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BetterLesson gets $3.5 million from the Gates Foundation to digitize and distribute math curricula

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 19, 2012 07:37 AM

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When entrepreneurs boast about having raised a couple million bucks for their company, the flip side is that they've usually had to hand over a significant chunk of their equity to investors.

But that's not the case today with Cambridge-based BetterLesson, which brings lesson plans and classroom materials online for K-12 educators. The company is announcing a grant of $3.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That number exceeds the $2.7 million the company has raised thus far in equity funding. "When I told our existing investors about the grant, which is totally non-dilutive, they were insanely happy," says co-founder Alex Grodd.

Grodd says that most of the money will be funneled to teachers, to help them "capture their curriculum and their effective practices — things like classroom management and procedures." But the company will also add some full-time employees to support the new content-creation effort; BetterLesson now has eight employees.

The Gates-funded initiative at BetterLersson will start off by focusing on math for grades six through twelve. In a blog post about the funding, Grodd writes:


Basically, we’re going to create a living, breathing body of knowledge that is rooted in the common core and centers around incredible teachers. How, you ask? By sourcing and recruiting the best teachers from around the country; by giving them access to the most capable common core-knowledgeable coaches in the country; by supporting their development of full courses built from the common core up; by capturing their approaches to planning, instruction, and classroom management in the context of these courses; by sharing this with every teacher via the BL site; and by providing the community the tools to discuss, remix, and adapt these resources to meet the needs of their students.

BetterLesson offers both free and premium-level access to its site. I mentioned the company last fall, in a column titled "A real test for techies: The education market."

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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