New Education for the New Economy

Lore Launches a Rebuilt Platform, Aims to be a LinkedIn for Education

Meet the new Lore. (Photo: Screencap)

The latest from edtech startup Lore: Today the company debuts a rebuilt platform, designed to function more like a social network and less like those dreadful discussion forums you might remember from your educational days.

The rebrand fits with the vision CEO Joe Cohen was excitedly evangelizing when last we spoke. Back in April, the company shucked its original name (Coursekit) and christened itself Lore, a move meant to provide the team with more wiggle room. “Our vision is to be a platform for learning in whatever form,” he told Betabeat, but refused to divulge any details on what that might mean, product-wise.

In a phone conversation yesterday explaining the changes to Betabeat, Mr. Cohen was every bit as irrepressibly pie in the sky: Read More

Look At Me Now

TechStars NYC: Where Are They Now?

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Spontaneously (Summer 2011)

We feel a little guilty. We’ve been fickle and easily distracted. Last year, the first two TechStars NYC classes were all we could talk about. But when their programs ended, we kind of forgot about them and directed our attention to the newest TechStars NYC class. Shame on us!

But back in the day, those first 23 companies were all the rage. Like shiny new toys, they were exciting and fascinating. There was even a reality television show about them. So even though their three-month, highly-competitive startup accelerator program has ended, these companies are still around. They didn’t just vanish into thin air. (Well, some of them did).

But all of this begs the question, where are these companies now? How have they fared in the big, bad world? Did they flop? Or surpass expectations?

We didn’t know, so we decided to find out. And it turns out that we weren’t the only ones who were curious about what these companies have been up to. Read More

New Education for the New Economy

Coursekit Is Now Lore; Peter Thiel Invests

Mr. Cohen. (LinkedIn.com)

Coursekit, which bills itself as a social network for higher education, is Coursekit no more. Henceforth the company will be known as “Lore,” a name which offers a little more flexibility for a fast-growing, still-evolving startup.

The company released a statement saying that the change “reflects the company’s ambition to be the global network of learners, instructors, and educational content.” Read More

Machine Learning

Popular NYU-Stern Professor Offers His Classes For Free on Coursekit, 1,800 Sign Up

Screen shot 2012-02-02 at 12.54.54 PM

This semester, Coursekit, an academic social network of sorts that gives teachers and students a way to communicate outside of class, tried a little experiment from the Peter Thiel school of thought.

Coursekit founder Joseph Cohen, a Wharton drop-out and TechStars New York alum, was already familiar with the work of Aswath Damodaran, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business with a big academic following. So last year, he cold-emailed Mr. Damodaran to encourage him to join Coursekit’s pilot program. “I don’t think he was looking [for a solution like] Coursekit,” Mr. Cohen told Betabeat by Gchat. “But when he saw what it could do…he and I really hit it off.”

This semester, Mr. Damodaran decided to take it one step further and offer both his Corporate Finance and Valuation classes to anyone around the world, for free*. Considering that an MBA from NYU-Stern costs $100,894 for residents (with a “recommended annual budget of $82,867), we’d say that’s a pretty good deal. (*Beer pong networking sessions with the future 1 percent not included.) Read More

New Education for the New Economy

Coursekit Taps The Hate With #EraseBlackBoard Campaign

It's not a competition, we're just saying

During interviews with Betabeat Coursekit’s Joseph Cohen has always played down Blackboard, which currently owns 80 percent of the market for educational software. “Our business model is not to compete with Blackboard by selling software,” Mr. Cohen told Betabeat. “It’s to create large audiences of students and teachers that we can then leverage for all sorts of things.”

They may not see themselves as competitors, but that doesn’t mean Coursekit can’t leverage all the ill will towards Blackboard out there. Today the company launched an ad campaign, #eraseblackboard, featuring testimonals from students who had been screwed by Blackboard. “Brian’s Chem final didn’t go as planned, so he emailed the professor to fight the grade,” reads one. “Or so he thought. Instead he sent the message to the entire class. Now everyone thinks he’s a brown-nose, and he still has a C.”

We’re a little suspicious of these students. Read More

Coursekit Is Ready for Its Closeup

coursekit


Coursekit
, the TechStars company that raised $1 million from Founder Collective, IA Ventures, TechStars and a few angels before the program even started, just launched to the public. It’s a Blackboard competitor, but only sort of, says CEO Joe Cohen, who mentors told us earned the reputation as the Jason Baptiste of the summer class (cocky, but probably rightfully so). Coursekit is a “learning management system,” as the genre is called, to give teachers and students a centralized place to communicate outside of class. Blackboard rakes in $400 million of the $500 million spent on this type of software per year, he said, but Coursekit isn’t interested in that money. “Our business model is not to compete with Blackboard by selling software,” Mr. Cohen told Betabeat. “It’s to create large audiences of students and teachers that we can then leverage for all sorts of things.”

All sorts of things! Like what? we asked. Read More

The 12 Sexiest TechStars Companies: Demo Day Preview!

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With Demo Day coming up tomorrow, ten out of 11 companies is the number to beat. That’s ratio of startups from TechStars inaugural class that got funded. But keep in mind not everyone had a killer Demo Day. For some, funding didn’t come till a few months down the line. “It’s like the SATs,” one mentor told Betabeat of Demo Day. “Some people are good at testing, some aren’t.”

There’s a lot riding on tomorrow’s event–the funding environment isn’t quite as frothy as it was for TechStarsNY 1.0, and the companies are well aware of that, mentors told Betabeat. “It’s a more fragile period of time than last Demo Day,” said the mentor. “They realize that they gotta be on their game.” As such, companies have been pounding out the decks, practicing demos for each other almost every week.

Perhaps it’s because the cameras aren’t around, or perhaps because TechStars New York is more established, but there’s less ego in this class and fewer type-A personalities. Investors promise that this Demo Day will still have plenty of showmanship and say this season’s TechStars class is fundamentally very solid. Many companies have partnerships; some have revenue. Almost all have raised money or gotten commitments–several New York VCs told us they had invested in at least one of the startups. Two companies won’t even really be raising money, one mentor said, because they don’t need it.”

Curious to know who pivoted and who’s already closed their round? Check out our cheat sheet, get your game face on for tomorrow and pick your ponies in the comments.

Update: SideTour announced their funding today on TechCrunch, a $1.5 million round led by RRE and Foundry Group. We noted in the slideshow they already had their lead investors locked down, but it seems unlikely now they will try to grow their round tomorrow. Read More