cover digital health, one of the biggest questions I ask and get asked is where telehealth goes from here. Virtual caretaking had an uptick in usage because of the pandemic but is now starting to slow as the world reopens and vaccinations are on the rise. For telehealth startups, it means crafting a pitch that explains why virtual care makes sense for the conditions you serve.

Here’s what to know: I talked about how to become pandemic-proof in healthcare with Expressable, a virtual speech therapy startup that just raised millions in venture capital money. Part of the startups’ product differentiation is an edtech platform that motivates consumers to asynchronous practice speech exercises with the help of parents and friends.

And down the rabbit hole we go: 

Image Credits: Getty Images / drante

Around TechCrunch

Seen on TechCrunch

Seen on Extra Crunch

And that’s that. Thank you for reading along and supporting me. I’ll never get over it.

N

#duolingo, #edtech, #startups, #startups-weekly, #tc

0

If 12% is the new 30%, 4% is the new 12%

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

The whole team was aboard for this recording, with Grace and Chris behind the scenes, and Danny, Alex, and Natasha on the mics. We had to cut more than we included this week, which should give you a good idea of how busy the startup and VC worlds are of late.

Make sure that you are following the podcast on Twitter, where we post all sorts of memes and cuts and, perhaps, the occasional video here and there. That aside, here’s the rundown:

  • Investing legend David Swenson passed away.
  • Twitter is buying Scroll (neat, very cool) as part of its subscription push, but also killing Nuzzel in the process (bad, very uncool). Natasha and Danny fill us in on why Nuzzel will be missed. Alex has thoughts on why Twitter-Scroll is good.
  • Epic bought ArtStation and cut its marketplace take rate. This is the future, says Danny, who throws his own estimates in, too.
  • Sony and Discord are tying up after the Microsoft-Discord deal fell apart.
  • Edtech is doing the edtech thing in which it raises money and consolidates, as shown by Kahoot’s latest scoop.
  • A friend of the pod, Jomayra Herrera, is joining Reach Capital as its first ever outside-partner hire.
  • Uber is teaming up with Arrival for ride-hailing designed electric vehicles. We’re pretty bullish on the idea. Also Alex likes to say “microfactories.”
  • IVF startups are raising venture capital, and this time its Alife Health that we’re talking about. 
  • WorkBoard raised again. Alex once again made us talk about OKR-focused startups. He needs to get a life, and so does the rest of the Equity team which fought to do the transition into this segment.
  • To end, we spoke about Leda Health, a new startup focused on at-home rape kits for sexual assault survivors. It’s a controversial company, and we discuss critiques and opportunities,

And that’s our show! No private equity deal can slow the Equity team down, so we’ll see you Monday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#alife-health, #arrival, #clever, #discord, #early-stage, #edtech, #electric-vehicles, #epic, #epic-games, #equity, #equity-podcast, #ev, #kahoot, #leda-health, #microsoft, #nuzzel, #okr, #reach-capital, #scroll, #sony, #tc, #twitter, #uber, #venture-capital, #workboard

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Tiger Global is betting that more schools are going to share future student earnings

Income-share agreements, or ISAs, are a way to bring flexibility to the often steep financial costs of higher education. The financial model allows a student to learn at zero upfront cost, and then pay any costs through a percentage of future income over time.

While the model has caught fire from a variety of trade schools and bootcamps, it’s a hard service to offer at scale. It required underwriting a risky group of people — and that costs money. Just last week, a leader in the ISA space Lambda School laid off 65 employees amid a broader restructuring.

It’s here that a startup like Blair, which graduated Y Combinator in 2019, could be of use. The startup today helps universities finance and offer income-share agreements, or ISAs, to students. The startup has two services: a capital arm (Blair Capital) for which it secured a $100 million debt facility, and a services arm (Blair Servicing) that helps manage the flow of money, which just got a new tranche of capital to expand

The company told TechCrunch that it has raised a $6.3 million round led by Tiger Global. Other investors include Rainfall and 468 Capital, along with angels such as Teachable’s Ankur Nagpal and Vouch’s Sam Hodges. The raise came on top of a $1.1 million pre-seed round, bringing Blair’s total capital raised to date at $7.4 million.

A big portion of the venture capital money will go toward doubling or tripling Blair’s San Francisco team, said CEO Mike Mahlkow. It is especially investing in engineering and product, as well as a few senior hires in finance, compliance and the service side.

The Blair founding team.

Notably, Blair’s eight person team is fully male. The lack of gender diversity, even as an early-stage startup with a handful of employees, could hurt its competitive advantage, recruiting prospects, and and performance over time. About 25 percent of the employees are LGBT and 27.5% identify as non-white.

Blair started as a tool to underwrite students with loans that would pay for college, a sum that would eventually be repaid through an income-share agreement. It was similar to an Affirm for Education, where it could help students get access with low or nonexistent upfront costs.

“The model worked very well until March last year,” Mahlkow said. “And then the debt market was fairly dead, so we needed to shift our focus to a more software-like approach.” Now, Blair focuses on building ISA-based programs for schools, and underwrites loans based on certain programs at certain schools that have historical returns.

Most companies use its servicing piece — aka an operating system for offering ISAs — but a number of companies turn to Blair to help finance the costs of offering an ISA. Either colleges and bootcamps finance the ISA themselves and put it on the balance sheet, or they sell it to a company like Blair to get the money upfront and get repaid eventually.

Blair Servicing takes a percent of money from an ISA once a student is employed post-graduation, and Blair Capital takes a base fee plus a portion for the ISA as well.

While the company did not share exact numbers, it did say it has doubled its customers since February, tripling revenue during the same time period. Of course, a bet from the ever-ravenous Tiger Global is a statement. And, unlike his new investor, Mahlkow plans to keep growth sustainable and lean. Long-term, Blair is betting that outcome-based financing could get traction in more than just a savvy startup bootcamp but in how recruiting and placement works in various industries. The startup is in talks with a sports association and large companies that are working on upskilling and reskilling their workforces. Incentives are key in edtech, and Blair speaking that language as an early-stage startup is key as the sector moves more into the spotlight.

#blair, #edtech, #education, #higher-ed, #isa, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #y-combinator

0

#DealMonitor – HiveMQ bekommt 9,3 Millionen – Foxway kauft Re-Commerce-Firma Flip4New


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 6. Mai werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

HiveMQ 
+++ Earlybird Venture Capital, Senovo und Business Angels wie Ali Kutay, Mirko Novakovic (Instana), Daniel Schellhoss und Charles Songhurst. investieren 9,3 Millionen Euro in HiveMQ. Das Unternehmens aus Landshut, das 2012 von Christian Götz und Dominik Obermaier gegründet wurde, hilft Unternehmen dabei, ihre IoT-Geräte mit der Cloud zu verbinden. “HiveMQ will leverage the new funding round to significantly expand sales and marketing efforts, capitalizing on the market demand for IoT solutions. HiveMQ will also increase R&D investment in their cloud-managed MQTT service and introduce new products into the market”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

Metalshub
+++ Jetzt offiziell: Acton Capital und die Altinvestoren Point Nine, Chromo Invest und mehreren Business Angels investieren – wie bereits im Insider-Podcast berichtet – in Metalshub. Nach unseren Informationen investiert der Münchner Kapitalgeber Acton Capital rund 7,5 Millionen Euro (inklusive Convertible) in das junge Unternehmen. Insgesamt fließen nun 11 Millionen US-Dollar, also rund 9 Millionen Euro in Metalshub. Mit dem frischen Kapital möchte Metalshub “das starke Momentum des vergangenen Jahres nutzen, um über Europa hinaus nun weltweit zu expandieren”. Das Unternehmen aus Düsseldorf digitalisiert seit 2016 den Metallhandel. Chromo Invest hielt zuletzt 12,8 % am Unternehmen. Mehr über Metalshub

Hyrise Academy
+++ Martin Ostermayer, Dirk Freise, die Gründer von blau.de, und Felix Brosius investieren eine mittlere sechsstellige Summe in Hyrise Academy, bisher als Headstart Academy bekannt. Das Berliner EdTech, das 2020 von Michael Land, Alvaro Rojas und Dominic Blank gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “Online-Akademie, die talentierte Karriere- und Quereinsteiger findet, über ein Bootcamp für digitale Jobprofile ausbildet und anschließend bei wachsenden Digitalunternehmen platziert”.

