Coursekit: $5 million to NY-based Coursekit in series A round led by The Social+Capital Partnership, angels Joel Spolsky (StackExchange), Michael Kearns (UPenn) and existing investors including IA Ventures, Founder Collective, and David Tisch. This follows a $1 million seed round in May 2011. Board members are Joseph Cohen (CEO, cofounder), Ted Maidenberg (The Social+Capital Partnership) and Brad Gillespie (IA Ventures).
That's big money for a team of five whose product graduated from beta in November. Coursekit offers a learning management system juiced with social networking for the post-secondary set. Blackboard is the kingpin in the field. But Coursekit's grassroots approach is aiming to upend Blackboard. CEO Joe Cohen is relying on "student ambassadors" (currently 85 strong but growing) to evangelize the product--and to provide on-the-ground customer support (read: help their profs make it work). Adding the "social" element to learning gives university studies a new dynamic, asserts Joe.
Ted Maidenberg, one of the three partners of The Social+Capital Partnership, says he was at AOL in the late 1990s when it invested in Blackboard and sees a lot of similarities with Coursekit. Blackboard considered integrating AOL's Instant Messenger into its product--but instead followed a path toward enterprise sales. "What got us excited [about Coursekit] was Joe's 5 to 10 year vision of creating a platform that other companies--recruiters, those trying to market to students and so on--could use to reach that community," Ted says.
S23p (for short) is led by ex-Facebook guru, Chamath Palihapitiya. It's in a quiet period but word on the street is that it will soon close a $300M or so fund devoted to four areas: education, health care IT, finance, and software that takes advantage of the social- and networking-tech backgrounds of its lead partners. Although Coursekit is the biggest investment, it has also invested in TreeHouse and Codecademy.