Citelighter has closed a $1.525 million seed round from New York Angels, Blu Ventures, Harvard Business School Angels of New York City, and the EdTechFund, and angels based in Baltimore. Prominent investors in this group include Frank Bonsal (founder of NEA) and John Cammack (Cammack Associates LLC), Hugh Evans (3D Systems Venture Fund) and David Warnock (CamdenPartners). This round comes on the heels of a $100K investment from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). The company has now raised a total of $2.45 million.
Citelighter co-founder and CEO Saad Alam says this round was wrapped up in 75 days. That's much faster---and more conventional--than how the company supported itself back when it started in January 2011. As we reported, Citelighter bootstrapped itself--literally--by selling iPad strap cases and using that money to build the product.
At the time, Citelighter's main offering was a research and citation tool to help students organize information from the Internet. Now, after seeing it used by middle- and high-school students at over 2,100 schools, Alam wants to expand Citelighter into a writing platform with features that allow teachers to track their students' research and writing process and offer feedback.
"As students use Citelighter for an assignment, our platform stores their behaviors and automatically converts them into Cognitive Prints," says Alam. "These are real-time, color-coded sequential task analysis so teachers can see the steps that a student takes as they complete their research and writing assignment."
Originally based in New York, Citelighter moved to Baltimore last fall, where Alam admits he's been charmed by the entrepreneur-friendly education ecosystem. The city "is different from others that have their own edtech accelerators," says Alam. “Three-month accelerator programs are great,” says Alam. “But in education it’s hard to do it right because you have to prove efficacy and wait out the long sales cycle.”
“The city has become one big education accelerator," he tells EdSurge. He points to the city's strong academic roots in John Hopkins and Towson University, along with a community of dedicated education investors like Frank Bonsal who is leading an education innovation hub. Saad adds Teach for America and other educators have helped his team pilot in a dozen Baltimore schools.
Others are also bullish on the city's emergence as an edtech hub, and according to the Baltimore Business Journal, the city's edtech boom may just be getting started. Robb Doub, general partner at New Markets Venture Partners, thinks local big-name education companies like Laureate and Sylvan will spawn smaller startups and spinoffs.
"We are very excited that Citeligher has made a commitment to Baltimore," Cammack tells EdSurge. "The team's focus on student outcomes and making teachers more effective is in line with the organic efforts that are driving change in Baltimore."
With the funding, Citelighter plans to expand sales and marketing team. The Baltimore reported last November that Alam will raise another $3 million to $6 million. "I think they jumped the gun a little [with the funding]," Alam says. "Luckily the business is relatively healthy so we have the comfort of waiting until either late this year or early next."