Cathago
+++ Der Hamburger Next Commerce Accelerator (NCA) und Business Angels aus der Baubranche investieren eine sechsstellige Summe in Cathago. Das Startup aus Berlin positioniert “Lösung für digitale Materialbeschaffung im Bauwesen”. Cathago wurde Anfang 2021 von Richard Göldner, Emil Buxmann und Philipp Dressler gegründet. Mehr über Cathago

Enpal
+++ Die Berliner Volksbank stellt dem Berliner Unternehmen Enpal weitere 10 Millionen Euro zur Verfügung. “Innerhalb von nur vier Jahren ist aktuelle Refinanzierung der Berliner Volksbank in Höhe von weiteren 10 Millionen Euro die siebte Refinanzierungstransaktion mit einer führenden Bank, die Enpal abschließen konnte”, teilt die Jungfirma mit. Insgesamt konnte sich das Startup nun schon 130 Millionen Euro Refinanzierungsvolumen sichern. Enpal2017 von Mario Kohle (Käuferportal-Gründer), Viktor Wingert und Jochen Ziervogel gegründet wurde, vermietet Solaranlagen. Mehr über Enpal 

EXITS

Flip4New
+++ Foxway, ein schwedisches Unternehmen für IT-Lifecycle-Management, übernimmt den Re-Commerce-Anbieter Flip4New. “Mit der Übernahme von kommt Foxway nun auch nach Deutschland. Dies ist der nächste Schritt von Foxway nach einer Übernahme in Spanien im Herbst 2020”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Seit 2009 kauft und verkauft das Friedrichsdorfer Startup Flip4New alte Handys, Tablets und Notebooks an. Das Unternehmen, das von Lennart Kleuser und Michael Sauer gegründet wurde, erwirtschaftete 2018 einen Umsatz in Höhe von 18,9 Millionen Euro. Im Vergleich zu Re-Commerce-Riesen wie reBuy und momox ist Flip4New somit nur eine kleine Nummer im Segment. Zu den Gesellschaftern von Flip4New gehören zuletzt unter anderem Media Saturn (20,6 %), Paua Ventures (14,7 %) und Xing-Gründer Lars Hinrichs (15,9 %). Auf die Gründer Kleuser und Sauer entfielen jeweils noch 22,8 %. Mehr über Flip4New

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#acton-capital, #aktuell, #berlin, #cathago, #chromo-invest, #dusseldorf, #earlybird-venture-capital, #edtech, #enpal, #flip4new, #foxway, #friedrichsdorf, #headstart-academy, #hivemq, #hr, #hyrise-academy, #landshut, #metalshub, #next-commerce-accelerator, #point-nine, #senovo, #venture-capital

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Kahoot acquires Clever, the US-based edtech portal, for up to $500M

Kahoot, the popular Oslo-based edtech company that has built a big business out of gamifiying education and creating a platform for users to build their own learning games, is making an acquisition to double down on K-12 education and its opportunities to grow in the U.S. It is acquiring Clever, a startup that has built a single sign-on portal for educators, students and their families to build and engage in digital learning classrooms, currently used by about 65% of all U.S. K-12 schools. Kahoot said that the deal — coming in a combination of cash and shares — gives Clever an enterprise value of between $435 million and $500 million, dependent on meeting certain performance milestones.

The plan will be to continue growing Clever’s business in the U.S. — which currently employs 175 people — as well as give it a lever for expanding globally alongside Kahoot’s wider stable of edtech software and services.

“Clever and Kahoot! are two purpose-led organizations that are equally passionate about education and unleashing the potential within every learner,” said Eilert Hanoa, CEO at Kahoot, in a statement. “Through this acquisition we see considerable potential to collaborate on education innovation to better service all our users – schools, teachers, students, parents and lifelong learners – and leveraging our global scale to offer Clever’s unique platform worldwide. I’m excited to welcome Tyler and his team to the Kahoot family.”

The news came on the same day that Kahoot, which is traded in Oslo with a market cap of $4.3 billion, also announced strong Q1 results in which it also noted it has closed its acquisition of Whiteboard.fi, a provider of whiteboard tools for teachers, for an undisclosed sum.

The same tides that have been lifting Kahoot have also been playing out for Clever and other edtech companies.

The startup was originally incubated in Y Combinator and launched with a vision to be a “Twilio for education“, which in its vision was to create a unified way of being able to tap into the myriad of student sign-on systems and educational databases to make it easier for those building edtech services to scale their products, and bring on more customers (schools, teachers, students, families) to use them. As with payments, financial services in general, and telecommunications, it turns out that education is also a pretty fragmented market, and Clever wanted to figure out a way to fix the complexity and put it behind an API to make it easier for others to tap into it.

Over time it built that out also with a marketplace (application gallery in its terminology) of some 600 software providers and application developers that integrate with its SSO, which in turn becomes a way for a school or district to subsequently expand the number of edtech tools that it can use. This has been especially critical in the last year as schools have been forced to close in-person learning and go entirely virtual to help stave off the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clever has found a lot of traction for its approach both with schools, and investors. With the former, Clever says that it’s used by 89,000 schools and some 65% of K-12 school districts (13,000 overall) in the U.S., with that figure including 95 of the 100 largest school districts in the country. This works out to 20 million students logging in monthly and 5.6 billion learning sessions.

#clever, #edtech, #education, #europe, #k-12, #kahoot, #ma

0

#DealMonitor – StudySmarter sammelt 15 Millionen ein – Receeve bekommt 13,5 Millionen – Upvest sammelt 4 Millionen ein


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 5 . Mai werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

StudySmarter 
+++ Owl Ventures, Left Lane Capital, Business Angel wie Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen und Altinvestoren wie Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures (DvH Ventures) investieren 15 Millionen US-Dollar in StudySmarter. DvH Ventures investierte zuletzt im Sommer des vergangenen Jahres eine siebenstellige Summe in das Münchner EdTech. Das Spin-Off der TU München und LMU München, das 2017 von Simon Hohentanner, Maurice Kudhir, Christian Felgenhauer und Till Söhlemann gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “intelligente Lern-App für das lebenslange Lernen, mit der individuelle Lernpläne, Karteikarten, Zusammenfassungen und Mindmaps schnell und einfach aus Lern-Skripten und Vorlesungsfolien erstellt werden können”. Mehr über StudySmarter

Receeve
+++ Seaya Ventures und 14W sowie die Altinvestoren Mangrove, Speedinvest und Seedcamp investieren 13,5 Millionen US-Dollar in das Hamburger Startup Receeve. “The investment is targeted to fuel growth over the next 12 months and to expand”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Das Hamburger FinTech, das 2019 von Paul Jozefak und Michael Backes (beide zuletzt Liquid Labs) gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “digital debt servicing platform”. Anfang 2020 flossen beriets 4 Millionen Euro in das junge Unternehmen. Mehr über Receeve

Upvest
+++ ABN AMRO Ventures, der Investmentableger der ABN AMRO Bank, investiert 4 Millionen Euro in das Berliner FinTech-Start-up Upvest. Das 2017 von Martin Kassing gegründete Startup bietet eine Schnittstelle an, mit der Unternehmen digitale Investment-Produkte anbieten können. Earlybird, Notion Capital, Partech Ventures, Speedinvest und HV Capital investierten zuletzt 5 Millionen Euro in Upvest. Insgesamt flossen nun schon 16 Millionen Euro in das junge Unternehmen. Mehr über Upvest

Moanah
+++ Die Mediengruppe Klambt investiert in Moanah. Die Jungfirma aus Mannheim bietet Reinigungsmittel in Glasflaschen – samt einem Refill-System an. Die Sprühflaschen des Startups kann jeder zu Hause befüllen und mit Wasser auffüllen. “Sobald die Konzentrate leer sind, können sie nachbestellt werden”, heißt es auf der Website. Die Mediengruppe Klambt investierte zuletzt auch in Careloop, eine Personalvermittlungsplattform für ausländische Kranken- und Altenpflege.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#abn-amro-ventures, #aktuell, #berlin, #edtech, #fintech, #klambt, #left-lane-capital, #moanah, #munchen, #owl-ventures, #studysmarter, #upvest, #venture-capital

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The Duolingo EC-1

Education may well be the most important activity we conduct as a society — and it may also be the hardest space to build a startup in. Selling to school districts and universities is notoriously difficult, but enticing consumers is even harder. Learning takes focus, patience, tenacity and resources, and most consumers would prefer to watch some lip-sync videos on TikTok than stare at math equations (not to mention that such entertainment is free). Engagement and education feel aggressively at odds, which limits the way that startups can scale and succeed.

