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1Mby1M Deal Radar 2010: Examville, New York City

Posted on Tuesday, Nov 2nd 2010

Examville is a global online education platform for user-to-user collaborative learning. The platform provides an open, virtual meeting place to connect teachers with students of any age or nationality while offering access to materials from major educational publishers.

Nilanjan Sen, founder and CEO of the New York City–based company, has over 15 years of experience in both the academic and business sides of the sector. His history as a teacher includes serving as an associate professor of human anatomy and physiology at several New York City area colleges and as an instructor for the Princeton Review and Kaplan. He has written several test preparation books published by the Princeton Review (Random House). As an entrepreneur, Sen founded Test Prep International in 2008 to provide test prep services to American international schools in over 20 countries. He was also the founder of CampusWarehouse, an online wholesaler of electronics and other merchandise to college and closeout markets, supplying customers such as Overstock.com, Smartbargains.com and more.

Sen founded Examville because he felt that the entire system of supplemental education was highly fragmented, lacking one unified place where students of all levels, teachers, and even parents could access educational resources such as tutoring, classes, e-books, Q&As, and so forth. In addition, he discovered an overdependence on a small number of large publishers and test prep companies for educational assistance. Historically, education has been highly proprietary, expensive, and rigid. Sen aims to create an environment where more people have access to free-flowing information.

The site has a number of features. Students can take classes for homework help, test prep, or recreational learning; download free materials; take practice tests for school entry or professional qualification; find tutors; and post questions or answers. Teachers can tutor students and host open classes. Users can also download free lecture videos from Berklee College of Music, Harvard, MIT, Wnet New York, and Stanford. There are multiple pricing models, both subscription-based pricing as well as pay-as-you go. As of October 2010, users can select from a 30-day plan ($13.99) or a 90-day plan ($29.99). Examville also lets users register for individual online classes, with prices varying from $19.99 to $499 and buy individual digital products like e-books on a pay-per-download basis. In the future, the business model with incorporate an ad-supported and sponsorship-based model, and the company anticipates strong demand for this from content providers and companies interested in marketing to the popular 18 to 35 demographic.

The U.S. supplemental education market is estimated at approximately $300 billion and the U.S. e-learning market at approximately $53 billion. According to the Department of Education, in the United States there are 69 million students (1st grade–graduate school); 68 million adult learners (people who engage in some sort of learning activity each year following traditional schooling); and 9 million teachers. There are more than 500 million students (primary, secondary, and university) internationally. According to UNESCO and World Bank EduStats, there are 102 million students, adult learners, and teachers online in the United States and 150 million students online internationally. For now, Examville’s targets are high school, university, and adult learners and educators in these segments.

There are numerous direct and secondary competitors – Academic Earth, Myngle, EduFire, Lingueo, Udemy, Knewton.com, Cramster, and Kaplan, although Sen says that some of these could also be seen as partners because Examville’s open model allows these companies to use its platform. While some competitors focus on one subject or format – for example, test prep or video learning – Examville aims to stand out by being broad and open, whether in terms of subjects covered, services offered, or having a variety of material from different publishers available.

Examville has been funded by Sen’s family and by Rediff.com. Sen invested around $200,000 to get the startup off the ground. Soon after Examville raised more than $1 million from Rediff.com as part of seed financing. The company will be raising Series A funding shortly. The ideal investor is a corporate venture arm like that of Pearson Education or VC firms with previous investments in consumer Web companies.

Revenue is in the $1 million–$5 million range. The company expects this figure to climb significantly higher in the next six months, as three to five well-known brands are scheduled to debut their content on the company’s platform. As of September 2010, there are more than 200,000 registered users at Examville. The company is also experiencing significant growth each month as new content providers add additional tests, study aids, and so forth. In addition, there are more than 5,000 paid subscribers or users who have engaged in a paid transaction on the site.

Examville’s immediate growth strategy revolves around the growth of its user base through giving free access to a wider variety of test types, aggregating free lecture videos from multiple sources, and providing no-charge access to online collaborative learning tools such as virtual classroom technology and test engines, in the latter case assessing a fee only when a transaction is successfully completed. The company also perceives a large demand for user participation, so the plan is to allow users to easily upload and share their documents and other resources.

Examville is being built for the long run, says Sen, adding, “What eBay has done for online retailing industry is what we want to do for the online education business [. . .] our platform can be a target for acquisition by companies like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Wiley, or Kaplan. The possibilities are immense if our traffic and revenue continue to grow.”

Recommended Readings
Deal Radar 2010: Knewton
Running Online Middle And High Schools: Caprice Young, CEO of KC Distance Learning
Online K-12 Education IPO In The Great Recession: Archipelago Learning Co-founders Cameron Chalmers, Dave Muzzo, And CEO Tim McEwen

This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Deal Radar 2010

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