Sydney edutech Smart Sparrow raises $5.3 million Series C round to expand platform for US market

- April 18, 2017 2 MIN READ
Smart Sparrow

Sydney-founded online education startup Smart Sparrow has announced the closing of a US$4 (AU$5.3) million Series C round led by OneVentures to expand its design-based technology to cater for the growing number of students taking online courses in the US.

OneVentures was joined by Uniseed, both returning investors, and new contributor Moelis Australia Asset Management, the investment arm of Aussie industry research firm Moelis Australia.

The closure of the round brings the total raised by the startup to date to US$16 (AU$21) million as it looks to solidify its product offering following its expansion into the US market roughly two years ago. The startup has also received grants from NASA and the US Department of Defence, as well as a $4.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Founded in 2008 by Dror Ben-Naim, a researcher at the University of New South Wales, Smart Sparrow offers teachers and university professors an online platform where they’re able to design their own online course content to create an interactive and ‘adaptive’ learning experience for students.

Educators are able to integrate tutorials, interactive content, simulations and media into their course, which can be edited at any time. Course creators are then able to view student’s progress in real-time and visualise course data.

The platform isn’t limited to the subject of content either, as Smart Sparrow is built to support a broad range of learning facets including engineering, business, science, music and medicine, amongst others.

The business services over 8000 educators globally, having formed partnerships with Sydney edutech OpenLearning and Victoria’s Deakin University, as well as securing clients within Arizona State University, Columbia University and Stanford University.

With a growing client base, the startup will look to meet the increase of US students taking online courses, a group which grew by nearly six million last year. According to a survey pinning online education numbers in the US, currently more than quarter of all students take at least one online course subject, as universities move to hire more online course designers to keep up with the demand. As such, it’s expected that online course design jobs, or ‘instructional designer’ roles, will grow as much as 20 percent in the coming decade.

Speaking about the funding round, Managing Director of Moelis Australia, Ben Wong, said the firm is looking forward to supporting the next generation of students completing online courses through Smart Sparrow.

“Smart Sparrow technology presents an exciting opportunity to reimagine the way we learn. We see broad-based applications for the technology, and we’re excited to support their work to inspire the next generation of students,” said Wong.

Ben-Naim added that the platform’s success represents edutech harnessing the interactive and accessible functionalities typically found in consumer apps.

“Education technology is, for the first time, borrowing concepts familiar from consumer apps to simplify the process for faculty to create high-quality, engaging courses that draw upon the best of pedagogy and practice,” he said.

“Just like PowerPoint and Photoshop made it possible for anyone to create an engaging presentation or graphic, our platform enables the development of courses that taps the best of technology to engage students, without sacrificing pedagogy.”

Image: Dror Ben-Naim. Source: Supplied.