Yet, the revulsion VCs have traditionally had for the space has slowly dissipated over the past 10 years. Consumer and enterprise startups in edtech are increasingly attracting funding, and there is a growing crop of edtech-focused investors who are betting big on the future here. What’s changed isn’t the market or its potential, but rather the perception that ambitious and sustainable companies can truly be built in education.

One of the companies that has led the charge in transforming those perceptions is Pittsburgh-based Duolingo. It’s a language-learning app that has caught fire. From humble origins a decade ago as a translation platform for news agencies, it’s now used by 500 million people across the world to learn Spanish, English, French and more, all while generating bookings of $190 million in 2020. It’s a smashing success, but a success that was hard earned after a years-long effort of product and revenue experimentation to find its current niche.

TechCrunch’s writer and analyst for this EC-1 is Natasha Mascarenhas. Mascarenhas has been covering edtech from the very first day she joined TechCrunch as a venture capital and startups writer, and she has built up a reputation as a fearless chronicler of this increasingly vital ecosystem. The lead editor of this package was Danny Crichton, the copy editor was Richard Dal Porto, and illustrations were created by Nigel Sussman.

Duolingo had no say in the content of this analysis and did not get advance access to it. Mascarenhas has no financial ties to Duolingo or other conflicts of interest to disclose.

The Duolingo EC-1 comprises four main articles numbering 12,200 words and a reading time of 48 minutes. Here’s what’s in store:

And finally, note that Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn is coming to Disrupt, so make sure to grab your tickets because the conversation will continue there.

We’re always iterating on the EC-1 format. If you have questions, comments or ideas, please send an email to TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton at danny@techcrunch.com.

#duolingo, #ec-edtech, #ec-1, #edtech, #education, #pittsburgh, #startups, #tc

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How a bot-fighting test turned into edtech’s most iconic brand, Duolingo

Luis von Ahn, an entrepreneur who has dedicated his career to scaling free education, has probably annoyed you more than once. In fact, you’ve likely been annoyed by his work dozens and maybe hundreds of times over the years.

A decade before he co-founded the whimsical and language-learning app Duolingo, one of the most popular education apps in the world with over 500 million downloads and 40 million active users, he was building the technology that would become CAPTCHA, those human-annoying but bot-preventing little tests that pop up when registering or logging in to popular internet services like email.

It may seem like a radical pivot, but in fact, the lessons of how to create useful security tests at scale for consumers would one day offer the core DNA for building one of the most successful edtech companies in the world. The immigrant entrepreneur would be soon learn himself that crowdsourcing, language and a willingness to adapt and ignore critics could change the face of an industry forever.

CAPTCHA’ing a market

Von Ahn grew up in Guatemala City, where he saw firsthand the wretched state of public schools in impoverished countries. His mother spent most of her income sending him to “fancy private school” as he puts it, and he estimates she spent over $1 million on his education over his lifetime. The price tag weighed on him, and he knew he wanted to broaden access to education in the future.

After attending Duke as an undergrad, von Ahn was an enterprising first-year computer science Ph.D. student at top-ranked Carnegie Mellon University when he attended a talk by Yahoo’s chief scientist about 10 of Yahoo’s biggest headaches. One issue stood out: hackers were creating bots that register thousands of email addresses to send spam.

Inspired and full of immigrant grit, von Ahn and a team led by his then-adviser Manuel Blum created a nifty little test that could distinguish between bots and humans. The test, called a CAPTCHA, presented squiggly, ink-blotted words whenever a user tried to login. Computer vision at the time couldn’t read the obscured text, but humans easily could — creating a useful signal. The deceptively simple test worked, so von Ahn, then a 20-something student, gave it to Yahoo for free, not understanding the value it would one day have.

Luis von Ahn, the inventor of CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA, and co-founder of Duolingo. Image Credits: Duolingo

A fire was lit. With Yahoo as a distribution channel, CAPTCHA tests exploded in popularity, becoming an almost universally recognizable security checkpoint feature. At their peak, people spent 500,000 hours a day typing up to 200 million CAPTCHAs around the world. About 10% of the world’s population had recognized at least one word, von Ahn estimates.

For all the technology’s success though, there was a downside. “During those 10 seconds while you’re typing in a CAPTCHA, your brain is doing something that computers can’t do, which is amazing,” von Ahn said. But the tests were annoying and pointless, so he wondered, “Could we get those 500,000 hours a day to do something useful for humanity?”

So in 2005, he launched reCAPTCHA. These new tests would have the same goal of CAPTCHA, but with a twist: the prompts would all be scans of books. Users would complete the security test while also helping to digitize books for the Internet Archive.

The early design of reCAPTCHA. Image Credits: Duolingo

This time, von Ahn knew his nifty idea was worth something. In 2009, he sold reCAPTCHA to Google, a transaction conducted just a year after the internet giant had purchased a license to one of his other research projects, a game focused on image labeling.

Luis von Ahn presenting about reCAPTCHA and CAPTCHA, two of his iconic inventions. Image Credits: Duolingo

The acquisition offered not just a monetary award (exact terms of the deal were not disclosed), but also suddenly garnered von Ahn serious clout in the industry just a few years after acquiring his Ph.D. Yet, instead of taking up tenure at the tech company, he stayed local in Pittsburgh and became a computer science professor at his alma mater.

Entering the world of education as a professor felt like an answer to his original dream of expanding access to education. What von Ahn didn’t know, though, was that his iconic work was simply foreshadowing. Carnegie Mellon, crowdsourced translation and even Google would all play a role in his next project as well, albeit in wildly different ways: incubation, failure and investment. For him, the success of two tools that used language as a barrier was the beginning of a long journey into discovering if, and how, language could instead be a bridge. It was an insight that would grow into a startup valued at $2.4 billion with the goal of making language learning fun: Duolingo.

Duolingo’s first words

In 2011, edtech startups such as Coursera and Codecademy were popping up — companies that today are valued as multibillion dollar businesses. The rise of iPads and tablets in classrooms gave permission to founders who believed the future of education was on the internet. Enthusiasm was boiling, and virtual instruction felt like a nascent, but ambitious place to bet on.

#duolingo, #ec-edtech, #ec-1, #edtech, #education, #pittsburgh, #startups, #tc

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The product-led growth behind edtech’s most downloaded app

Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn was tired of the gray and dreary design aesthetic edtech companies used to emulate universities. Instead, he and the company’s early team sought inspiration from games like Angry Birds and Clash Royale, looking to build a class that screamed more cartoon anarchy than lecture hall. From that frenetic creativity came the company’s distinctive mascot: a childish and rebellious evergreen-colored owl named Duo.

Duolingo didn’t just throw out the old colors though — it wanted to completely rethink language learning from the bottom up for mobile. So it replaced top-down curriculums with analytics-driven growth strategies, becoming consumed by an ethos that has more recently been dubbed product-led growth.

Used by companies such as Calendly, Slack and Dropbox, product-led growth is a strategy in which a company iterates its product to create loyal fans-turned-customers who popularize the product with others, creating a viral growth loop. It’s an attractive route because it vastly lowers the cost of acquiring users while also increasing engagement and thus retention. Duolingo, for example, has taken this model and found ways to embed engagement hooks, pockets of joy and addictive education features within its core app.

