Messaging applications have become the de facto means by which many people now maintain regular contact with each other, and this trend has also spread to classrooms. ClassDojo, a young company that has created a platform for teachers and parents to communicate small and large updates to each other, announced today that it has raised $35 million in funding.
The C series – which is jointly managed by GSV (behind Spotify, Lyft, Dropbox) and SignalFire (which supported Grammarly, Zume, Lime), and also includes General Catalyst and Uncork Capital – will be used in two ways. First, to fuel the expansion of ClassDojo’s free communication application. And second, to stimulate its efforts to monetize its service through a new service called Beyond School, an optional subscription for families to complement work at school with home tutorials in areas that are complementary to learning, such as improving school habits, full self-awareness, and so on.
(One might think of Beyond School when TedX meets Lynda for K-8, but co-founders Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don, respectively CEO and Technical Director, said in an interview that they think the content will be more than that.)
ClassDojo has now raised $65 million, and although this is not an evaluation, a good source told me it was “$400 million”. This is a huge leap forward from the $99 million that the company started in 2015 (a figure quoted on PitchBook).
This growth is due in part to the healthy growth of ClassDojo. Since it began in 2011 as part of a Y Combinator cohort, the company has grown to be used in more than 95% of all kindergarten to grade 8 schools in the United States, with one in six families having a child in primary school using the application daily.
The United States is its largest market, but ClassDojo is now available in some 180 other countries, where it is also beginning to enjoy strong penetration. (In Singapore, Australia, Spain, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, for example, it is used by about 25% of all primary school teachers.) It is impressive to note that all this growth has so far been organic and by word of mouth, one of the reasons why the company has had to raise relatively little funds.
(It also employs only 40 people, another way to keep costs massively low.)
One of the key points of ClassDojo is that the company has kept its focus on its mission: the idea has always been to try to identify the biggest communication problems that teachers can have when teaching children and trying to solve them.
Creating an application that can bridge the sometimes significant gaps between parent-teacher meetings, so that parents feel more engaged in what their children are learning and teachers can have better feedback from these parents on what their children are doing at home, was an obvious first step.
“Learning is so much about learning to have strong relationships,” said Ms. Chaudhary. “It’s cool to see the effect it can have not only with parents and teachers, but also between parents and children.”
Beyond School is in the same vein and a natural extension of it, and not only because teachers have said they want more time to teach students – but because of the general emphasis on study in the school curriculum – but because parents want to be able to work with their children.
This is essentially the broader set of “learning” that could be loosely described as emotional intelligence and general coping and learning techniques, beyond academic work itself. “The classroom learning experience generated a lot of ideas, and families were reaching out to us,” Dom said, “wondering if they could have a product to meet more unique needs at home.
So far, the company has no figures to share on how Beyond School has been adopted since its launch in late 2018, other than to say that everything is going well.
In the longer term, it is interesting to see how ClassDojo fits into the broader trend of communication and messaging applications, and whether others might one day try to compete in the same space, or perhaps acquire ClassDojo by expanding into other sectors – a strategy that Microsoft, for example, has followed when it comes to acquiring other companies in order to take advantage of the $10 trillion educational market.
I asked Hemant Taneja, a partner at General Catalyst, if he thought that people like Slack, for example, might one day try to compete with him. (No, that’s the short answer.)
“Slack is a work tool, and I can’t imagine that there will be synergy there,” he said, and it wouldn’t even work. “As a worker and parent, I think there should be an educational platform dedicated solely to children, where the stakeholders are the family and teachers. I’ve always believed that from the beginning and I think the ClassDojo scale gives it that potential.”