Source: Wallstreet journal
Discovery Invests $20M in Grockit to Reach ‘Lifelong Learners’ Online
Moving away from a strictly-students market, one education-tech venture called Grockit has gained popularity and a new $20 million Series E investment led by Discovery Communications, which continues to broaden its educational content “beyond cable.”
According to Grockit CEO Roy Gilbert (an ex-Googler and U.S. Navy veteran), the entirety of the $20 million will go towards redesign and expansion of the company’s new “social learning platform” called Learnist.
Learnist, or Learn.ist in its current iteration, allows approved users to create “learn boards,” comprised of e-books, video content, Web pages and other digital material that show off their subject matter expertise. Anyone, not just paying students, can connect with them via Learnist.
Tutors and teachers use the platform to deliver digital coursework to their students, Gilbert said. The company actively recruits them to do so, along with other experts in their respective fields. For example, it can be used to “teach” people about cultural fare ranging from “The Philosophical Genius of Curb Your Enthusiasm,” to “Words that can’t be translated into English.”
As part of the Series E funding deal, Grockit also entered into a strategic partnership with its backers at Discovery. Is a Shark Week “learn board” in store?
A chief digital officer at Discovery, Jean-Briac “JB” Perette, said he doesn’t know where Discovery’s content could appear throughout Learnist, as “that’s up to the users.”
However, Discovery invested in the company because: “Our digital strategy is true to the mission of the company’s founder, to ignite and satisfy curiosity. We invest in the next-generation knowledge space to do this beyond cable,” he noted.
Another one of the companies Discovery has funded is the fitness-and-brain-games company Lumos Labs, better known as Lumosity.
While technically Discovery led the Series E investment in Grockit, Perette views it more “like a Series A investment in Learnist.” Launched in the summer of 2012, Learn.ist–a site, and apps for iPhone and iPad users–does not yet generate revenue for Grockit.
The total focus on Learnist — which feels like a Pinterest for educational content — may surprise those who know Grockit as a Princeton Review Inc or Kaplan Inc competitor.
When it started in 2007, Grockit leveraged social media and peer-to-peer concepts to transform test-prep online.
Grockit founder Farb Nivi, a one-time Kaplan teacher, says his company’s test prep products are still profitable and successful, so it plans to maintain and support these. But he and Grockit investors view social learning as a much larger opportunity overall.
Two of Grockit’s earliest angel investors were social media pioneers Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus. Grockit’s earlier backers Summit Group, Atlas Venture, Benchmark Capital, Integral Capital Partners and GSV Capital also participated in the funding.
Grockit executives said they were focused on building their Learnist audience and user base, and on products more than a monetization strategy in the near term. However, Perette suggested they could generate revenue through advertising and highly targeted referrals.
“With digital we have the benefits of a two-way dialogue, constantly. Talking about what we know is incredibly powerful, so is learning about things we don’t know. It does not stop at age 22 when you graduate from college. Learnist, like Discovery, is going after the lifelong learners,” he added.