With early venture capital in its pocket, Duolingo could afford to focus on product over profits.

In part one of this EC-1, we explored how von Ahn’s previous products around CAPTCHA led to Duolingo’s launch, the rise and fall of crowdsourced translation as a way to disrupt language learning, and the accidental iteration of a top education app by a pair of interns. The startups’ early signs of success gave it energy to focus on growth to accomplish two things: know what they’re doing works, and garner a lot of user data so it continued iterating the product into something that was ever more addicting to use.

Now, we’ll analyze how Duolingo used product-led growth as a lever to expand its consumer base, and how a company built on gamification tries to balance its whimsy with education outcomes.

Duo, Duolingo’s mascot, flying around. Image Credits: Duolingo

From Angry Birds to an amusing and sometimes scowling owl

Tyler Murphy, having graduated from his intern position at Duolingo launching the company’s iOS app, noticed that the gaming world was rapidly innovating around him in the mid-2010s. Angry Birds was no longer the only popular game on mobile, and video games generally were getting more engaging, with in-app currencies, progress bars and an experience that felt creatively addictive. He suddenly saw connections between the entertainment that games provided and the patient learning required for languages.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if the skill got harder and harder, kind of like how a character in a game gets more powerful and powerful?” he remembers asking. Duolingo had taken early inspiration from Angry Birds as well as Clash Royale later, following that game’s launch in 2016. “Half the people at Duolingo were playing Clash Royale, at some point,” he said. “And I think that shaped our product roadmap a lot and our design language a lot.”

Games solved a problem that was acutely personal for Murphy. The employee, who would go on to become chief designer at Duolingo, had gone to college to teach Spanish to students, but ultimately left the field after struggling to inspire kids in a classroom setting. The realization that Duolingo could borrow from gaming instead of monotonous edtech companies gave an adrenaline rush — and permission — to the team to experiment with new approaches to learning.

Every game needs some form of experience points and leveling up, and for Duolingo learners, that progress comes in the form of skill trees.

These trees, which were conceived by a design agency during the company’s early development, are Duolingo’s core experience, a visual representation of language skills that are interconnected and get progressively more difficult and refined over time. Each skill is a prerequisite for another. Sometimes it’s just logic: in order to be able to speak about restaurants, you probably should be able to introduce yourself first. Sometimes, however, it’s a necessary building block: in order to speak about your routine, you should be able to speak about basic everyday activities.

In Duolingo, each unit has its own suite of skills, each of which is broken down into five lessons. Once you complete all five lessons, you can move to the next skill. Complete all skills and you can move to the next unit. Depending on the language, a user might encounter an average of 60 skills across nine different units within a course.

Duolingo Skill Tree UX in 2012. Image Credits: Duolingo

Duolingo Skill Tree UX in 2021. Image Credits: Duolingo

The growth power of a cartoon owl meme

Duolingo had its “leveling up” model figured out, but now it had to integrate gamification into every nook and cranny of its app. One of its first challenges was rebuilding the sort of teacher-student emotional bond that can help students stay motivated to learn. No one likes to fail, and Duolingo stumbled upon a scalable approach through its cartoon owl mascot Duo — also thought of by the design agency behind the skill trees.

Whenever users succeed or fail at their lessons today, they are likely to be encouraged or admonished by Duo’s presence. Designers sprinkled Duo throughout the product, looking at Super Mario Brothers as an example of how to use iconic art to create a friendly gaming experience. In early iterations of the app, Duo was present but static, more of an icon than a personality. That changed as the company increasingly pushed harder on engagement.

#duolingo, #ec-edtech, #ec-1, #edtech, #education, #pittsburgh, #startups, #tc

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How Duolingo became fluent in monetization

As its meandering route to monetization will demonstrate, Duolingo isn’t mission-oriented, it’s mission-obsessed.

Co-founders Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker never wanted to charge consumers for access to Duolingo content, a purpose imbued throughout the company’s culture. For years in order to work at Duolingo, you had to be comfortable with joining a company in Pittsburgh that was in no rush to make money. The startup, filled with education enthusiasts and mission-driven employees, became “very college pizza vibes,” Gina Gotthilf, former VP of Marketing at Duolingo, described. Everyone was against making money and having structure — some employees even threatened to quit if Duolingo ever charged a cent to users.

“One thing that recruited me was this brilliance that we can kill two birds with one stone,” she said, referring to Duolingo’s original translation-service business model we talked about in part one of this EC-1. “It was obviously tied to Luis’ thinking and reCAPTCHA and it was magical and brilliant.”

Free may not have paid the bills, but it did come with a valuable upside: growth. By 2017, Duolingo would boast having 200 million users, which was double von Ahn’s goal when he first launched to the public on the TechCrunch Disrupt stage.

Duolingo launched saying it would never do advertisements, subscriptions or in-app purchases — approaches that now all exist on the platform. Today, Duolingo has a simple freemium business model that is remarkably unconventional. It has a free version with all of its learning content, and it charges a subscription of $6.99 per month for paywalled features such as unlimited hearts, no advertisements and progress tracking. It also has a number of other revenue streams it’s developing, such as language proficiency tests.

As we’ll explore, Duolingo’s route from anti-business rebel to conventional consumer subscription is complex, full of twists and turns. While Duolingo never wanted to look like other edtech companies, as we saw with its product strategy in part two, it turns out that evolving from college pizza vibes meant that it would have to take a page from its peers.

Duocon, Duolingo’s new conference to celebrate education and language. Image Credits: Duolingo

Business only speaks one language: Money

“They had users and in Silicon Valley, there was this notion that if you have users, you can turn anything into money,” said Bing Gordon, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) partner who led Duolingo’s $20 million Series C in 2014.

“This was not very controversial back then, at least with investors,” von Ahn said. “This became controversial for us once we raised a ton of money, and we still weren’t making more money.”

While the company’s investors were relatively lenient in the early years, patience was starting to run thin. In June 2015, Duolingo raised a $45 million Series D round led by Laela Sturdy of Google Capital (later rebranded CapitalG), valuing the company at $470 million. She invested because of Duolingo’s growth and engagement numbers, but confronted von Ahn with some direct advice.

“She said to me, ‘Look, it worked for you to continue getting bigger and bigger checks from venture capital,’” von Ahn said. “‘But this is the last time it works for you … if you’re trying to con people, you cannot con anybody bigger than us [at Google].’” Duolingo’s valuation wouldn’t just be at stake next time it went fundraising on Sand Hill Road — its very survival would be as well.

Looking back, Sturdy said that she always “had confidence that they would come up with a revenue model” because of Duolingo’s passionate and organic users.

When a startup chooses to raise venture capital, it sets itself on a heavily-prescribed course. Suddenly, success isn’t defined merely as cash-flow breakeven with a long-term sustainable business. It has to be an exit of some sorts, and a big one at that. While Duolingo used venture as a lifeline to fund its product development, venture also came with pressure to become a billion-dollar company, or more. And that meant making revenue, not just growing engagement.

Von Ahn says his conversation with Sturdy is what really changed his mindset about money. After the Google check hit Duolingo’s bank account, he and Hacker began thinking about ways to make Duolingo as much a monetary success as it had been an educational one.

Duolingo’s Pittsburgh HQ. Image Credits: Duolingo

Dr. Ahn or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the revenue(s)

“It was clear that Luis didn’t have commercial instincts, he had cultural instincts and a deep focus on learning,” said Gordon. “[When we invested] Duolingo predicted it was on the verge of revenue growth, and it turned out it was not on the verge of revenue growth.”

What Gordon is alluding to was a litany of monetization attempts in Duolingo’s past. Translation, which helped von Ahn’s previous two startups, didn’t work when applied to language-learning services, and the company only secured two customers before ending the service. Business partnerships, such as a relationship with Uber to certify and train drivers in Brazil to speak English, didn’t catch fire.

