Ed tech startup Silverback Learning nabs $2.5M to expand from one district to schools nationwide


About a decade ago, Silverback Learning was barely an idea in the brain of a Boise, Idaho-based school superintendent. But over the past ten or so years, what started out as a school district-based project to use student data to personalize learning has become a stand-alone company serving not just one-third of the districts in Idaho, but schools in several other states. On Wednesday, the startup said it had raised $2.5 million from angel investors as part of a plan to make an even bigger push nationwide.

In education technology, data-driven “personalized learning” has become an increasingly popular catchphrase, with more startups pitching (and investors funding) various ways of using analytics to improve student performance.  What’s interesting about Silverback isn’t just its deep, humble roots, but that it’s now updating its original vision with new partnerships with complementary startups.

Since it was originally conceived in 2002, Silverback, which is led by former school superintendent Jim Lewis, has focused on creating a system for recording information on student progress and then determining individualized learning paths. Its flagship product Mileposts aggregates student roster and demographic information from School Information Systems and combines it with everything from assessment data from standardized tests to classroom test results to behavioral data inputted by teachers to give schools a complete picture of a students’ performance.

But in the past few months, the company has teamed up with education-focused search engine Gooru and assessment software startp LinkIt to flesh out its package for schools. It not only pulls together a range of datasets on each student, it then enables teachers to find skill level- and subject matter-appropriate content through Gooru and continuously assess student learning with LinkIt.

“It gets data into the teachers hands at the point of instruction,” said Silverback’s COO Rudy Lewis.

Since officially launching as a stand-alone company in 2011, the company, which gives royalties to its founding school district, has signed deals with about 80 school districts across 13 states. This round of funding, which follows an earlier $2 million angel round, is largely intended to expand its engineering team in an effort to scale nationwide and deepen its partnerships with Gooru and LinkIt.

But though it’s showing traction and has a compelling founding story, it’s in a field that’s getting increasingly competitive (and its location outside of a big tech hub could make it tricky hiring top engineering talent). In different ways, bigger companies like Pearson’s Schoolnet Global Scholar and Compass Learning, as well as smaller startups like Kickboard and LiveSchool, promise schools improved student performance through data and analytics.

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