DreamBox Learning Bought by Netflix CEO (and Microsoft Board Member) Reed Hastings and Charter Fund—Some More Context

4/20/10Follow @gthuang

Score one for online education. Bellevue, WA-based DreamBox Learning announced today it has been acquired by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the Charter Fund, a nonprofit venture firm. The price was not disclosed, but the deal includes a new investment of $10 million in the company, which will be used to advance DreamBox’s e-learning technology, content, and distribution in U.S. schools.

DreamBox Learning makes online math education software for schools and homes that’s aimed at young kids from kindergarten to third grade. The interface is sort of like an adventure game, including stories and activities that involve pirates, animals, and dinosaurs. The patent-pending technology behind the “game” assesses each student’s mathematical understanding, provides appropriate hints and encouragement, and selects personalized activities for the student.

It’s part of a broader trend in which companies are developing programs that adapt to how individual kids learn—through different types of games or visual activities, say. New York-based Knewton, another educational tech company, just closed a $12.5 million funding round yesterday. “You’ll hear a lot on adaptive learning over the next few years as customizing learning for the individual student continues to emerge as a megatrend in education,” says Jason Stoffer, a principal at Seattle-based Maveron who focuses on investments in education and e-commerce.

DreamBox is recognized as an innovator on the adaptive-learning curriculum side. “I have evaluated many companies in the K-12 e-learning marketplace and DreamBox Learning clearly stood out,” Hastings said in a statement. “They have already shown strong results in a short period of time, and the DreamBox Learning platform has the best underlying adaptive technology, giving every student the opportunity to thrive.”

Hastings is now chairman of the board of DreamBox Learning. A couple things you might not know about him: he’s an educational philanthropist (and former U.S. Peace Corps math teacher) who served as president of the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004; he also serves on the board of directors of Microsoft. As part of today’s deal, DreamBox also gains two more board members: Kevin Hall, the CEO and president of Charter School Growth Fund, and John Danner, the co-founder and CEO of Rocketship Education.

DreamBox Learning was founded in 2006 by Lou Gray and Ben Slivka, and had raised more than $7 million in angel capital, according to media reports. Neither Gray nor Slivka appears to be with the company as of today.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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