A venture fund formed by Sesame Workshop and New York-based Collaborative Fund early this year has made its first investment in a tutoring platform called Yup.
Specifically, Yup (formerly known as MathCrunch) has raised $4 million in a seed extension round led by Collab+Sesame, in which Sesame Ventures is a limited partner, bringing the company’s total capital raised to date to $7.5 million.
Yup connects students with tutors online, through its website and native iOS and Android apps. The startup is specifically focused on math and science education. Its service targets students who are 13 years old and up, and tackles STEM subject matter from high school through university.
When students first open Yup, a bot briefly interviews them to ascertain what subject matter and level of tutoring help they need to match them with an ideal tutor. Then they are directly connected to a tutor for homework and exam prep help, via direct messaging.
In the U.S. market alone, online tutoring services abound, including Chegg, CourseHero, eNotes, GotIt, Varsity Tutors, Wyzant and Tutor.com. Yup CEO and founder Naguib Sawiris said his startup is distinct from these, in part, because its sessions are peer-reviewed.
Most platforms take into consideration ratings from customers, meaning students or parents who purchased a tutoring session for them. But on the Yup platform, tutoring sessions are recorded and evaluated within 48 hours, anonymously, by other experienced tutors.
A reviewer gives feedback to Yup about how well a teaching tutor was able to guide a student to understand concepts in any given session. This peer-review method is part of what ensures tutors on the Yup platform do not merely hand out homework answers in a subject students may be grappling with.
“We hold our tutors accountable to actual learning. There are too many cheat sites out there that just give students the answers and don’t care about learning,” Sawiris said.
As a condition of raising this capital from Sesame Ventures, Yup committed to developing and selling services to charter schools and districts, which can distribute online tutoring help to students who need it, but whose families can’t afford the extracurricular expenditure.
Investor Craig Shapiro said one reason Collab+Sesame backed Yup is the market opportunity, or demand for this kind of service, in the U.S.
“Across public schools class sizes are larger, teachers’ attention is eroded, and curriculum quality has degraded. But tutoring is still largely happening offline. It’s like taxis before Uber. Nobody had cracked the nut on how to deliver learning, and not just give away answers online.
Yup is doing this in a way that’s not just effective, but makes tutoring more affordable and accessible than having a teacher come to your house. We consider Yup’s competition to be not the other online players but the fragmented market of offline tutoring services,” the investor said.
Update: This post was updated to clarify the fact that Sesame Ventures has equity stakes in Yup via Collab+Sesame, a fund it jointly formed with Collaborative Fund in 2016, and in which it is a limited partner.