Boston-based Ellevation Education, which offers teachers tools to help plan, report, and track the instruction of English language learners, announced earlier this month that it has raised $2 million in funding from a group of angel investors.
The latest investment round, which brings the company’s total funding to $5.1 million, included existing investors such as LearnLaunch’s Eileen Rudden; Rick Burnes, the co-founder of CRV (when it was Charles River Ventures); angel investor Lynda Schubert Bodman; Bessemer Ventures partner and sometime politician Chris Gabrieli; and others. New investors include Agile Mind chief operating officer Alex Saltonstall, Boston-based Berylson Ventures, former Circuit City chief executive Alan Wurtzel and his daughter Judy, as well as few other education-minded angel investors.
Ellevation chief executive, Jordan Meranus, who had previously been involved in founding the JumpStart program and was a partner for the NewSchools Venture Fund, an ed tech focused venture firm, started the new company four years ago with co-founder, and former Ironwood Capital director, Teddy Rice.
Ellevation’s software helps educators keep track of English learners, who too often slip through the cracks of the education system, by tracking their language progress and making sure that students who need extra attention get the services vital to their language development.
“It became clear, as we looked around in education technology,” Meranus explained, “that there was a dearth of innovation and software, in particular, focused on educators working most closely with English language learners, which at the same time, is the population of students in US schools that was increasing in size most quickly.”
He added, “We built a software platform that school districts and educators use for a wide-range of instructional and reporting responsibilities when it comes to English language learners and their progress with language acquisition.”
Since launching in 2011, Ellevation Education has rolled out its suite of language education tools at 260 school districts in 31 states. As Meranus said, that widespread adoption makes the company the industry leader when it comes to “software companies focused on this population of students and the educators that are serving them.”
Going the district route can be a challenge for many ed tech startups who often market and sell their products directly to teachers or administrators instead of trying to break through the bureaucratic mire that districts can pose. Venture capital money hasn’t flowed to educational companies that are selling at the district or enterprise level in quite the same way as direct to users, Meranus said. However, the company’s success at being adopted by districts and its latest funding show that that trend may be turning around.
As for the new funding, the company will use the investment money to add employees in key roles such as engineers and support, invest in infrastructure, and move to a new office in Boston. Currently, the company has 24 employees.
With regards Ellevation’s future prospects, Meranus believes that they will add 120-140 new district customers this year, “which is significant for an early stage ed tech company,” he added.
What is most clear is that the new funding will help the company get closer to achieving what is the goal of most ed tech startups: making an impact in education, which in this case is the growing number of English language learners in need of the support and teaching to empower their learning.