Knack Raises $1.5M to Connect Tutors With Students—and Employers

Digital Learning

Knack Raises $1.5M to Connect Tutors With Students—and Employers

By Sydney Johnson     Nov 19, 2018

Knack Raises $1.5M to Connect Tutors With Students—and Employers

Students have always looked for ways to access tutoring and course materials from peers, whether that’s through an academic center on campus or a Facebook group around a particular course.

A handful of tutoring startups have tried to smoothen out the process for students looking for extra support. One of those companies, Knack, today announced it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding to go beyond helping students study or earn extra cash—by helping the tutors get hired full-time.

Founded in 2016, Knack offers a website where college students can connect with other students at their campus for tutoring and mentoring sessions. The company claims to have 4,000 tutors from more than 40 U.S. universities active on its platform.

Students offering tutoring services through Knack receive 80 percent of their tutoring fees, and the remaining 20 percent go to Knack, which manages booking, billing, reviewing and matching. Tutors create profiles with information about their expertise, course history and other relevant experience, and tutees can both search for tutors and review them on the platform.

Knack CEO Samyr Qureshi says his startup has two major plans for the year ahead. First, the Tampa, Fla.-based company will expand recent efforts to partner directly with universities. Knack is currently running pilots with Arizona State University and Lynn Universities, where campuses subsidize the tutoring service for students, and in return can see information like what courses students are seeking tutors for.

The company hopes to bring on 15 colleges and universities by next fall. And those campuses can choose to have Knack supplement a campus’ tutoring offerings or host tutoring programs through Knack.

Knack is also reaching out to employers in an effort to expand beyond the traditional tutoring model.

Through tutors’ profiles, Knack gathers data such as school, major, grades and career interests, as well as reviews from tutees. Tutors can choose to share their info with Knack’s corporate partners, which currently include PwC and Connectwise. The company “monetizes these relationships by letting companies engage with ideal candidates within the community, allowing them to build meaningful relationships needed to win top campus talent,” a press release reads.

“We really believe in the thesis that peer tutoring can build in the classroom and beyond,” says Qureshi. “They are building soft-core skills that are important in the workplace, and due to that, employers have come in to subsidize tutoring.”

Companies that want to recruit students through Knack must first purchase a package of tutoring hours. (Qureshi said the price is in the range of “a few thousand dollars.”) If the company has an interest in a specific subject, such as accounting, they will sponsor tutoring sessions in that topic which makes the tutoring sessions free for tutees. By choosing to tutor one of these sponsored subject areas, these students agree to share their information with the sponsoring company.

“It's essentially a soft reference,” the CEO says. “They are essentially branding the top tutors, saying, ‘we pay for this top talent.’”

Students can also instead choose a non-sponsored subject and to not have their information shared with the company.

The company isn’t trying to automate or digitize the tutoring process entirely. Currently Knack is focused on connecting students for in-person, on-campus sessions. “Most players are going online, but we want to increase engagement physically,” says Qureshi, who adds that the company plans to support online tutoring for distance learning.

Knack won first place at the University of Florida’s Business Plan Competition in 2016, winning a $25,000 cash prize, TechCrunch reports.

Funds from Knack’s latest round will go towards hiring in sales, marketing and engineering. Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning Owner & Fenway Sports Group Partner, led the round along with Precursor Ventures.

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