Can one app be worth a billion dollars?
The Glendale, CA-based company’s upgrade to unicorn status comes courtesy of Iconiq Capital, a secretive family fund with ties to Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman and other Silicon Valley elites.
Founded in 2007 by Doug Dohring (who founded and sold NeoPets in 2005 for $160 million), Age of Learning spent nearly four years with academic experts to design a curriculum to help children ages 2 to 7 develop the skills needed to succeed in school. These efforts laid the groundwork for ABCmouse, which was first released in late 2010 and now contains more than 650 lessons and 7,000 learning activities.
The core ideas behind the app have “three strands,” Zachary Katz, the company’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, tells EdSurge over the phone: “Create the highest quality curriculum; develop the richest and most engaging content to bring those concepts to life; [and] build the technology to combine those into a resource that gets kids excited about learning.”
The company currently enjoys more than one million family subscriptions, which cost $7.95 per month. (Each subscription allows for three individual child accounts.) Doing the math, the company, which numbers more than 350 employees, rakes northward of $100 million in revenue each year.
This hearty figure allows Age of Learning to make ABCmouse available for free elsewhere. Beginning in 2011, it launched a free offering for U.S. and Canadian teachers, now used by 65,000 teachers on a monthly basis. In June 2014, the company launched ABCmouse for Libraries, which Katz says is now available in one-third of all U.S. public library branches. The company is also a partner in several White House-led education efforts: the “Invest in Us” initiative in 2014, and the “ConnectHome” program, through which ABCmouse is made available to children in community centers and public housing.
With a fresh $150 million in the coffers, the company is eyeing an ambitious expansion into schools and districts. This fall, it will launch ABCmouse for Schools, which Katz says will include everything available in the consumer product along with additional features that “enable the deployment of content across districts with fidelity, [along with] implementation, training, analytics and ongoing support.” (The company recently hired David Samuelson, a former executive at Pearson and Achieve3000 and whose résumé dates back to “The Oregon Trail,” to lead this effort.) Katz was mum on further product details but promises to share them at the ISTE conference this June.
Age of Learning also plans on adding content to serve older grade levels. Earlier this year it launched its first-grade curriculum, and second-grade materials are on the way. The company is also looking to expand geographically beyond the U.S., Canadian and Chinese markets that it currently serves.
Also in the works: a visual design makeover. The ABCmouse.com website is a bit of a throwback to the mid-2000’s, and it’s something that Katz says his team is working to update.