It should come as no surprise that one of the best-funded Aztec startups of the past year of the epidemic is a company that piggybacks on the success of Zoom to add tools to run online classes. But the sheer size of his fundraiser could raise eyebrows.
Klass has raised more than 165 million from a mix of sources, including GSV Ventures, Owl Ventures and Reach Capital, since its inception nearly a year ago. Last month AdSerge sat down with its founder and CEO Michael Chasson to find out what they have seen so far and where the company hopes to go next.
Chaseen is an acquaintance at Adtech: he co-founded Blackboard, one of the largest suppliers of education management systems to colleges and schools, and served as its CEO for many years. As he watched his own children adapt to online schooling during the outbreak, he felt that the zoom did not have the features to handle standard classroom activities such as teacher attendance or quiz giving.
He knew that Zoom had a development kit, or SDK, that would allow other software to integrate on top of the video platform, so he decided to build it into what it became. Square.
“Now you can use the zoom, but you can take attendance, give assignments, take tests or quizzes, face those exams and talk to students one by one,” he says. “We let you replicate the physical class in the online environment.”
When the company started, the plan was to start with higher education and K-12 and then expand into the corporate learning market. But Chasson said the class has received so many internal requests from the corporate side that they have already done much more than the original idea.
In corporate training, he said, “They moved these classes online and found that staff are more directly involved with the teacher. If you tell your employees, ‘You can take this management course, it’s self-contained, it’s self-contained,’ half of them turn to it. Half of them don’t really care. If you tell them, ‘It’s seven o’clock on Wednesday night, there’s a teacher,’ everyone shows up. And they are more involved. And now with Zoom, you can really take live classes [remotely]. ”
Many colleges were offering at least some online education before the epidemic hit. But Chaseen says that because of higher education, many online classes were also offered asynchronously in the past, which means that students can go through them on demand without appearing in the allotted time. But he said colleges are now moving to more direct sessions in online courses and are looking for tools to do that.
The class already has a well-funded competitor to offer the next generation of online classrooms, a startup called Angeli who has raised more than $ 47 million over the past year. While that company’s device was built from the ground up, the Class is an add-on for Zoom, which means that organizations that want to use the Class would not have already done so if they had purchased a license for the Zoom.
Chasson argues that standing on the shoulders of a fast-growing video platform means it can offer a stronger and safer experience. “Zoom has billions of dollars worth of video and audio architecture to stream these classes or meetings live. I could never build it, ”he said. “I was able to focus all of our development on really adding teaching and learning tools to the zoom. I didn’t have to worry about audio video transcription or anything like that. ”
But if the zoom is already built, why does the class need all the money invested?
“Zoom is actually a very expensive platform to develop,” Chasen explains. Because it is a downloadable app, his team had to create separate versions of the class for Windows, Chrome, Mac OS and many mobile operating systems. This means that the cost of its development is almost five times that of building a piece of software for the web. Currently, they estimate that 80 to 100 people in the class are working on “development and consulting services”.
While Zoom’s education has been on the rise since the onset of the epidemic, there are still many schools and colleges that have already adopted competing video platforms, such as Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom.
What did Chasen learn from his experience as the longtime CEO of Blackboard?
He said his biggest advantage is that he knows higher education and many figures in K-12 based on his previous work, which made it easier for him to form advisory groups and get feedback when developing classes.
On the blackboard, Chase had some reputation as a business shark, Buying competitors and suing competitors. And many professors and college leaders criticized the company for not feeling like a partner at the time.
Chasson says he has also learned from that experience.
“I was very young when I started Blackboard and I didn’t have much experience,” he said. “I don’t think we’re working as closely with organizations as it should be to get feedback and input in a way.” In contrast, he says one of the first things he did in the classroom was to create advisory boards to get community input.
At the moment, Chasson sees many schools eager to return in person. But he said many districts have started or expanded virtual academies to provide options to students who do well online or need an online option.
He said he sees K-12 more as a “long-term opportunity” because the school was learning a little online before the outbreak. Now, many see it as something to put into a mix of options in the future.