Although her previous education company racked up a slew of industry awards and won several big district customers, Karen Vaites, formerly of LightSail Education, says it was still “challenging and very expensive to break through into the minds of new district leaders.”
In September she joined Noodle Markets, which aims to make it easier for edtech entrepreneurs and school districts’ decision-makers to connect and make deals. And the New York City-based company is set to launch its marketplace, fueled by a $3 million seed round led by Rethink Education.
Rethink’s co-founder and Managing Partner, Rick Segal, will join Noodle Markets’ board. Palm Ventures also invested in the round.
Founded in January 2015, Noodle Markets wants to bring more transparency into the existing processes by which school districts discover and buy products. Districts typically release “Request for Proposals” to find tools and services they need, but these solicitations can be hard for small companies to find. One of the platform’s most valuable services, says Nicole Neal, the company’s CEO, is that it aims to be a centralized destination where companies can find these solicitations, choose which ones are of interest, and pay a flat fee to respond. (She declined to disclose the amount.) And much like how postal services offer people a way to track shipments, Neal says that the tool will keep companies updated about the stage of their proposals.
Districts typically have different ways to review and evaluate proposals; often they will conduct demos and pilots. Regardless of what these steps are, the Noodle Markets platform will “allow districts to define the stages that are specific to their procurement processes” and “communicate those plans to vendors,” says Vaites, now Noodle Markets’ Chief Marketing Officer. In addition to information supplied by vendors, there will be independent third-party reviews. She’s mum about the sources of these reviews but assures that “Noodle Markets will not be an evaluative entity and will not review products ourselves.”
“We’re not trying to change the procurement rules and regulations,” Neal adds. She did hint, however, that her team may bring on lawyers to explore ways to build new and presumably more efficient procurement channels.
Noodle Markets’ management team boasts plenty of industry executives from high-profile companies including Amplify, Pearson and The Princeton Review. But Neal says the company also has “very close relationships with somewhere between 35 to 50 districts that inform how we are building the platform.”
Noodle Markets’ website currently lists 18 partners, mostly providers of instructional technology for teachers and students. But the company has grander, Amazon-esque aspirations of becoming the one-stop shop for “everything that is in the classroom,” says Neal, including “hardware, software, professional development and eventually construction and facilities.”
Noodle Market is the third—and latest—subsidiary company under The Noodle Companies, founded by John Katzman, who also started The Princeton Review and later, 2U. The others are Noodle.com, a search engine for schools and education providers, and Noodle Partners, which helps colleges build online programs.
The three companies each have their own management structures. While they are co-located in New York, they do not share resources, according to Neal. “Prior to the series seed funding, Noodle Markets was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Noodle Companies,” says Neal. “With the recent influx of funding from investors, Noodle Markets is no longer wholly owned by the Noodle Companies.” This $3 million round comes shortly after The Noodle Companies raised $28 million in December 2015.
Noodle Markets is currently open for education companies to register and create profiles. It will launch for schools and districts by April.
Disclosure: Katzman is also an investor in EdSurge.