It’s not often you hear about companies actually disrupting the education market. Conventional wisdom seems to be that due to the bureaucratic nature of the industry, it’s nearly impossible to get wide-scale adoption at the institutional level.
Clever seems to be an exception. Since launching two-and-a-half years ago, the company has added tens of thousands of schools to its platform. The company has managed to get them on board mostly by providing a free service that provides immense value to teachers and students alike.
Thanks to pretty incredible traction in an industry that historically has been loathe to adopt technology, the company has raised a new, $30 million round of financing just one year after its last round. The funding is being led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and includes participation from existing investor Sequoia Capital, as well as new investors GSV Capital and Peter Thiel.
With the new funding, Clever has raised a total of about $43 million. And as part of the round, Lightspeed founding partner Ravi Mhatre is joining the board.
It’s a bit of a curious investment for Lightspeed, which typically invests at the Series A stage and rarely writes a check this large. But Mhatre said the firm was impressed with the technology that Clever had developed, along with the adoption that it’s seen in just a few years since launch.
“It was the vision combined with the traction that they’re seeing… which convinced us this is a company that has a real opportunity to change how the online education system works,” Mhatre told me by phone.
Clever provides what is essentially an API layer for the education market, enabling schools to quickly sign up for and get up and running with a number of different education apps all from a single dashboard.
App makers integrate with Clever to enable single-sign on among students, which alleviates one of the major pain points for teachers and students alike. Rather than having to manage individual student passwords for each app used in a class, Clever simplifies the process by providing a single place for them to sign in and access learning apps.
Schools and school districts are happy to sign up for the platform because it makes life a lot easier for them — and also because it’s free. Meanwhile, Clever makes money from app developers who benefit from the improved ease-of-use and being a part of the Clever distribution network. They are charged on a per-school basis to connect.
It’s a value prop that seems to work pretty well for all parties involved. According to CEO Tyler Bosmeny, Clever now works with more than 150 developers that make their apps available through its platform, including Scholastic, Amplify, DreamBox, and The College Board. Those developers are seeing app installs grow more than 220 percent over the past year.
In part, that growth is just due to the increase in the number of schools Clever is working with. In March, when it announced its last funding round, it had 18,000 schools signed up. That number has grown to 30,000 schools, including eight of the top 10 school districts in the country. The company estimated that now one in five schools in the U.S. uses its platform.
But that just means the company has a lot more work to do to capture the other 80 percent of schools not yet using Clever. Bosmeny says it’s the company’s goal to become the industry standard here in the U.S., which is partly why the company raised the new round of funding. It’s also got its eye on the overseas market.
“Our goal is to help all schools, and that includes international as well,” Bosmeny told me. With the new funding, Clever will be investing in its team and product, and will be considering new international markets to go after. Because hey, education could probably be better everywhere.