The founders of Nearpod faced a lot of naysayers when they launched their education-technology company in South Florida in 2012.
“People told us ‘forget it, what you’re trying to do is nothing short of impossible. You’re trying to do software for teachers, they don’t have the resources, the schools are very complicated to navigate, the districts are even more complicated.’ ... But we believed in our model and we ended up building a company that is proving to be sustainable,” said Guido Kovalskys, CEO. “We’re helping teachers incorporate technology to improve their class instruction, leading to better learning outcomes.”
Nearpod was co-founded by Kovalskys, Felipe Sommer and Emiliano Abramzon, three Argentine friends who have worked on ventures together for more than a decade. Now, following a year of rapid growth in 2016, the Aventura-based company has raised a large round of funding to bring Nearpod’s technology to more classrooms.
Nearpod, a platform that lets K-12 teachers find, create and distribute digital learning experiences, has closed a $21 million in Series B funding led by Insight Venture Partners, a New York-based firm that has invested in more than 250 companies. Existing Miami-based investors Krillion Ventures and AGP Miami also participated in the round as well as Reach Capital and GSV Acceleration.
Nearpod’s lessons are now used in 10 percent of all K-12 schools in the U.S. – that’s about 12,000 schools, said Kovalskys. “The most exciting part is that this is driven by the teachers who are the advocates,” he said.
Nearpod’s business model is “freemium,” meaning that it first offers a free tool that K-12 teachers want to use to engage their students. Once they start using it, they tell other teachers and promote it within their schools, and then Nearpod is often able to sell a premium version of its product at the school or school district level.
Nearpod’s customers include Miami-Dade and Broward public school districts. About 40 public and private schools in the two counties are using it, including Hialeah Gardens Senior High, John A. Ferguson Senior High, Margate Middle School, Coral Springs High School, City of Pembroke Pines Charter, Christopher Columbus and American Heritage.
Nearpod expanded its platform greatly in 2016; it’s content can be used on any device including the phone. “Now we offer the full solution. We offer the software, the content, the training, the support,” Kovalskys said. In all, Nearpod’s content catalog has more than 3,500 lessons, from history to algebra to alternative energy, and all incorporate interactive assessments.
Nearpod recently launched Nearpod for ELL at Miami-Dade public schools, which includes 500 ready-to-teach lessons designed specifically for non-native English speakers.
Nearpod also added virtual reality-based lessons with more than 4 million students experiencing a virtual field trip in 2016. “Students and teachers love them. It’s not only that kids have a fun time, but we allow them to have meaningful conversations,” Kovalskys said. Its digital citizenship content, in partnership with San Francisco’s Common Sense Media, has also been popular, he said. “Teaching kids to be responsible digital citizens is not an easy task.”
The company expanded its Aventura offices in December, and it now has nearly 50 employees in South Florida, twice as many as 18 month ago, and another dozen in California and Texas. Nearpod was recognized by Inc. 500 in 2016 as one of the fastest-growing private companies with a three-year revenue growth rate of 1,320 percent and the eighth-fastest in the education space.
The new funding will be used for sales and marketing as well as product and content development and will allow Nearpod to grow the team significantly, mostly in South Florida, Kovalskys said. Previously, Nearpod raised $9.2 million in venture capital, according to venture tracker Crunchbase.
Brad Twohig, Peter Segall and Nikitas Koutoupes of Insight Venture Partners will join Nearpod’s board of directors.
Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg.