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
Golden is announcing that it has raised $14.5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by previous investor Andreessen Horowitz, with the firm’s co-founder Marc Andreessen joining the startup’s board of directors.
When Golden launched last year, founder and CEO Jude Gomila told me that his goal was to create a knowledge base focused on areas where Wikipedia’s coverage is often spotty, particularly emerging technology and startups.
Gomila told me this week that “companies, technologies and the people involved in them” remain Golden’s strength. In that sense, you could see it as a competitor to Crunchbase, but with a much bigger emphasis on explaining and “clustering” information on big topics like quantum computing and COVID-19, rather than just aggregating key data about companies and people. (By the way, both TechCrunch and the author of this post have their own profile pages, though the latter is woefully empty.)
In contrast to Wikipedia, which relies on community editors, Gomila said most of the data in Golden is gathered using artificial intelligence and natural language processing: “We’re using AI to extract information from the news, from websites, from public databases.
This is supplemented by Golden staff (former TechCrunch copy editor Holden Page leads the startup’s research team), while the larger community can also pitch in by flagging things that are incorrect or need to be updated. (As one example of this “human in the loop” editing process, Gomila showed me a tool where someone could paste in an article link and Golden would automatically summarize it.)
“The ultimate aim is to try and automate as much of this as possible,” Gomila said. “[For now,] this hybrid is the most effective method.”
Golden has also started working with paying customers including private equity firms, hedge funds, VCs, biotechnology companies, corporate innovation offices