Originally published in Ed Surge by Tony Wan.
A crop of startups has embarked on the laudable task of ridding the classroom of stale PowerPoint slides. One of the latest is Pear Deck, which just closed a $4 million Series A round led by Growth Street Partners. Existing investors, including Village Capital, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and AOL co-founder Steve Case also chipped in. The Iowa City-based startup has now raised $5.2 million.
Founded in 2014, Pear Deck lets teachers create and share multimedia-rich digital presentations, which students can access on their devices and respond to through text, drawings and other interactive features. The tool can display students’ responses in real-time anonymously on the class monitor, or privately on the teacher’s dashboard. Pear Deck works on most web browsers on desktop and mobile devices. (Sorry, Internet Explorer.)
The tool is also tightly integrated with Google tools—G Suite for Education and Google Classroom—which allows students to log in with their Google accounts. Pear Deck files are also easily shared across teachers’ and students’ Drive folders.
The impetus behind the company can be traced to the frustrations that two of Pear Deck’s co-founders—all former classroom teachers—encountered while trying to keep their students engaged. “Just the fact of trying to keep tabs on 15 students everyday and see whether they were stuck—that was an enormous task,” Michal Eynon-Lynch, the company’s chief educator and operating officer, said in an interview. The company’s fruity name, she adds, is a pun on the “pair” part of “think-pair-share,” a collaborative activity commonly used by teachers in the classroom.
Along with classroom experience, Pear Deck’s team can also boast about their entrepreneurial chops. Prior to this venture, Eynon-Lynch and two other co-founders developed an online gradebook that was acquired by Haiku Learning in 2013. (Haiku Learning, in turn, was bought by Powerschool in 2016.)
A basic version of Pear Deck, which allows teachers to create and share slide decks with limited functionalities, is available for free. Additional features that include a real-time dashboard that displays student’s responses, along with a “Takeaways” tool that lets teachers assign personalized homework assignments, are available through individual subscription plans that start at $99 per year. (Discounts are available for bulk and school-wide licenses.)
The company claims “hundreds of thousands of users” across more than 40 states and 13 countries, according to co-founder and President Anthony Showalter. He adds that revenue tripled year over year, although he kept mum on further financial specifics.
The company is hardly the only ones attempting to jazz up K-12 classrooms with interactive digital content. Eynon-Lynch says PearDeck sometimes draws comparison to Nearpod, which provides similar offerings (and also raised a hearty round of venture funding earlier this month).
The funding will support the company’s efforts to refine its product and expand its team, which currently numbers 15 employees. As part of the deal, Growth Street Partners’ co-founder, Stephen Wolfe, and Victoria Fram, co-founder and Managing Director of Village Capital, will get seats on Pear Deck’s Board of Directors.
That Pear Deck’s founding team includes former teachers with startup experience piqued the interest of Growth Street Partners, a newly launched growth equity firm, Wolfe tells EdSurge. “We’re also excited about riding the one-device-to-one-student wave and, more specifically, the adoption of G Suite and Google Classroom” in districts across the country, he adds.Read Original Article