Nearpod, a fast-growing Miami-based ed-tech company, has hired its first president and chief operating officer, signaling plans to scale the interactive learning platform.
Maurice Heiblum, who has been president of the Blackboard Collaborate division and president of Elluminate, which was sold to Blackboard in 2010, joined Nearpod earlier this year, he said in a phone interview.
His charge is to take the company—which offers an interactive presentation and assessment tool—and grow its revenues and reach, while maintaining the company’s corporate culture for the more than 100 employees who work there, he said. Founded in 2012, Nearpod was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in 2016 and 2017. The company says it is used in more than 60 percent of the school districts across the U.S.
Most recently Heiblum has been in the cybersecurity industry and was COO for Beyondtrust. What attracted Heiblum to return to ed-tech was the enthusiasm of educators for the product, and the corporate culture at Nearpod, he said.
Nearpod started with a teacher-based freemium model, attracting users at the classroom and school level. “Last year, we started to sell to districts, and we expect a lot of growth to come from district-wide” sales, he said. “When you buy Nearpod, think Netflix, with 6,000 standards-aligned, ready-to-run lessons,” Heiblum said.
Partnering With Nearpod
In the announcement of Heiblum’s post, the company said he will help Nearpod grow its interactive learning content for K-12 classrooms. Nearpod recently announced six new partnerships, including integrations with LMS providers Canvas and Schoology.
“We’re always looking for the right content partners,” said Heiblum, noting that the company already partners with a variety of publishers, from Common Sense Education for its digital citizenship instructional resources, to iCivics and PhET, a free online resource for physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and math. “We take their content and ‘nearpodize’ it,” putting it into the interactive platform to make it “highly engaging.”
“Typically, we try to focus in areas that are under-served,” he said. “We’re not providing content that is core curriculum. It’s all supplemental, although it might support some core subjects.”
As he concentrates on creating “scalable processes” to help the company grow, Heiblum said he won’t be focused internationally for the time being. “We do have a presence—probably 400 customers internationally—and I would today characterize that as more opportunistic [growth] than as something we’re proactively pursuing,” he said. “Our focus is primarily in the U.S.”
The Inc. Recognition for Nearpod
Nearpod’s co-founder and CEO, Guido Kovalskys, credited Heiblum for being “an experienced ed-tech executive with a proven background building up companies in the space,” the company’s announcement said. Kovalskys cited Heiblum’s “instant enthusiasm” for the company, making him a “natural fit to help us develop in this new phase of our company’s evolution.”
Nearpod appeared on the Inc. 5000 list in 2016 and 2017. It grew 465 percent to $3.5 million between 2013 and 2016, putting it at #6 on the “K-12 education list”—which is a distillation of all Inc. 5000 companies that work in the K-12 market by EdWeek Market Brief. In 2017, Nearpod ranked #942 out of 5,000 fastest-growing companies on Inc. list and #297 on the 2016 list.
I interviewed Kovalskys last year about what it meant to appear on the list, and advice he and other Inc. 5000 CEOs in education had about applying for it. He said the recognition “feels good for the team, the investors, and creates some external recognition worth having.”
A spokeswoman for the company said they have been invited to apply again this year, and are reviewing how that opportunity fits with their strategy now.
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