Engageli, a newly launched startup that aims to build an inclusive digital learning system for students and faculty, has raised $14.5 million in seed funding.
Investors participated in the funding round include BRM, Emerge Education, and individuals such as Alex Balkanski (General Partner at Benchmark Capital), Lip-Bu Tan (CEO of Cadence Design Systems), and Rob Cohen (Former President of 2U).
Founded in 2020 by Dan Avida (General partner at Opus Capital), Serge Plotkin (Stanford emeritus professor) Daphne Koller (Coursera co-founder and Stanford adjunct professor) and Jamie Nacht Farrell (Former executive at 2U and Trilogy), Engageli is designed from scratch to provide a superior learning experience for students and educators to drive strong outcomes.
Engageli encompasses a host of unique tools, specially designed to enrich the inclusive digital learning experience, including table groups and dynamic breakout sessions, instant integration of polls, quizzes and interactive exercises to test knowledge of course content and gallery view and fixed seating with real time engagement data for instructors to better interact with students, regardless of class size.
Speaking about the platform, Dan Avida, Co-founder and CEO of Engageli, said,
“We’ve created a platform, built from scratch, specifically designed to improve student success."
“Human connection, interaction and inclusion are critical ingredients for engagement and transformative learning in any classroom and Engageli was built on those fundamentals. The Engageli platform gives students and teachers a place to communicate, exchange ideas, work out problems and learn content at a deeper level,” added Daphne Koller, co-founder and board member of Engageli.
Through their new startup, Engageli, the founders aim to build from the ground up an inclusive learning system for students and faculty, one that can recreate engaging, live learning experiences online. They want to replicate the social feeling of being in a classroom, layered with live data about student engagement.
Engageli aims to foster social interactions among students and instructors. Its most unique feature is the set up of an online class, where students are ‘seated’ in virtual tables and they can see, hear and chat with one another, along with the teacher. However, they cannot do so with students at other tables. A student can speak and can be heard by everyone in the class only when he or she raises his or her hand and are given permission to speak.
The platform lets instructors choose how they assign students to specific tables. Instructors can also upload videos directly on the platform and stream them in high quality to students. For students’ ease of use, the Engageli platform features an intuitive interface that is entirely web-based. Users don’t have to install special desktop or mobile apps, as the platform works in all major browsers.
Commenting on the funding, Alex Balkanski, a partner at Benchmark Capital who is investing individually, said in a statement,
“Dan, Serge and Daphne have repeatedly built fast-growing, extremely successful companies. I am so fortunate to be working with them again. Investing in a company linked to education is incredibly important to me on a personal level, and Engageli has the potential to enable a truly transformative learning experience.”
While the idea to start the company was inspired by what Avida and Koller saw their high school daughters attending ‘Zoom School’ during the lockdown, which according to them didn’t do good enough job of connecting with individual students, Engageli chose to focus first on higher education. This is because, according to the company, that was where it was getting the most interest from would-be customers to pilot the service. Moreover, according to TechCrunch, Avida believes that higher education not already has a big market for remote learning, but also represents a more significant opportunity.
Explaining why they chose to focus first on higher education, Avida said, as told to TechCrunch,
“K-12 schools will eventually go back to normal, but we’re of the opinion that higher education will be a blend with more and more online learning. Younger kids need face-to-face contact, but in college, many students are now juggling work, family and studying, and online can be much more convenient.”
Engageli is currently piloting its platform with a select group of higher education institutions.