Tag Archives: Learn Capital

Tom Vander Ark On The Latest Cohort of ImagineK12 Startups

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This post “ImagineK12 Launches 10 More EdTech Startups” by Tom Vander Ark first appeared on GettingSmart.

Palo Alto edtech accelerator ImagineK12 held its third demo day on Thursday.  The cohort of 10 startups made competent pitches. Some, like content sharing app Padlet, have good early traction. Accredible addresses the new opportunity of documenting informal learning.  The rest of the new companies attack current K-12 classroom challenges.  Following is a recap:

  • 121writing adds tags and adds verbal feedback to writing and makes comments trackable and personal.
  • Accredible is attempting to create diploma of the future with a focus on MOOC and self-educated students.  Learners can attach a portfolio of knowledge onto the credential itself for all to see.
  • MommaZoo connects busy moms on mobile. Like a Facebook group with classroom features including volunteering, homework, and parent-kid contact information.
  • Padlet lets anyone put stuff online. With over 300,000 monthly active users, there has been active adoption in schools and colleges. (Also YCombinator.)
  • Plickers is a system for real-time assessment. Teachers capture student responses instantly using their own smartphone, and students answer using paper, instead of electronics.
  • ReadSpin personalized reading with a playlists of online content based on students’ interests and reading level.
  • Showbie makes it easy for teachers to assign, collect and review student work on tablets.
  • TinkerTags  is a learning platform that makes coding easy, fun and cool. Kids work in teams to program wearable electronics using a visual programming environment.
  • VideoNotes helps online students take notes from video lectures.

Accelerators provide focus, advice, support, rent, and a little cash.  Have an idea?  An accelerator like ImagineK12 can be a great place to start.  ImagineK12 has kicked out some exciting companies like BloomboardClassDojo, and NoRedInk that Learn Capital has invested in.

The downside to the accelerator model is that it creates a short runway that encourages teams to work on small problems–some of which will soon go away. In other cases, solutions are features that belong on apps or platforms.

ImagineK12 recently announced a fund that will make incubated startups eligible to receive $80,000 in convertible debt seed financing upon commencement of the program. That’s a great step toward providing a longer runway for promising startups.

Perhaps most encouraging is the level of talent and investment flowing into education. A couple of these startups will turn into viable companies. The entrepreneurs that spend a few months at ImagineK12 obviously benefit from good advice.  One way or another most will contribute to a step-function improvement in education.

Vander Ark is author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World and founder of GettingSmart.com. Tom is also a partner in Learn Capital, a venture capital firm investing in learning content, platforms, and services with the goal of transforming educational engagement, access, and effectiveness.

Udemy Raises $12 Million As CEO Eren Bali Tells His Story & Hires A COO

 Anuj Biyani via Compfight

Udemy, an online education marketplace, says it completed a $12 million Series B financing round led by Insight Venture Partners, with additional support from existing investors LightbankMHS Capital and Learn Capital, bringing Udemy’s total funding to $16 million.

Eren Bali, CEO and co-founder of Udemy, wrote us a note recently telling us a bit about his background that is interesting:

Recently, a lot of people have asked me why I started the company. The answer lies in my personal story, and I wanted to share it with you today. 

I was born in a small village in Turkey. My primary school was a one room schoolhouse where a single teacher tried her best to teach 5 different grades at the same time. That meant we were often left to try and learn from books on our own. As a kid, I was interested and somewhat talented in subjects like mathematics and science, but there was very little room for me to advance my skills. 

One day my parents bought my two sisters and me a computer and Internet access for a few months. At the time none of us had any idea how it would change our lives. But once I started using the Internet, I knew I had found a new way to learn. 

That’s where I discovered several math forums where people were exchanging problems to work on and a few websites with problem sets used in the Math Olympiads. Even though these forums were clunky and disorganized, they had a huge impact on my life. Long story short, by teaching myself math online, I eventually won a gold medal in the National Math Olympiads in Turkey and a silver medal in the International Math Olympiads. 

Later on during college I studied computer science and mathematics. It was there that I met my good friend, and Udemy co-founder, Oktay Caglar. Together we started experimenting with the possibilities offered by the Internet. 

So with the power of the Internet, combined with our own challenging educational experiences, we imagined a world where anyone could learn anything — from any expert in the world. It didn’t take us long to realize how much this idea could change people’s lives. 

But the journey wasn’t easy.

We first created a product with Udemy’s vision 6 years ago in Turkey. We failed. So we packed our bags and moved to Silicon Valley to give it another shot. We were rejected by more than 50 investors before we launched the company in the Valley. But through it all, we didn’t give up because we believed in the power of the Internet to change how people learn. 

We learned from the challenges we faced and eventually our hard work paid off. 

It’s on that note that I want to share some exciting news with you. As a result of Udemy’s amazing growth, we just raised $12 million in Series B funding. 

As a small thank you, I wanted to share a collection of Udemy courses that I wish I had access to while growing up in Turkey. I hope you enjoy them. 

So with $12 million in funding, Udemy says it plans to expand the range and types of content it offers and aims to extend it courses across new platforms. 

Udemy currently offers over 5,000 courses – with over 400 courses added in October 2012 alone – covering a wide range of subjects, including professional, business, technical, academic, creative and lifestyle.

Courses are delivered on demand, so adult learners in particular can take them at their own pace when and where it is convenient for them. Those teaching via Udemy are able to build a curriculum based on videos, slide presentations, PDFs, documents, articles, links, photos and live conferences with their students.

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

“Our marketplace model has allowed us to double our course offerings in just 12 months, grow our user base to over 500,000 students, and increase our revenue 400% over last year,” noted Yang.

The company recently announced a strategic partnership with The Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University to offer online leadership development solutions, and last month launched an iPad app.


Opinion: 10 Things School Leaders Should Do To Boost Blended Learning

10 Things School Leaders Should Do to Boost Blended Learning” by Tom Vander Ark was originally published on Getting Smart.

During a couple breakout sessions at a Rhode Island conference on Innovation Powered by Technology (#iptrideconf) I spent time with teachers and principals thinking about next steps as they prepare for the shift to personal digital learning.  We discussed 10 next steps:

1. Start the conversation. Ask a planning team to start by readingThe Rise of Blended Learning and Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World.

2. Encourage classroom pilots using Edmodo because it’s easy to use across multiple screens/devices, it’s easy share content/lessons with other teachers.

3. Visit schools that are 1:1 (and/or high access) and getting results.

4. Expand options.  In high school, make available online all AP, world language, and advanced STEM courses.  In K-8, add a couple weekly computer math sessions featuring a personalized product like ST MathDreambox, or Reasoning Mind.

5. Stop buying print and look for a couple other budget categories where you can save a little money.

6. Lots of PD.  Support lots of learning experiences for staff but focus on just-in-time online support on a platform like Formative Learning. 

7.Pick a partner and a platform. You’ll need some advice and support.  Here’s 1o questions forChoosing the Right Platform.

8. Build a three year plan. You need six coordinated plans considering content and instruction, assessment and data, devices and broadband, staffing and professional development, fiscal impact, and communications.

9. Make the case to parent groups, community groups, and the school board.  Show how an upfront investment will result in improved achievement and a sustainable school model.

10. Listen hard and communicate clearly with state and community members about the intent, the goals, and the process.


This post drew from a related September post, 10 Things I’d Do Right Now as a Superintendent.  For more, see:

Edmodo and Formative Learning are portfolio companies of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner 

About The Author

Tom Vander Ark


Tom is author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World and founder of GettingSmart.com. Tom is also CEO of Open Education Solutions and a partner in Learn Capital, a venture capital firm investing in learning content, platforms, and services with the goal of transforming educational engagement, access, and effectiveness.