After a long day of school no child likes reading. The TV is buzzing and they’d rather be sprawled on the couch than reading. Of course these children have no clue how important it is to be literate, but at least the process of reading can be a little more enjoyable for them. LightSail Education is undertaking this project. Their interactive and embedded texts that are personalized for your child’s strengths and weaknesses speak to what the children want as well as what they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
With a recent round in their pocket, founder and CEO Gideon Stein talks about the growing attention on K-12 and how they are making teachers jobs a little bit easier.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit and Jeff Bezos, founder & CEO of Amazon. This was a $11M Series B round.
Tell us about your product or service.
LightSail, one of the fastest growing literacy solutions in the K-12 space, offers students a truly personalized reading experience while providing educators with the daily data needed to inform instruction and drive deeper learning. LightSail’s literacy software embeds instructional tools and assessments directly into the very best texts. Students reading on LightSail as little as 25 minutes-a-day are experiencing Lexile gains 2-5x greater than expected results. With this investment, LightSail has raised more than $23 million from a select group of investors dedicated to K-12 literacy.
What inspired you to start the company?
I was working in education philanthropy as the Vice Chairman of Success Academy Charter Schools and President of Future Is Now Schools and wanted to create a cost-effective, scalable literacy solution to help millions of children close the achievement gap.
How is it different?
LightSail is the only truly adaptive literacy solution on the market. Our platform determines each student’s individual reading level and creates a customized library of the best books and articles for every child. We are helping to accelerate literacy growth because LightSail is able to ensure that students are always reading “just right” texts.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
LightSail believes that the TAM (Total Addressable Market) for the US is currently approximately 20 million students, but will grow to 60 million students as device proliferation continues to accelerate.
What’s your business model?
LightSail generates revenue from the sale of books and licenses to schools and school districts.
Is anything lost with digital reading versus in-paper reading?
Digital reading actually enhances the experience for students given the ability to look up words in the text, annotate in the book, search, etc. The fact that reading digitally also allows LightSail to embed assessments directly into books and texts means that we are able to efficiently and accurately match students to the books that are “just right” for them (in other words, the books proven to accelerate literacy growth the fastest).
What was the funding process like?
LightSail is fortunate to have a core group of investors who have been tremendously supportive of our company’s growth. The addition of Scott Cook and the Bezos family, as well as a handful of others, has been a tremendous asset to LightSail.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our investors have been focused on two primary metrics – the growth of the business as well as the impact on student literacy growth. LightSail is committed to its mission of accelerating literacy growth for students in K-12 and we’ve been incredibly fortunate that our efficacy is actually driving the growth of the business.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
LightSail is planning to nearly triple sales in 2016 from 2015. We are busy ramping up our sales and marketing efforts in order to do so.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
LightSail started off with modest investment from its founder and a small handful of friends and family investors. We were focused on bringing to market a minimally viable product, building a customer base and then expanding quickly from there. It’s a lot of hard work, but the faster you are able to get to market and build revenue, the better position you will be in to raise money at a decent valuation.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
LightSail is expanding throughout the US as well as internationally. We are committed to reaching millions of students as quickly as possible and are looking into how we can iterate our platform for maximum growth.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Vai on the Upper West Side