When Matthew Gross saw his second-grade son struggling to read, he decided to do something to make learning more engaging and fun. So in 2013, he co-launched a company to help students learn to read.
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Now that company, Newsela, a platform that uses digital content to enhance reading skills and learning, has raised a $50 million Series C from Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV). Among other things, Newsela rewrites news articles, historical speeches, and scientific papers for students at different reading levels so the content is simpler to understand and easier to read. It partners with publications like National Geographic and the Washington Post and has built a software app to help students engage with the content.
The New York edtech company will use the funds mostly toward R&D so that it can better address its growing audience: it says it is currently being used in 90 percent of U.S. schools, with 20 million students and almost 2 million teachers using its platform.
In a press release issued this morning, CEO Gross said that part of Newsela’s mission is to make already “digital-savvy” students engaged in material again. In other words, the startup operates under the premise that Generation Z isn’t impressed by outdated textbooks and are more drawn to clean, streamlined digital content.
This latest infusion of capital brings Newsela’s total funding to date to $72.2 million, according to Crunchbase data. Previous investors include Kleiner Perkins, Owl Ventures, Women’s Venture Capital Fund, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
As part of the funding, TCV General Partner Woody Marshall will join Newsela’s board. David Eichler, a vice president at TCV and a board observer at Newsela, told Crunchbase News today that his firm was drawn to Newsela’s mission of “unlocking the written word.”
“Growing up I was reading news constantly so making that sort of content accessible to everyone, I thought, was a cool idea,” he said. “It just became very clear to me that this is a product that makes student outcomes better, and teachers’ lives easier. Providing rich content that students can connect with is really important.”
Overall, TCV has deployed over $500 million into the edtech category over the last decade, according to Eichler. Other companies in the space TCV has invested in include Varsity Tutors and Watermark.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias