Today Wisconsin-based StudyBlue, a mobile and social study platform, announced it raised $9 million in Series A-1 funding led by Great Oaks Venture Capital and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) among others. With 1.5 million of the company’s existing 2.5 million users coming on board only in the last year, StudyBlue will use the funding to scale its team, operations, and content library which to date includes over 100 million study materials available on the web, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
“We’re really excited… it’s evidence of the value we’ve given to users and how hungry they are for a place to move their class material online and take advantage of digital, mobile, and social study tools and study more effectively,” said CEO Becky Splitt in an interview with BetaKit. “The funding will definitely be used to keep up with demand… and take advantage of what we know in terms of content and the network to add more ways to help [students] them connect with each other.”
Students come to the platform for a variety of reasons, but mostly to take advantage of the study notes already available for a wide array of subjects, which they can use, edit, and add to their “digital backpack”. They can also either upload a .csv or Microsoft Excel file or manually rewrite their own notes to convert them into study materials like flashcards, quizzes, and review sheets and compare them others while being able to access their material on the go. It will also match them up with relevant material based on what they’ve already accessed, the classes they’re enrolled in, and the classmates they’re connected to online.
Although StudyBlue is being used by students all around the world, 85 percent are concentrated in the U.S., with the company’s two main revenue streams being on-site advertising and subscription to more premium accounts. Students can sign up for a free account and for $1 a month upgrade to an ad-free account or $5 for more premium features, such as the ability to access advanced search filters to find notes faster.
With the proliferation of smartphone and tablets, students can already store all their documents on Dropbox or use tools like Evernote Peek to study them, and Quizlet to quickly test themselves. While other startups, like Kno and Inkling, are making textbooks tablet friendly and creating a more immersive and engaging study experience fully equipped with automated study notes. There are also several companies more solely focused on making study notes more accessible to students than ever before, including Notesolution, a gamification platform which uses rewards to incentivize students to upload their notes, and platforms like Sharenotes and Flashnotes, which crowdsource study notes by allowing students to earn money by selling their notes online.
According to Splitt, StudyBlue’s aim is to be content agnostic. The company’s focus remains entirely on being optimized for learning with its suite of tools rather than being a marketplace for notes. In addition to social collaboration with a network of peers studying the same subjects and the ability to be synced across multiple devices, enabling students to quickly pick-up from where they left off as go from one device to another.
“Our view is that we’re not a teaching platform…we’re the best place to learn the stuff students need to learn,” Splitt added. “StudyBlue also offers cross-platform capabilities, we have native iPad, Android, iOS and Web apps and they all synchronize so that whatever device you’re using at the moment you have the same experience as when you left off and students love that.”
With the new round of funding secured and an exponentially growing user base, StudyBlue will continue to add and build out features as students provide feedback for its services. Splitt also mentioned that the company is at a point where its user base allows for the ability to better crowdsource study materials and that it will add better functionality to help students network and connect with each other. With studying and education continually being disrupted by technology, students will have quite a few places to turn to when it comes time to hit the books, with StudyBlue being just one of the many options available.