Class, a Zoom-only virtual classroom, approaches unicorn status after SoftBank verification – TechCrunch

Class, a virtual classroom that integrates exclusively with Zoom, announced today that it has raised $ 105 million in funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund II. The 10-month startup has raised now a total of $ 146 million in known venture funding to date, dwarfing the amount of capital raised by founder Michael Chasen’s former now public venture, Blackboard.

Despite his childhood, Class is rapidly approaching unicorn status, confirming that he currently has an after-money valuation of $ 804 million. Other investors in Class include GSV Ventures and Emergence Capital, which led the pre-seed round of startups, as well as major US educational technology funds, including Reach Capital, Owl Ventures, Insight Partners and Learn Capital. .

Class, formerly Class for Zoom, uses management and instructional tools to reinforce the video conference calling experience. Since its launch, Class has been exclusively integrated with the video conferencing giant, which rose to prominence during the early months of the pandemic and continues to be a mainstay in synchronous communication. It’s part of a wave of Zoom alternatives and enhancements that rolled out over the past year, and has more than 250 customers to date.

Today’s announcement of the SoftBank seal of approval means that Class is making two statements: one, that it is taking global expansion seriously, and two, I would say that it does not seek to be just an acquisition target for Zoom.

Globalization of educational technology

SoftBank likes to stand behind what it considers to be a “winner” in an industry and contribute millions to help it gain a foothold in international markets. Earlier this month, the Japanese conglomerate invested millions in Clearco, formerly Clearbanc, to help the alternative finance startup grow in new geographies beyond Europe, Canada and the United States. At this point, I imagine that SoftBank is looking for stubborn startups that are naturally attracted internationally, and then funds them.

The class is no different. Chasen explained how international demand for the product has been high since Class announced its seed round. Schools in Europe, the Middle East, and Japan reached out before Class released general availability. Now, with the general availability of Class rolled out on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Chromebook, Chasen is focusing on turning those on the waiting list into customers.

Class’s international expansion will see how it will develop local teams in target regions such as the UK and Ireland, EMEA, Latin America and APAC. The startup hopes to add 100 new team members from around the world to its 200-person team.

Chasen estimates that 65% of the funding will drive Class’s internationalization with the remainder going to product development. One criticism of Class is that the platform offers the same experience to a second grade class as it does to a higher education class. Chasen agreed that the startup needs to add more specificity to its product, perhaps gamification for K-12 and test supervision for higher education, in future versions.

“V1 gives you what we think is the bare minimum you need to teach online,” he said, pointing to features like tests and grade trackers. “Right now, we need a product that works well in all markets, and we will make market-specific improvements in the future.”

And so far, users are paying for it. Class said its revenue grew almost 4 times quarter over quarter in 2021.

Friends with Zoom benefits

While there is a numbing effect around big rounds and flashy valuations, the recent rise in Class could squash questions about whether it’s gearing up for an eventual takeover by Zoom.

When TechCrunch first spoke to Chasen, he said Zoom focuses more on scale than the kind of deep specialization that Class wants to provide.

Still, the company was in contact with early Zoom investors and acted as a Zoom reseller in multiple markets, suggesting that consolidation would not be too far-fetched an assumption going forward. However, after today, it is clear that Class sees itself as an independent business. Startups don’t just raise nine-figure rounds of funding from savvy investors unless they have the ambition to be bigger than an integration.

In the future, Class may use some of those millions to establish its brand as the preferred choice for schools or institutions that want a classroom-friendly Zoom environment. Careers by class pageMarketing is your most aggressive hiring approach right now. The company has six open roles on the marketing team, which include a director of international marketing and a director of content marketing.

The closest competitor in the class is Engageli, who last raised a Series A of $ 33 million in May 2021. Engageli’s co-founder and COO Jamie Farrell left in February 2021 for another educational technology startup, and the company doesn’t appear to be hiring too aggressively through online job boards. While the details are anecdotal, Engageli may face more pronounced competition in terms of bandwidth and marketing now that Class has new capitalizations and a growing team of global employees.

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