NBA Hall of Famer and investor Shaquille O’Neal led ed-tech startup Edsoma’s $2.5 million seed round, TechCrunch reported, marking the sports star-turned-businessman’s first entry into the ed-tech market.
O’Neal led a round that included more than a dozen investments from individual investors, and did not disclose his personal investment in the startup.
Edsoma’s direct-to-consumer platform is designed to use artificial intelligence technology to help assist students as they read to improve literacy and communication skills. It uses the Lexile framework for oral reading to assess students’ reading levels, and offers teachers the ability to read along with students virtually using a video chat feature.
The company offers subscriptions for $9.99 a month or $99 a year, as well as a limited free option for a single child user.
O’Neal built a wide-ranging investment portfolio following his 2011 retirement from the NBA, and has reportedly bought and sold scores of gyms and fast casual restaurants. He’s also established himself in the venture capital world, investing in companies such as Google parent company Alphabet, Lyft, Ring, and Vitaminwater.
eDynamic Learning acquires Thinking Media. One of the largest providers of digital career and technical education courses in the country, eDynamic Learning, expanded its portfolio by acquiring Thinking Media, the parent company behind Learning Blade and Ready for Industry.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Based in Southlake, Texas, eDynamic Learning offers college and career readiness programs focused on students in grades 5-12 that includes more than 250 elective and technical courses. It also offers simulation-based educational content, like its Knowledge Matters virtual business simulations.
Thinking Media, based in Chattanooga, Tenn., is the maker of Learning Blade, which aims to introduce STEM careers to students in grades 5-9 through mission-based storylines and team projects. It also offers Ready for Industry, a platform that helps introduce students in high schools and community and technical colleges to careers in healthcare, manufacturing, information technology, construction, and logistics.
“Learning Blade and Ready for Industry offer an impactful expansion of the tools and resources from eDynamic Learning to further support our mission of guiding students’ passion to purpose,” eDynamic Learning CEO Jerry Wooden said in a statement. “By reaching learners at pivotal stages of their academic development, we can guide them to visualize and prepare for their futures and ultimately, enter the workforce ready for success with the necessary knowledge, skills, and certifications for a wide range of industries.”
Ello’s product is designed to help align books with students’ reading proficiencies and interests, and relies on the science of reading approach to help students build decoding skills and reading mastery. It aims to use proprietary speech recognition technology to listen to students read aloud and better teach them reading skills.
Ello is led by CEO Tom Sayer, the former head of impact and adoption programs at Google for Education, and his fellow co-founders, Chief Experience Officer Elizabeth Adams and Chief Technology Officer Catalin Voss.
“We are appreciative of our investors’ support as we build out new versions of our product this fall that will reach more families who are looking for tools to help their child tackle reading challenges and get more excited about reading,” Sayer said in a statement. “With the latest advances in technology, including GenAI, we can finally meet the challenge of 1:1 teaching and democratize education through our AI-based reading coach.”
The funding round was led by Goodwater Capital, and other participants included Homebrew, as well as previous investors: Netflix Executive Chairman Reed Hastings, Common Sense Growth, and Ravensburger.
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