Practice makes perfect, and one company is willing to bet on it. Video learning platform ApprenNet is changing its name to Practice.
Along with a shiny new name that’s easier to pronounce, the company announced a $4 million Series A, led by City Light Capital, with Social Capital, 1776 and Jefferson Education also participating. Since Practice raised a seed round a year ago, it’s been focused on building a new version of its video learning products to launch next quarter. The bi-coastal company, based in Philadelphia and San Francisco, will use the new funds for go-to-market strategy, says CEO Paul Freedman.
Founded in 2011, Practice got its start as a tool for law students at Drexel University to practice exercises and simulations. It received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program and developed the platform for higher-ed institutions, corporations, and hospital and healthcare systems to teach hard and soft skills.
Practice’s video lessons start with a challenge to learners to master a skill, such as explaining a legal case or walking a patient through a procedure. Students upload a video of themselves demonstrating proficiency of the skill and enter a peer assessment stage, where other students comment on their work and share advice for how to improve it.
The company currently counts Harvard, Comcast, Goodwill and the University of Pennsylvania among its clients. Higher-ed institutions typically pay $25 per student, per semester; corporate clients pay $120 per employee, per year (with potential volume discounts).
Practice’s new funding comes at a time when investors are showing signs of trepidation in the edtech market. So far it’s been a “chilly year” for edtech deals, but Freedman says, “It’s not a winter. Investors are still out there.”
He admits that fundraising felt different than in past years. “When we started, the first suggestions of valuations were well lower than what we expected.”
But persistence paid off and Freedman says he’s happy Practice found partners that share the company's values. “Using a short-term play to take advantage of market conditions is not best incentive for long-term value,” he says, adding that venture alignment is often a challenge in edtech investing.
“Education companies don’t always grow with the same dynamics as enterprise applications. An ed app has to actually work from a teaching and learning perspective. That’s not a universally held view, even among edtech investors.”