It’s rare to find an education technology company with major growth that’s inserting itself into schools and districts, rather than finding pockets of viral distribution with students and/or teachers.

That’s in large part because it’s hard to get schools and districts to pay for things.

But by giving away its technology platform for free, and charging developers who use it to integrate their software into student databases, a two-year-old startup by Clever has taken off. Clever now has 18,000 schools on board, including some of the biggest districts in the U.S., like Los Angeles Unified and Miami-Dade.

Clever ultimately helps serve some seven million students, but it’s the school principals and district administrators who spend their days on the site, adjusting student accounts and adding new vendors.

One in every eight U.S. K-12 schools is definitely the kind of ratio a venture capitalist will stake a funding round on, and so Sequoia Capital is putting $10.3 million in Series A money into Clever. Also participating are investors Paul Graham, Sam Altman and Deborah Quazzo.

Clever co-founder and CEO Tyler Bosmeny says his company’s business model is already working well enough, but the extra money will be nice for hiring staff in areas including engineering, sales and school relations.

“School districts have the perception of being slower-moving and cautious and that hasn’t been the case with Clever,” Bosmeny said.

He described “an explosion of software coming into the classroom,” including programs like DreamBox, Imagine Learning, MasteryConnect, Think Through Math and Google Apps. Clever, of course, has integrations with each of them.




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