Startups

RaiseMe Picks Up $15M To Award Students Incremental Scholarship Awards For College

College scholarship awarding startup RaiseMe announced a $15 million Series B today. The round was led by Teamworthy Ventures with participation from Salesforce Ventures, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Strada Education Network.

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The San Francisco-based company received its $4.5 million seed round in 2015, a year after its founding. Investors in the company at that stage included First Round Capital, SJF Ventures, and Thomas Lehrman, the managing partner of Teamworthy Ventures. In 2017, most of these investors continued their support to RaiseMe with a $4.5 million Series A. The latest funding round, backed by Teamworthy Ventures, boosted the company’s total funding to $31.5 million and placed Lehrman on the RaiseMe board.

RaiseMe considers itself a “micro-scholarship” program, which means that the platform awards students with incremental scholarships of small amounts, rather than giving out a lump sum of money at once. High school students starting from 9th grade are eligible to sign up on RaiseMe for free.

Instead of submitting essays or teacher recommendations, students earn scholarship credits by completing tasks such as taking a different language course, getting an A in a class, or taking leadership in a club. These credits will be counted towards the scholarship packages that the students will receive when they are accepted by colleges.

According to RaiseMe’s communications manager Cecilia Xia, the company wants students to regard micro-scholarships as a “roadmap” to track their progress in high school.

“It’s no surprise that holding oneself accountable for long term is a challenge, so we bring a more tangible, approachable road towards achieving these goals in front of students who are at pivotal stage in their life,” Xia wrote in an email to Crunchbase News.

On the other side of the micro-scholarship equation is universities and colleges that partner with RaiseMe to offer students scholarships. RaiseMe charges participating institutions annual fees at least $15,000 to be listed on its platform. Students can then track how much scholarship money they will receive at different colleges to help them decide which colleges to apply to and attend.

Xia told Crunchbase News that universities can design customized micro-scholarship programs on RaiseMe to “prepare students to succeed at their institutions.” For example, the University of Chicago awards students $287 for taking a challenging class, $143 for playing a sport, and $263 for doing community service. Schools looking for different values in their students may set different scholarship awarding metrics.

RaiseMe claims that it has so far served “over 1.2 million users across two-thirds of U.S. high schools, and has awarded a cumulative $2.5 billion college scholarships.” Aiming to increase student body diversity at higher education institutions, the company also focuses on connecting with high schools with high concentration of underrepresented students.

For example, RaiseMe is active in the Chicago Public School district, which has a historically high dropout rate. It also counts the University of Chicago, which is based in that school district, as its institutional partner. The latter, through RaiseMe, offers a scholarship program named UChicago Promise to help high school students from the Chicago area attend UChicago or other selective liberal arts colleges.

With the new infusion of capital, RaiseMe is also expanding its business to help transfer students from community colleges.

“We’re keen to bring new financial aid transparency and clarity to the forefront of the community college transfer process, while also providing these students with a roadmap that will help them effectively complete their Associate’s Degrees as well,” wrote Xia.

Editorial Disclosure: Salesforce Ventures is also an investor in Crunchbase, Crunchbase News’s parent organization.

Editorial Note: An earlier version of this article stated that RaiseMe charges participating institutions annual fees from $4,000 to $20,000. The information has since be updated. 

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