#duolingo, #ec-edtech, #ec-1, #edtech, #education, #pittsburgh, #startups, #tc

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Duolingo can’t teach you how to speak a language, but now it wants to try

Duolingo has been wildly successful. It has pulled in 500 million total registered learners, 40 million active users, 1.5 million premium subscribers and $190 million in booked revenues in 2020. It has a popular and meme-ified mascot in the form of the owl Duo, a creative and engaging product, and ambitious plans for expansion.There’s just one key question in the midst of all those milestones: Does anyone actually learn a language using Duolingo?

“Language is first and foremost a social, relational phenomenon,” said Sébastien Dubreil, a teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “It is something that allows people to make meaning and talk to each other and conduct the business of living — and when you do this, you use a tone of different kinds of resources that are not packaged in the vocabulary and grammar.”

Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn estimates that Duolingo’s upcoming product developments will get users from zero to a knowledge job in a different language within the next two to three years. But for now, he is honest about the limits of the platform today.

“I won’t say that with Duolingo, you can start from zero and make your English as good as mine,” he said. “That’s not true. But that’s also not true with learning a language in a university, that’s not true with buying books, that’s not true with any other app.”

Luis von Ahn, the co-founder of Duolingo, visiting President Obama in 2015. Image Credits: Duolingo

While Dubreil doesn’t think Duolingo can teach someone to speak a language, he does think it has taught consistency — a hard nut to crack in edtech. “What Duolingo does is to potentially entice students to do things you cannot pay them enough time to actually do, which is to spend time in that textbook and reinforce vocabulary and the grammar,” he said.

That’s been the key focus for the company since the beginning. “I said this when we started Duolingo and I still really strongly believe it: The hardest thing about learning a language is staying motivated,” von Ahn said, comparing it to how people approach exercise: it’s hard to stay motivated, but a little motion a day goes a long way.

With an enviable lead in its category, Duolingo wants to bring the quality and effectiveness of its curriculum on par with the quality of its product and branding. With growth and monetization secured, Duolingo is no longer in survival mode. Instead, it’s in study mode.

In this final part, we will explore how Duolingo is using a variety of strategies, from rewriting its courses to what it dubs Operation Birdbrain, to become a more effective learning tool, all while balancing the need to keep the growth and monetization engines stoked while en route to an IPO.

Duolingo’s office decor. Image Credits: Duolingo

“Just a funny game that is maybe not as bad as Candy Crush.”

Duolingo’s competitors see the app’s massive gamification and solitary experience as inherently contradictory with high-quality language education. Busuu and Babbel, two subscription-based competitors in the market, both focus on users talking in real time to native speakers.

Bernhard Niesner, the co-founder and CEO of Busuu, which was founded in 2008, sees Duolingo as an entry-level tool that can help users migrate to its human-interactive service. “If you want to be fluent, Duolingo needs innovation,” Niesner said. “And that’s where we come in: We all believe that you should not be learning a language just by yourself, but [ … ] together, which is our vision.” Busuu has more than 90 million users worldwide.

Duolingo has been the subject of a number of efficacy studies over the years. One of its most positive reports, from September 2020, showed that its Spanish and French courses teach the equivalent of four U.S. university semesters in half the time.

Babbel, which has sold over 10 million subscriptions to its language-learning service, cast doubt on the power of these findings. Christian Hillemeyer, who heads PR for the startup, pointed out that Duolingo only tested for reading and writing efficacy — not for speaking proficiency, even though that is a key part of language learning. He described Duolingo as “just a funny game that is maybe not as bad as Candy Crush.”

Putting the ed back into edtech

One of the ironic legacies of Duolingo’s evolution is that for years it outsourced much of the creation of its education curriculum to volunteers. It’s a legacy the company is still trying to rectify.

The year after its founding, Duolingo launched its Language Incubator in 2013. Similar to its original translation service, the company wanted to leverage crowdsourcing to invent and refine new language courses. Volunteers — at least at first — were seen as a warm-but-scrappy way to bring new material to the growing Duolingo community and more than 1,000 volunteers have helped bring new language courses to the app.

#babbel, #busuu, #carnegie-mellon-university, #duolingo, #ec-edtech, #ec-1, #edtech, #education, #language-learning, #luis-von-ahn, #pittsburgh, #startups, #tc

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The second shot is kicking in

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

First and foremost, Equity was nominated for a Webby for “Best Technology Podcast”! Drop everything and go Vote for Equity! We’d appreciate it. A lot. And even if we lose, well, we’ll keep doing our thing and making each other laugh. (Note: we are in last place, which is, well, something.)

Regardless, the Equity team got together once again this week to not only go over the news of the week, but also to do a little soul searching. You see, some news broke yesterday, so we figured that we had to talk about it in our usual style. So, here’s the rundown:

  • Do you want to buy TechCrunch? Apparently you can? Albeit probably along with a few billion dollars worth of other assets — whatever is left of Yahoo and AOL — you can now own an NFT. A non-fungible TechCrunch. What is ahead for us? We don’t know. So if you do know, tell us. Until then we’ll just yo-yo gently between panic and optimism, as per usual.
  • We also dug into the latest All Raise venture capital data, and the results were abysmal. 
  • Next up was the news that fintech startups are setting records in 2021, raising more capital than ever before. That brought us to the latest from Brex.
  • And then there was a suspicious trend when three fintech companies focused on teen banking raised in one exhale. We talk Step, Greenlight, and Current.
  • Natasha talked about her last Startups Weekly post, in which she unpacked The MasterClass effect’s impact on edtech.
  • And to close, we discussed the latest cool-kid venture capital funds. Sure memes are cool, but did you know that they can help you raise a $10 million fund? They can!

We are back Monday morning with our weekly kick-off show. Have a great weekend!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#a16z, #banana-capital, #brex, #credit-card, #current, #edtech, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #greenlight, #health-tech, #masterclass, #startups, #step, #techcrunch, #verizon, #weekend-fund

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What the MasterClass effect means for edtech

MasterClass, which sells a subscription to celebrity-taught classes, sits on the cusp of entertainment and education. It offers virtual, yet aspirational learning: an online tennis class with Serena Williams, a cooking session with Gordon Ramsay. While there’s the off chance that an instructor might actually talk to you — it has happened before — the platform mostly just offers paywalled documentary-style content.

The vision has received attention. MasterClass is raising funding that would value it at $2.5 billion, as scooped by Axios and confirmed independently by a source to TechCrunch. But while MasterClass has found a sweet spot, can the success be replicated?

Investors certainly think so. Outlier, founded by MasterClass’ co-founder, closed a $30 million Series C this week, for affordable, digital college courses. The similarities between Outlier and its founder’s alma mater aren’t subtle: It’s literally trying to apply MasterClass’ high-quality videography to college classes. This comes a week after I wrote about a “MasterClass for Chess lovers” platform launched by former Chess World Champion Garry Kasparov.

Two back-to-back MasterClass copycats raising millions in venture capital makes me think about if the model can truly be verticalized and focused down into specific niches. After 2020 and the rise of Zoom University, we know edtech needs to be more engaging, but we don’t know the exact way to get there. Is it by creating micro-learning communities around shared loves? Is it about gamification? Aspirational learning has different incentives than for-credit learning. In order to be successful, Outlier needs to prove to universities it can use MasterClass magic for true outcomes that rival in-person lectures. It’s a harder, and more ambtious promise.

My riff aside, I turned to two edtech founders to understand how they see the MasterClass effect panning out, and to cross-check my gut reaction.

Taylor Nieman, the founder of language learning startup Toucan:

Although I do love how these models try to lean into this theme of “invisible learning” like we leverage with Toucan, it faces the same issues as so many other consumer products that try to steal time out of people’s very busy days. Constantly competing for time leads to terrible engagement metrics and very high churn. That leads me to question what true learning outcomes could occur from little to no usage of the product itself.

Amanda DoAmaral, the founder of Fiveable, a learning platform for high school students:

Masterclass is important for showing us why educational content should be treated more like entertainment. All of our bars for content quality is much higher now than it ever was before and I’m excited to see how that affects learning across the board.

For students, it’s about creating environments that support them holistically and giving them space to collaborate openly. It feels so obvious that these spaces should exist for young people, but we’ve lost sight of what students actually need. At my school, we built policies that assumed the worst in students. I want to flip that. Assume the best, be proactive to keep them safe, and create ways to react when we need to.

Anyways, that’s just some nuance to chew on during this fine day. In the rest of this newsletter, we will focus a lot on tactical advice for founders, from the money they raise to the peacock dance they might want to do one day. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @nmasc_ so we can talk during the week, too!

The peacock dance

You know when male peacocks fan their feathers to court a lover? That, but for startups trying to get acquired. As one of our many rabbit holes on Equity this week, we talk about Discord walking away from a Microsoft deal, and if that deal ever existed in the first place or if it was just a way to drum up investor excitement in the audio gaming platform.

Here’s what to know: Discord is reportedly pursuing an IPO after walking away from talks with multiple companies that were looking to acquire the audio gaming giant.

Discord aside, the consolidation environment continues to be hot for some sectors.

Four business people used ropes to tighten their money bags, economic austerity, reduced income, economic crisis

Image Credits: VectorInspiration / Getty Images

Even venture capital knows that the future isn’t simply venture capital

Clearbanc, a Toronto-based fintech startup that gives non-dilutive financing to businesses, has rebranded alongside a $100 million financing that valued it at $2 billion. Now rebranded as Clearco, the startup wants to be more than just a capital provider, but a services provider, too.

Here’s what to know: The startup has been on a tear of product development for the past year, launching services such as valuation calculators or runway tools. It’s a step away from what Clearbanc originally flexed: the 20-minute term sheet and rapid-fire investment. I talk about some of the levers at play in my piece:

Many of Clearco’s newest products are still in their infancy, but the potential success of the startup could nearly be tied to the general growth of startups looking for alternatives to venture capital when financing their startups. Similar to how AngelList’s growth is neatly tied to the growth of emerging fund managers, Clearco’s growth is cleanly related to the growth of founders who see financing as beyond a seed check from Y Combinator.

abstract human brain made out of dollar bills isolated on white background

Abstract human brain made out of dollar bills isolated on white background. Image Credits: Iaremenko / Getty Images

Don’t market your opportunity away

Keeping on the theme of tactical advice for founders, let’s move onto talking about marketing. Tim Parkin, president of Parkin Consulting, explained how startup founders can use marketing as a tool to stand out in the noisy environment. Differentiation has never been harder, but also more imperative.

Here’s what to know: Parkin outlines four ways that martech will shift in 2021, strapped with anecdotes and a nod to the importance of investing in influencers.

Red ball on curved light blue paper, blue background. Image Credits: PM Images / Getty Images

Around TechCrunch

Your humble yet favorite startup podcast, Equity, got nominated for a Webby! Me and the team need your help to win, so please vote for us here. Your support means a ton.

This newsletter will always be free, but if you do want to support me, feel free to use code STARTUPSWEEKLY for 25% off a subscription to Extra Crunch.

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Thanks for reading along today and everyday. Sending love to my readers in India and everyone around the world that is facing yet another deadly surge of this horrible disease. I’m rooting for you.

N

#chess, #clearbanc, #clearco, #dell, #discord, #edtech, #education, #entertainment, #funding, #fundraising, #garry-kasparov, #masterclass, #microsoft, #outlier, #startups, #startups-weekly, #tc, #unicorn

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Tom Brady and Salesforce Ventures pour millions into Class, a Zoom-friendly edtech startup

Class, an edtech startup that integrates exclusively with Zoom to make remote teaching more elegant, has raised $12.25 million in new financing. The round brings Salesforce Ventures, Sound Ventures and Super Bowl champion Tom Brady onto its capital table.

CEO and founder Michael Chasen said that Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, approached the company about investing in Class. Salesforce Ventures launched a $100 million Impact Fund in October 2020, a month after Class launched, to back edtech companies and cloud enterprises businesses with an impact lens.

As for Tom Brady entering the edtech world, Chasen said that the famous football player has made tech investments in the past and, “as the father of three is passionate about helping people through education.”

“Tom Brady and I are both fathers to three kids and like all parents, we get the need to add teaching and learning tools to Zoom,” Chasen added.

Class has now raised $58 million in less than a year, with a $30 million Series A in February 2021 and a $16 million seed round in September 2020. Today’s raise is less than its Series A round, which signals it was likely more done strategically to bring on investors than out of necessity.

The money will be used to help roll out Class to K-12 and higher-ed institutions across the world. The startup’s software publicly launched on the Mac a few months ago, and will exit beta for Windows, iPhone, Android and Chromebook in the next few weeks, Chasen said. The larger public launch will help scale the some 7,500 schools that have shown interest in adopting Class.

The big hurdle for Class, and any startup selling e-learning solutions to institutions, is post-pandemic utility. While institutions have traditionally been slow to adopt software due to red tape, Chasen says that both of Class’ customers, higher ed and K-12, are actively allocating budget for these tools. The price for Class ranges between $10,000 to $65,000 annually, depending on the number of students in the classes.

“We have not run into a budgeting problem in a single school,” Chasen said in February. “Higher ed has already been taking this step towards online learning, and they’re now taking the next step, whereas K-12, this is the first step they’re taking.” So far, Class has more than 125 paying clients with even-split between K-12 and higher ed, and 10% of customers using it for corporate teams.

It’s not the only startup that is trying to reinvent Zoom University. A number of companies are trying to serve the same market of students and teachers who are fatigued by current video conferencing solutions which — at best — often look like a gallery view with a chat bar. Three companies that are gaining traction include Engageli, Top Hat and InSpace.

While each startup has its own unique strategy and product, the founders behind them all need to answer the same question: Can they make digital learning a preferred mode of pedagogy and comprehension — and not merely a backup — after the pandemic is over?

As that question continues to get explored, today’s news shows that Class isn’t having any trouble recruiting people to believe the answer is yes. In just nine months, the company has gone from two to more than 150 employees and contractors.

#edtech, #education, #michael-chasen, #recent-funding, #salesforce-ventures, #startups, #tc, #tom-brady, #zoom

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Indonesian edtech CoLearn gets $10M Series A led by Alpha Wave Incubation and GSV Ventures

A Zoom screenshot with CoLearn's founding team: Marc Irawan, Abhay Saboo and Sandeep Devaram

A Zoom screenshot with CoLearn’s founding team: Marc Irawan, Abhay Saboo and Sandeep Devaram

Indonesian startup CoLearn started as a chain of physical tutoring centers and was in the process of shifting to a hybrid offline-online model when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The team sensed that remote learning would permanently change how students want to be tutored and decided to focus completely on its app, which launched in August 2020. CoLearn has since been downloaded more than 3.5 million times and has about one million active users, mostly students in grades 7 to 12.

The company announced today it has raised $10 million in Series A funding co-led by Alpha Wave Incubation and edtech-focused GSV Ventures. This marks the first time both have made an investment in Indonesia. The round also included participation from returning investors Sequoia Capital India’s Surge and AC Ventures.

One of the Jakarta-based company’s goals is to improve educational standards in Indonesia. The country’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment, a global ranking system created by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) rankings are in the bottom 10% for math, science and reading. CoLearn’s goal is to help move up Indonesia’s PISA ratings to the top 50% over the next five years.

CoLearn’s app offers more than 250,000 pre-recorded videos with homework help. The videos serve as a hook to convince students (or their parents) to sign up for CoLearn’s live online classes.

Screenshots from CoLearn, an Indonesian online learning app

CoLearn screenshots

The company’s co-founders are Abhay Saboo, Marc Irawan and BYJU product team alum Sandeep Devaram. Despite being the world’s fourth most populous country with 270 million people, Indonesia has not seen the same level of investment and innovation in its educational infrastructure as countries like China or India, Saboo told TechCrunch. “We’re trying to solve the problem of how do you change mindsets, how do you change motivation, how do you increase in confidence levels?”

