BlikBook, a social learning platform aimed at the higher education market, has today announced a $1.3 million funding round to expand its team as it edges towards the US market.
The funding round was led by Leaf Investments, with participation from Delta Partners’ Bank of Ireland Start-up and Emerging Sectors Fund, Enterprise Ireland and existing investor Forward Investment Partners.
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Founded in the UK, BlikBook has relocated its HQ to Dublin, Ireland to take advantage of a pool of ed-tech development talent there. The Web-based service allows students and lecturers to set up Q&A rooms around specific courses. Students can ask questions and receive answers for their peers and from lecturers. Additionally, lecturers can highlight answers that they think are particularly useful or interesting. Essentially, it’s ‘Quora for higher education’.
Co-founder and managing director Cheyne Tan says that BlikBook is focused on driving high-quality engagement by students. This is helped by allowing for anonymous questions and answers to encourage shy students to take part, and through a recommendation algorithm that suggests topics that students may interested in based on their behavior and that of people similar to them.
BlikBook was born from the experiences of its founders while at university. They found that students asked questions to each other via long email chains and text messages – hardly an efficient way of sharing knowledge. The startup began by trying to create engagement around specific textbooks but found that students preferred to use it to share broader, course-related questions.
Monetization is currently by way of affiliate links to textbooks, but BlikBook sees its real potential for revenue in the analytics it can provide to lecturers about how well students are engaging with their courses. This data, Tan says, can provide valuable insight into how well students will perform and how they may rate the course when it comes to filling in satisfaction surveys – an increasingly important factor when it comes to attracting future enrolments. The startup is currently trialling analytics features with a small group of universities.
Across the Irish Sea
Tan says that the company chose Dublin for its HQ in order to draw on the ed-tech talent that has accumulated thanks to successful companies in the field, such as Riverdeep, now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Learning Technology, being based there. He also credits the city’s vibrant tech scene as a factor, and notes that Enterprise Ireland (the business investment arm of the Irish government) has helped the company settle in and indeed BlikBook has incorporated as an Irish-registered business.
The company currently has three employees in Dublin and the new funding will allow it to expand that headcount to ten, although some of the founding team will remain in London.
BlikBook faces competition from the likes of Piazza and Answer Underground, although they all take different approaches, and Tan says that high engagement and analytics are the two main factors it’s using to separate itself from its rivals.
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