Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet have become standard tools for teachers who have had to run lessons remotely since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But they’re not apps necessarily designed for classrooms, and that fact has opened a gap in the market for those looking to build something more fit to the purpose.
Today, a startup called Engageli is coming out of stealth with an app that it believes fills that need. A video conferencing tool designed from the ground up as a digital learning platform, with its own unique take on virtual classrooms, Engageli is aiming first at higher education, and it is launching with $14.5 million in seed funding from Benchmark and others.
If that sounds like a large seed round for a startup that is still only in pilot mode (you can contact the company by email to apply to join the pilot), it might be due in part to who is behind Engageli.
The startup is co-founded by Dan Avida, Serge Plotkin, Daphne Koller and Jamie Nacht Farrell. Avida is a general partner at Opus Capital who in the past co-founded (and sold, to NetApp) an enterprise startup called Decru with Plotkin, who himself is a Stanford emeritus professor. Koller is one of the co-founders of Coursera and also an adjunct professor at Stanford. And Farrell is a former executive from another pair of major online learning companies, Trilogy and 2U.
Avida and Koller, as it happens, are also married, and it was observing their kids in the last school year — when they were both in high school (the oldest is now in her first year at UC Berkeley) — that spurred them to start Engageli.
“The idea for this started in March when our two daughters found themselves in ‘Zoom School.’ One