CoLearn started its offline in business in 2018, before shifting to a hybrid model. Once the pandemic hit, the company decided to go fully online. Even after schools reopen, the team anticipates that most students will prefer the convenience of online afterschool learning because going to brick-and-mortar tutoring centers can eat up hours of their time each day, Saboo said.

CoLearn’s users ask about 5 million questions through the app each month. Its AI platform matches them with video tutorials, recorded by more than 400 tutors, that break down key concepts. Saboo said creating engaging videos instead of presenting solutions in a diagram is one of the ways CoLearn differentiates from competitors like SnapAsk, which raised $35 million last year to expand in Southeast Asia.

“What we realized is that kids are really craving a step-by-step explanation and this is the TikTok generation, so if a picture says a thousand words, then a video says a million,” he said. He added that students often hit pause on the video when they think they have the answer to a question, before skipping to the end to see if they got it right, indicating that they want to understand concepts instead of simply getting a solution.

CoLearn’s live online classes will be its main priority going forward and the startup hopes to replicate the success of companies like China’s Yuanfadao and Zuoyebang. As part of that goal, it runs teacher training programs and expects to train more than 200 teachers over the next two years, especially in STEM subjects. The company may eventually scale into other countries that have similar issues with their education systems, but Saboo said CoLearn’s plan is to focus on Indonesia for at last the next couple of years.

Other investors in CoLearn include Leo Capital, TNB Aura, S7V, January Capital, Alpha JWC, Taurus Ventures, Alter Global and Mahanusa Capital.

In press statement, GSV Ventures managing partner Deborah Quazzo said, “The opportunity to build efficacious learning solutions for the fourth largest country in the world is vast. The greatest businesses are created when entrepreneurs tackle large, important problems and CoLearn is doing that.”

 

#asia, #colearn, #edtech, #education, #fundings-exits, #homework-help, #indonesia, #online-learning, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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Do you need a SPAC therapist?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s biggest tech happenings. It was yet another busy week, but that just means we had a great time putting the show together and recording it. Honestly we have a lot of fun this week, and we hope that you crack a smile while we dig through the latest as a team.

Ready? Here’s the rundown:

  • The Coinbase direct listing! Here’s our notes on its S-1, its direct listing reference price, and its results. And we even wrote about the impact that it might have on other startup verticals!
  • Grab’s impending SPAC! As it turns out Natasha loves SPACs now, and even Danny and Alex had very little to say that was rude about this one.
  • Degreed became a unicorn, proving yet again that education for the enterprise is a booming sub-sector.
  • Outschool also became an edtech unicorn, thanks to a new round led by Coatue and everyone’s rich cousin, Tiger Global. The conversation soon devolved into how Tiger Global is impacting the broader VC ecosystem, thanks to a fantastic analysis piece that you have to read here. 
  • Papa raised $60 million, also from Tiger Global. What do you call tech aimed at old folks? Don’t call it elder tech, we have a brand new phrase in store. Let’s see if it catches on.
  • AI chips! Danny talks the team through grokking Groq, so that we can talk about TPUs without losing our minds. He’s a good egg.
  • And, finally, Slice raised more money. Not from Tiger Global. We have good things to say about it.

And that is our show! We are back on Monday morning!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#ai, #chips, #coinbase, #crypto, #degreed, #edtech, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #grab, #groq, #ipo, #outschool, #slice, #smb, #spac, #startups, #tc, #unicorn

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#Interview – “Am wichtigsten ist es, darauf zu achten, dass man nicht in Endlostagen versinkt”


Wie starten ganz normale Gründerinnen und Gründer so in einen ganz normalen Startup-Arbeitsalltag? Wie schalten junge Unternehmerinnen und Unternehmer nach der Arbeit mal so richtig ab und was hätten die aufstrebenden Firmenlenker gerne gewusst bevor sie ihr Startup gegründet haben? Wir haben genau diese Sachen abgefragt. Heute antwortet Christian Rebernik, Gründer von Tomorrow’s Education. Das junge Berliner EdTech bietet das berufsbegleitende Masterprogramm “Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET)” an, das auf der eigens dafür entwickelten Plattform verfügbar ist.

Wie startest Du in einen ganz normalen Startup-Arbeitsalltag?
Ich bin Frühaufsteher. Der Morgen ist für mich gut planbar und ich bin zu dieser Zeit sehr produktiv. Meist stehe ich vor 5 Uhr auf und meditiere. Danach teile ich auf unserer virtuellen Plattform mit anderen, was ich geschafft habe, was ich vor habe und wo ich Hilfe benötige. So kann jeder sehen, mit was ich gerade beschäftigt bin. Danach nehme ich mir Zeit, um zu Lernen und zu Experimentieren. Gegen 7 Uhr mache ich Sport. Ich laufe gerne oder bei schlechtem Wetter rudere ich am Home-Trainer oder mach ein High Intensity Training. Bevor mein eigentlicher Arbeitstag losgeht, frühstücke ich mit der Familie und gehe dann in mein Home Office.   

Wie schaltest du nach der Arbeit ab?
Indem ich Zeit mit meiner Familie verbringe. Ich habe drei noch junge Kinder. Ein wunderschönes Abendritual ist Vorlesen. Das genieße ich sehr. Durch Corona haben wir ja alle die Arbeit mit nach Hause gebracht. Es ist also noch wichtiger geworden, einen Endpunkt zu setzen und sich Zeit für andere Dinge zu nehmen.

Was über das Gründer:innen-Dasein hättest du gerne vor der Gründung gewusst?
Viele Dinge brauchen Struktur, Wiederholung, Regelmäßigkeit. Man kann wirklich sehr viel mehr erreichen, wenn man sich etwas zur Gewohnheit macht und nach einem immer wiederkehrenden Muster erledigt. Die meisten Menschen nehmen sich vor, fit werden zu wollen. Das ist ein Ziel, an dem viele scheitern, weil der Berg zu groß ist. Wenn ich aber sage, ich mache jeden Tag fünf Übungen, gleich nachdem ich aufstehe, dann ist das machbar. Nach ein paar Wochen ist es eine Gewohnheit. Stück für Stück kann ich das Training intensivieren oder ausarbeiten. Der Erfolg stellt sich ein, weil ich dran bleibe. Im Job ist es nicht anders. Man definiert anspruchsvolle, aber erreichbare Ziele, überlegt mit welchen Schritten die Umsetzung gelingt, und integriert sie in den Arbeitsalltag. Am Anfang braucht man noch Zeit, aber irgendwann hat man sie verinnerlicht. Dann geht man einen Schritt weiter, nimmt neue Aufgaben hinzu. Auch hier wird erfolgreich sein, wer beharrlich an seinen Zielen bleibt und diese immer wieder an neue Gegebenheiten anpasst.

Was waren die größten Hürden, die Du auf dem Weg zur Gründung überwinden musstest?
Bevor man gründet, muss man von einer Sache überzeugt sein. Bei Tomorrow’s Education war mir rasch klar: der Bildungsbereich braucht dringend neue Impulse. Unser Bildungssystem ist in alten Strukturen festgefahren und die Art und Weise, wie wir an Schulen und Universitäten lernen, hat sich in den letzten Jahrzehnten kaum geändert. Man muss aber dennoch genau prüfen, ob die Idee umsetzbar ist und es einen Markt dafür gibt.  Unsere Ausgangsfrage war: Wie können wir Menschen in ihrer Wirksamkeit unterstützen? Wie können wir ihnen helfen, ihre Ziele zu erreichen? Die Lösung, die wir anbieten, basiert auf einer mobile-first Lernplattform, einer aktiven Lernmethode und zukunftsorientierten Inhalten, kurz: eine University in Your Pocket. Durch die Plattform hat man rund um die Uhr Zugang zu unserem Programm. Man kann selbst entscheiden, wann und auf welchem Endgerät man lernen will. Die Plattform ist aber vor allem Mittel zum Zweck. Im Kern geht es darum, das Lernen selbst effizienter und erfüllter zu machen – das betrifft ja auch Gründer:innen. Bei Tomorrow‘s Education lernt man in kurzen Sequenzen, interaktiv, projektorientiert. Inhaltlich ist unser Angebot auf die Fähigkeiten ausgerichtet, die in Zukunft entscheidend für den Erfolg des Einzelnen sein werden: eine Kombination aus unternehmerischen Fähigkeiten, der Kenntnis neuester Technologien und dem Bewusstsein für Nachhaltigkeit. Deshalb ist unser erstes Angebot, der Professional Master in Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Technology, genau auf diese Inhalte zugeschnitten.

