Engrade began in 2003 with a senior high school student who wanted a much better approach to interact with teachers on homework, assessments, and messages. Over time, user feedback and modern ideas have shaped Engrade into a robust learning management system. Today, Engrade is a division of digital learning-focused CTB/McGraw-Hill and helps educators, parents, and students through all stages of the learning cycle from curriculum planning to assessments.
This week, Engrade place the finishing touches with an emblematic story in the world of education startups. In 2003, senior high school student Bri Holt decided he’d heard enough griping from classmates (and teachers) over the lack of a quick, great way to view their grades online. So, like any budding web developer, he made a decision to build so easy, sign up for his high school.
As the product found a number of eager early customers among teachers and classmates, adoption wasn’t exactly explosive. So, because it goes, Holt soon graduated and progressed with other pursuits. Meanwhile, left to its own devices, the gradebook slowly and deliberately continued to draw in frustrated teachers looking for an online grading solution. So, thinks kept snowballing.
By 2010, nearly seven years later, its user base had grown sizable enough that Holt felt justified to return to developing the product full time. He chose to officially turn the gradebook right into a business and expand its functionality – what can later become Engrade .
Fast toward this week, and publishing giant McGraw-Hill Education agreed to purchase Holt’s online gradebook – now also known as Engradewv – for what TechCrunch hears from sources was around $50 million. To education entrepreneurs, it’s an enviable outcome along with a path (albeit perhaps not just a totally replicable one) worth emulation.
However, in general, this process, from founding to sale, took over 10 years. In part, it’s unsurprising considering that building and selling an education company (for virtually any real return) takes years, maybe even decades. Obviously, if you build something that solves a difficulty which your customer really needs, adoption and customer acquisition should come. Because it relates to education: Teachers agdwlr simple tools that will make their lives easier, and if you build one to them, and work with them to improve it, they’ll become your evangelists.
Ultimately, the acquisition appears to be a far more-than-positive outcome for Engrade’s founders, its team as well as its investors. The company had raised about $8 million total over two rounds, including from NewSchools Ventures, Zac Zeitlin, Expansion Venture Capital, Kapor Capital, Javelin Venture Partners, Rethink Education and Samsung Ventures, amongst others.