By Nancy Dahlberg
When I first met Nearpod's co-founders in 2015, they were working in a small office tucked inside a Hallandale warehouse and were getting ready to relocate their team of several dozen. They settled down the road a bit, and over the next couple of years expanded their lighter, brighter Aventura offices a couple of times as the team grew to nearly 100. Now they’ve moved to bigger digs again: Today, Nearpod has 142 employees working in Fort Lauderdale.
Amazing employment growth is just one small part of the story of Nearpod. The education-technology company was founded by three Argentine friends, Guido Kovalskys, Felipe Sommer and Emiliano Abramzon, in 2012 to help teachers incorporate technology to improve their classroom instruction, leading to better learning outcomes.
“We use technology to leverage the power of teachers, in terms of multiplying the touch points they have with their students exponentially. Technology becomes the super enabler. We are at the super forefront of where the classroom will be in five or 10 years,” said Kovalskys, when I first met him in 2015.
So let’s find out how they are doing. When I last visited the Nearpod offices about two years go, Nearpod’s platform was being used in about 10% of U.S. school districts. Nearpod had also rolled out VR lessons and secured more venture funding, but I’ve apparently I missed a few growth chapters of this story since then. So I caught up with Sommer, Nearpod’s Head of Global Business, to find out what they’ve been up to.
The headline: “We’re excited to say that Nearpod now reaches 60% of US school districts.”
Last year, Nearpod greatly expanded its student engagement platform to create better outcomes for students and teachers alike.
“We saw explosive growth in student users this past year, reaching a total of 1.8 million new students and partnering with 161 new schools districts since the start of the 2018-2019 school year alone,” said Sommer.
On the content side, Nearpod has grown too, adding over 500 new lessons to its lessons library, to bring its total offerings to over 7,000.
“The new content includes lessons from existing partners such as PhET and iCivics, and new supplemental curricula we developed in partnership with the Pulitzer Center called Historical Perspectives and Literacy. We also partnered with several new trusted education companies, including Breaking the Barrier for Spanish language learning, to add ready-to-run lessons with VR field trips … to immerse students in Spanish culture and prepare them for a globalized workforce.”
Nearpod recently partnered with Teach for America Miami to help develop programs that will support TFA educators with real-life solutions they can deploy in the classroom. Its ongoing workshops include strategies to develop equitable classrooms and techniques to support diverse learners, like those with special needs or those learning English as a second language, Sommer said. “We’re very proud of our continued commitment to providing the best content to help teachers keep students engaged in the classroom.”
Last month, Nearpod hosted its first annual user conference, Transform, to bring teachers and educators from across the country and world together to discuss student engagement issues they are facing. (Pictured above is Nearpod's co-founders with one of its PioNears, or advocates, at Transform.) “In 2019, our goal is to further tackle the student engagement crisis that’s affecting schools across the country,” Sommer added.
To do this, the company is adding more lessons, tools and resources to expand student engagement and has deepened its commitment to increasing classroom equity.
The company recently partnered with Desmos to provide a web-based, interactive tool rivaling expensive graphing calculators and empower educators with digital math activities so every student can love learning math, Sommer explained. “We want our resources to serve as many students as possible, regardless of their zip code, and create an opportunity for every student to be engaged and successful in the classroom.”
In the past year, Nearpod also added to its executive team. Maurice Heiblum is its COO and president and Rajeev Arora is chief marketing officer. The company is currently hiring for 17 positions in South Florida, including Director of Product Marketing, Salesforce Developer, Marketing Manager and Summer Fellows.
When Nearpod launched, the co-founders faced a mountain of naysayers. And when they started fund-raising, venture capitalists told them they needed to be in the Valley. Now Nearpod, selected in 2018 as an Endeavor Entrepreneur, is backed by a number of local funders, including Miami Angels, Krillion Ventures, Cito Ventures and Knight Foundation, as well as funds such as Insight Venture Partners. To date the company has raised $30.7 million, including $21 million raised in 2017.
So that’s a lot of growth -- with impact. Hopefully, it won’t be another two years until I catch up again!
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