India- and US-based education technology company Springboard has received a $1.7 million in investment to support its mentor-led program for online learning. The seed round funding led by LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue, Princeton Review founder John Katzman, and InMobi founder Naveen Tewari. Springboard will use the funds to offer additional student services and support to its users.
“The company will use the funds to increase its capacity in courses, provide additional student services and support and enhance growth,” Springboard’s co-founder said according to VCCircle.
Springboard will also offer up to seven new courses in fields not previously covered including web development, app development, marketing and potentially soft-skills courses.
Enrolled students have access not only to courses and other learning materials, but also to industry mentors and an active community of classmates and alumni to further support their learning. The mentor-centered model translates into a ten-times higher completion rate compared to non-mentor-led online courses, The Hindu says.
“Our approach of combining a project-heavy curriculum with 1-on-1 mentorship from industry experts creates accountability and ensures that our graduates are ready to thrive in the new economy,” Springboard co-founder Gautam Tambay said, according to Tech New Today.
Students meet with their mentors on a weekly basis. Mentors work in high-profile companies such as Facebook, Pandora, LinkedIn, Etsy, and Airbnb.
Springboard, previously known as SlideRule, was initially a MOOC search engine. Realizing that users wanted curated lists of courses based on their needs and goals, the company adjusted its focus to curation and course recommendation. The startup pivoted its focus one more time after seeing poor user engagement with many learners not completing the courses they signed up for. Tambay said:
“[W]e noticed that many wouldn’t complete their courses. We got on the phone with a [number of] users, and found out that people were missing some kind of human contact,” Tambay explained.
Adding the element of human interaction in online learning through mentors and an accessible and useful community meant that Springboard stood out for its unique, more holistic learning experience:
“Offering content alone is not education,” Tambay told Jon Russel of Tech Crunch. “That’s like sending someone to a library and telling them to learn.”
Other Springboard investors include Kartik Hosanagar, a Wharton School professor; Kashyap Deorah, a co-founder of Chalo; and Blue Fog Capital. Investor John Katzman said:
“Springboard brings a smart team and a promising approach to curriculum and mentoring. With the new economy’s need for perpetual learning, Springboard is poised to have real impact.”
Company projections by its founders see massive growth potential in paid student numbers from 1,000 today to up to 60,000 in two years. By 2016, the company projects a 10-fold revenue rate growth at $10 million.
So far, the company says more than 1,000 learners have completed their courses, some of which were hired by companies such as IBM and Reddit. Springboard offers paid and free courses with thousands of students currently enrolled in the free options.
Typically, courses cost $300-$500 per month, which include online material and activities and mentor and community access. The Bangalore and US-based startup numbers more than 110 mentors in the fields of Data Analysis and UX Design over the last year alone.