DreamBox Learning picked up fans early on because its platform showed how technology could be used to better teach students, even in underperforming districts.
For years, the company has been backed by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and philanthropists who saw its potential to improve education. But now, it’s turning some heads on the business side of things as well.
When the company raised its first round of funding, DreamBox CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson said a lot of people liked the technology — they just weren’t sure if it could be turned into a profitable business. But that was no longer an issue by the time the Bellevue company went out to raise it’s next $10 million for a Series B.
That round, which closed this week, was led by Owl Ventures, with participation from Tao Capital Partners. Owl Ventures is a new San Francisco-based VC that has partnered with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and just raised $100 million to invest in education startups.
DreamBox was able to reel in the funding with stats like 90 percent top line revenue growth last school year and a student user base that has doubled every year since 2011. This year, the platform is being used in all 50 states and by more than 75,000 teachers and 1.5 million students. It administers more than 1 million math lessons per day.
“That’s not a mistake,” Woolley-Wilson said. “That’s a business that’s growing. … We’ve always known we have to do well in order to do good.”
What sets DreamBox apart is a platform that uses machine learning to track student progress and adapt the lessons to fit each individual need. Instead of a one-size-fits-all quiz, students grades K through 8 play games that are infused with personally-tailored lessons.
Woolley-Wilson says the business model is working because students have more access to devices in the classroom than ever before, parents expect schools to be teaching computer skills and there are new technologies constantly improving DreamBox’s ability to learn about each individual student.
Founded in 2006, the company employed 15 people by 2010. Today it has 125 employees, with plans to grow to 175 people by the end of next year. It has raised $45.5 million in total funding.
“We share the belief that all students deserve an engaging, personalized and effective learning experience, regardless of the ZIP code in which they live,” Woolley-Wilson said in a press release announcing the fundraising. “With this investment, our future remains bright as we continue our important work to reimagine and reshape the future of learning.”