I’m excited to announce that Outschool has raised $8.5M in venture funding. The funding was co-led by Union Square Ventures and Reach Capital who bring both education and consumer marketplace expertise. Reach was founded by Jennifer Carolan, a former teacher, who has joined our Board.
Learn more about Outschool and our plans below. Also see in-depth coverage by Jenny Anderson at Quartz, Julia Freeland Fisher at Christensen Institute and blog posts from Fred Wilson, Rebecca Kaden at Union Square Ventures and Jennifer Carolan at Reach Capital.
With this funding, we’ll continue to build an inspirational learning platform that addresses the challenges and opportunities of kids’ education in the twenty-first century. If you’re excited to help, check out our open roles in engineering, operations, and growth.
Our mission is to inspire kids to love learning. We provide small group classes that meet over live video chat where learners are connected with teachers and classmates who share their interests. These classes are offered through our marketplace and conducted on our remote learning platform.
We give teachers the creative freedom to create classes like Harry Potter Chemistry, Minecraft Architecture and Pokemon Biology. Kids are thrilled to take these classes because they connect learning with subjects they’re already interested in. So much of kids’ education today is focused on the end result: the test score, the college acceptance letter, the job offer. Yes, mastering a subject and seeing concrete benefits is important. But fostering a love of learning is a key building block to being successful throughout life – and one that is severely under-recognized.
Tens of thousands of families have already enrolled. Every day we’re delighted by the fun and sparks of inspiration that fly when learners and teachers interact in our classes. As one parent wrote:
“It’s a great opportunity for her to try new things and meet kids safely all over the world in a supervised and fun creative learning environment.”
Why I Founded Outschool
Inspired by my own experiences, I started Outschool in 2015 because I wanted to create better learning experiences for kids. I’d been thinking about applying technology in education for a long time. I had a fantastic education in the UK, including studying engineering at the University of Cambridge, which was challenging and provided a great base of knowledge. However, some of my most impactful learning experiences happened outside of school.
When I was five, my parents, both teachers, bought me a computer—a BBC Micro. These were the days before screen time limits and I played computer games obsessively, eventually becoming inspired to create games myself. After teaching myself to program by age eight, my parents found a retired university professor who was teaching computer science on the side. That out-of-school learning experience, based on my interests, eventually led to my career in technology.
Now I’m a parent myself and I think a lot about how I can best prepare my son to be happy and empowered to achieve his goals. Parents like me grew up with the internet and we have new expectations about the tools and methods kids need for learning. In a global economy, we need to help the next generation cultivate differentiated skills by pursuing their interests. We already use video chat for kids to communicate with far flung relatives. It clearly can be a powerful medium for learning as well.
How is Outschool Different?
Outschool is built on the idea that human interactions—both learner to learner and teacher to learner— around common interests are key to learning. We focus on helping kids pursue their innate curiosity, rather than just passing the next test. We see diversity of interests as a challenge we can meet with variety of class choices, not a problem to solve with a restrictive curriculum.
We value human attention and relationships as the foundation of a supportive learning environment, not a cost to be automated away. Kids get more excited, pay more attention and remember more when learning with others. Connecting kids beyond their local community broadens their experience of the world and builds empathy. As one parent put it:
“My son just wrapped a Minecraft class and the kids have bonded so beautifully. I see lasting friendships. It is a beautiful thing to be able to find other kids who are into the same things as you and be able to connect with them despite the many miles in between you.”
Where We’re Headed Next
We see a future where every kid has access to quality, inspirational learning experience that are just right for them. Where they have the opportunity to pursue their interests with other learners and inspiring teachers. We aim to support millions of families across the world.
Small group live online classes broaden access and benefit learners and teachers alike. They’re less expensive for parents and more lucrative for teachers than one-on-one tutoring since costs are split between participants. There’s no need to burn time and money traveling to a physical facility for an in-person activity. Because our classes meet online, anyone can join if they have a fast enough internet connection. Half of Outschool learners take a class with students from two or more countries.
Thanks to all of the families and teachers we work with daily for your commitment to learning and belief in our mission. Thanks also to all of our investors for your continued support. We look forward to the next phase of learning and growth. Here’s how to get involved: