Piazza Raises $6M From Bessemer, Felicis, Kapor

Piazza said it raised $6 million in a Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Seed investors Kapor Capital and Felicis Ventures also participated in the round. The social learning company plans to use the money for research and development and customer outreach.

PRESS RELEASE

Piazza Secures $6 Million in Funding to Transform Learning

Bessemer Venture Partners Leads Series A Round

Piazza Announces 96% Answer Rate across More than 1,000 Classes in Fall 2011

Palo Alto, California – January 6, 2012 – Piazza, the social learning network for students and instructors, today announced that it has secured $6 million in Series A funding from Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP). Seed investors Kapor Capital and Felicis Ventures also participated in the round. The company plans to use the money for research and development to expand the range of interactions it supports on its social platform, while simultaneously expanding its outreach efforts to hundreds more schools and beyond.

The investment caps a year of extraordinary growth for Piazza, which emerged from private beta in January and now enrolls more than 100,000 students at hundreds of schools worldwide. This includes 109 of the top 250 colleges in the United States. Piazza also shared usage data today from fall term courses, underscoring the high demand for its service, as 96% of all questions received an answer within a median response time of only 25 minutes.

“Bessemer invested because we believe that Piazza can lead a communications revolution in higher education,” said Ethan Kurzweil, Vice President at BVP who recently joined Piazza’s board of directors. “Across every sector, the world is witnessing seismic shifts away from clunky, centrally-mandated software packages towards tools designed from the ground up to be social and collaborative. That wave is breaking in education, and Piazza is best positioned because of its ability to create positive engagement among users. I wish I’d been able to use Piazza when I was in college myself.”

“In BVP we found a partner that shares our vision for a social learning network that transforms education,” said Pooja Sankar, Founder and CEO of Piazza. “This year we will expand our platform to support more open-ended interactions among students and encourage new forms of social learning, stretching beyond the traditional classroom. As we execute on our mission, we will draw on BVP’s wealth of experience in helping companies to scale from initial customer successes into lasting businesses.”

Piazza is a free online gathering place where students can ask and answer questions 24/7 under the guidance of their instructors. Collaboration occurs in real time, which encourages participation and fuels discussion. Leading campuses across North America have a significant Piazza presence, including Stanford, Georgia Tech, Berkeley, MIT, Cornell, Harvard, Columbia, the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, Purdue, Virginia Tech, the University of Waterloo, the University of British Columbia, Princeton, the University of Texas, and the University of Central Florida.

Students who sign on to Piazza stay logged in for an average of four hours a day, typically keeping the application open as a third tab in their browser — alongside Facebook and mail — so that they don’t miss real-time updates while they do their work. Mobile clients for iOS and Android are also available for those spare moments between classes.

Fall Usage Data Far Exceeds Expectations

Piazza today also released additional metrics about the classes that used its product during the Fall 2011 term. 96% of the questions posted on Piazza were answered, with 45% receiving an answer from a student and 67% addressed by instructors (some were answered by both).
The median response time was 25 minutes, and the average time spent logged in by a Piazza user was four hours per day spread over an average of six-to-seven sessions across the day.

The most active class on Piazza was a computer science class at Berkeley, where students recorded over 19,000 contributions during the course of the semester, or an average of one contribution every 22 minutes. One student in this class answered 463 of his peers’ questions. 74% of the students contributed, which is 7.5 times the industry norm for online communities.

In one class at Duke, students themselves provided 97% of the answers, with 78% of users contributing and an average response time of eight minutes.

“I demand deep engagement from my students in the classroom,” said Srinivasan Keshav, Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Waterloo. “With Piazza, for the first time I can expect a level of engagement outside of class that enables me to challenge my students with harder problems. I know they will work through them and learn together using Piazza then come to class knowing what they need to learn. That’s not just a better way to get questions answered, it’s a more effective style of teaching and learning.”

“People are making a big deal out of Berkeley choosing gmail as its email solution, but nobody I know uses email unless we’re forced to,” said Tianbo Xu, a student at UC Berkeley and the president of the school’s IEEE student branch. “We’ve grown up with a more social communication style, but at the same time a lot of students are reluctant to participate in class forums because they don’t want to seem too smart or too dumb. Piazza has figured out how to create a vibrant social network centered on your class without demanding that you disclose everything. Once you’ve used it, it’s hard to imagine not using it.”

For more information about Piazza, visit www.piazza.com, where you can see the product in action and use it for free. The Piazza iOS application can be downloaded from the Apple App Store here. The Android version can be downloaded from the Android Marketplace here. To see a live demonstration and talk to a Piazza representative, sign up for one of Piazza’s information webinars, occurring every day the next two weeks at 11:00 PST.

About Piazza

Founded in 2009 and publicly launched in 2011, Piazza is a free online gathering place where students can ask and answer questions 24/7, under the guidance of their instructor. Anyone can create a class at Piazza.com to initiate class discussion. Students spend on average four hours a night on Piazza working together in real time with classmates and instructors to find the answers they need at the time they need them. Piazza is FERPA-compliant and used in hundreds of colleges and universities.

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