Was waren die größten Fehler, die Du bisher gemacht hast – und was hast Du aus diesen gelernt?
Mit 6Voices habe ich ein Voice-First Startup gegründet, dass sich zum Ziel gesetzt hat, Meetings besser zu machen. Dafür haben wir den Sprachassistenten Mia entwickelt, der eine Agenda vorbereitete, Meeting Minutes erstellte, To-dos anlegte und Folgetermine erzeugte. Dabei habe ich unterschätzt, wie unreif die Sprachtechnologie zu diesem Zeitpunkt war. In der Theorie, wenn alle Teilnehmeneden glasklar gesprochen haben, hat das Produkt funktioniert. In der Praxis laufen Meetings anders ab, und Leute sprechen übereinander, halten sich nicht an die Agenda. Es war uns nicht möglich, dies zum damaligen Zeitpunkt in den Griff zu bekommen. Daher musste wir nach drei Monaten das Projekt wieder stoppen. Bevor man prüft, ob das Produkt zur Nachfrage im Markt passt, muss man sicherstellen, dass die Lösung funktioniert. Frühe Validierung ist wichtig, dass ist mir mehr bewusst als vorher und ich bin kreativer geworden bei der Validierung von Ideen. 

Wie findet man die passenden Mitarbeiter für sein Startup?
Im Laufe seines Lebens lernt man viele Menschen kennen und baut sich so ein Netzwerk auf. Wenn man gründet, ist dieses Netzwerk besonders wichtig, da es helfen kann, gute Mitarbeiter:innen zu finden. Beispielsweise kann man die Top 10 Leute kontaktieren, die sich in diesem Bereich auskennen und sie fragen, ob sie weitere Kontakte aus ihrem Netzwerk empfehlen können. Und schon habe ich weitere Ansprechpartner:innen, denen ich die gleiche Frage stellen kann. Dadurch lernt man nicht nur tolle Menschen kennen, man bekommt durch ein solches Netzwerk wertvolles Feedback, Tipps und neue Ideen.

Welchen Tipp hast Du für andere Gründer:innen?
Am wichtigsten ist es, darauf zu achten, dass man nicht in Endlostagen versinkt. Irgendwann muss man den Arbeitstag beenden, essen, schlafen, Sport treiben, gemeinsam mit der Familie abendessen. Man muss sich Zeit nehmen, um die eigenen Batterien wieder aufzufüllen und die gesunden Gewohnheiten aufbauen, von denen ich anfangs gesprochen habe.

Ohne welches externes Tool würde dein Startup quasi nicht mehr existieren?
In der momentanen Corona-Situation haben uns Videokonferenzen am Leben erhalten. Ich glaube, dass dies die Arbeitswelt nachhaltig verändern wird. Es ist nicht mehr wirklich wichtig, wo die Mitarbeiter sitzen. Unser Team ist auf der ganzen Welt verteilt, von Kalifornien bis Indonesien. 

Wie sorgt ihr bei eurem Team für gute Stimmung?
Wir nehmen uns immer freitags eine Stunde Zeit, auf der jeder im Team vorstellen kann, was ihn oder sie die Woche über beschäftigt hat und auf was er oder sie besonders stolz ist. Es ist toll, zu sehen, wie viel Enthusiasmus in die Weiterentwicklung von Tomorrow‘s Education einfließt. Das ist sehr inspirierend und erzeugt gute Stimmung. 

Was war Dein bisher wildestes Startup-Erlebnis?
Das war sicherlich der Launch der Gesundheitsapp Vivy. Als Gründer haben wir lange Zeit nicht gewusst, ob das Thema überhaupt jemanden interessiert. Und dann gab es einen riesigen Ansturm gleich am ersten Tag. Wir waren in allen Medien und hatten unmittelbar nach dem Launch der App über 70.000 verifizierte Nutzer. Das war wirklich verrückt.

Tipp: Wie sieht ein Startup-Arbeitsalltag? Noch mehr Interviews gibt es in unserem Themenschwerpunkt Gründeralltag.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Tomorrow’s Education

#aktuell, #berlin, #edtech, #grunderalltag, #interview, #tomorrows-education

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Garry Kasparov launches a community-first chess platform

Four years ago, MasterClass, a platform that sells celebrity-taught classes, invited chess legend Garry Kasparov to teach a class. He said yes, but soon realized that creating a message that could satisfy a majority of players was a “struggle throughout the process.”

While the class did pretty well, Kasparov found it “a little bit annoying” that he had to downplay concepts and stick to a specific structure. So, now, Kasparov is launching a platform he says has been several years in the making: Kasparovchess.

Kasparovchess will be a platform in which legendary chess players will have free reign to share tips and tricks with players from various levels. Financed by private investors, and media conglomerate Vivendi, the company declined to disclose its total capital raised to date.

The platform, produced by Vivendi, includes documentaries, podcasts, articles and interviews between experts and known players in the chess community. Moe than 1,000 videos have been recorded to date, Kasparov said. Beyond content, Kasparovchess will have an exclusive Discord server attached to it and playing zones.

In many ways, it’s a vertical-specific version of the chess MasterClass he did years ago, with a big focus on community and variety. MasterClass, which is reportedly raising funding that would value it at $2.5 billion, has been a leader in the “edutainment” space, which monetizes off of documentary-style entertainment. One of the unicorn’s biggest characteristics, as Kasparov alluded to earlier, is that it has to appeal to a wide audience so subscribers can hop from one class to another. Within the same month, a user could go from a Kasparovchess class to general pontifications from RuPaul on self expression. The more classes that MasterClass can get you to take, the longer you’ll keep your subscription.

Image Credits: Kasparovchess

MasterClass might consider its broad view as a differentiator, but it’s clear that Kasparov views it as an opportunity.

Kasparovchess has a monthly or yearly subscription of $13.99 or $119.99, respectively. The majority of lessons from experts and retrospective analysis on games you’ve played sit behind the paywall. The premium product also grants users access to a database of 50,000 manually created puzzles that allows players to train certain skills. The product will be available to the public by the end of month.

A popular competitor already exists: Chess.com. It’s a chess server, forum and networking site that launched in 2005, with premium subscription that ranges between $5 a month or $29 a year. Kasparovchess is significantly more expensive.

Kasparov says his biggest differentiator will be a focus on community. The long-term goal of Kasparovchess is to connect global chess communities with each other, unearth prodigies that might not have access otherwise and give others access to his experiences. He thinks that remote education during the pandemic has shown the need to have more interactive solutions, beyond buzzy promises.

“It’s time to actually switch from what we’re teaching to how students can apply it,” he said. “And that helps us indirectly because chess has been recognized for centuries as a nexus for intelligence and creativity.”

Kasparov became the youngest world chess champion in 1985. He retired from public chess in 2005, and has since launched a foundation to help children have access to chess worldwide. Most recently, he helped advise for “Queen’s Gambit,” a show about a chess prodigy that became Netflix’s most-watched scripted limited series to date on the platform. The show was so ubiquitously popular that sales for chess boards soon skyrocketed.

“I was so happy because it was the first time where we could see chess as a positive factor,” he said. “We had so many years with chess being seen as potential destruction and something that could push kids to the dark area of psychological instability.”

The freshness of this message mixed with an uptick in remote education has given Kasparov confidence that his years-long project is finally ready to launch.

“It’s not just about teaching the game, or playing the game, or debating the game,” he said. Instead, he hopes people who come to the platform focus on the culture of chess, its survival and its seemingly timeless power.

#chess, #early-stage, #edtech, #education, #entertainment, #gaming, #garry-kasparov, #masterclass, #startups, #tc

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