Acquisitions / Education

Baltimore edtech startup Citelighter acquired by Sylvan Learning

Cofounders Saad Alam and Lee Jokl will not be continuing with the company, nor will the vast majority of Citelighter's employees.

Citelighter cofounders Lee Jokl, left, and Saad Alam. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Nolan)
Updated with comment from Sylvan Learning. (5/5/17, 2:08 p.m.)
Edtech startup Citelighter was acquired by Sylvan Learning, and Citelighter’s offices in Baltimore city are closing.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. In a statement announcing the deal, Sylvan Learning said it was acquiring Citelighter’s technology platform, which guides students in learning the writing process.
Sylvan Learning, which is based in Hunt Valley, plans to continue operating the platform in the roughly 45 school districts where Citelighter is currently in use. Sylvan Learning Vice President of Education Emily Levitt said in an interview that Sylvan will look to expand its use in schools.
Sylvan is also planning to integrate Citelighter’s platform into a writing program that will roll out to Sylvan’s franchise locations across the nation. The pilot was led by Levitt, a former Citelighter employee, said Citelighter cofounder Saad Alam. That program will launch in the fall.
“It provides support for the students directly into the document they’re writing. It holds their hand and walks them through the composition in a way that I have not seen in any other writing product,” Levitt said, adding that it would provide a “competitive and academic edge” when compared with other tutoring services.
The cofounders will not be staying with the company. Jokl said the company’s Baltimore-based sales team would not be continuing after the acquisition. Levitt said Sylvan re-hired one Citelighter empolyee, but all others are no longer with the company. The company employed more than 30 people in 2015, though its website now lists about 15.
Alam said the deal will allow the technology to scale across the country, and continue the company’s mission of helping students.
“The opportunity was exciting for us and for the product, so we said, let’s let Sylvan take it to the next step,” Alam told
Alam and Jokl founded the company in New York in 2011, and moved to Baltimore in 2013. The company was based at Betamore — where a call center was in the bike room — until 2015, when it graduated the incubator and into the space along Fort Avenue.
The company received a total of $6.5 million in investment, according to Crunchbase. Local investors included Cammack Associates (Managing Partner John Cammack is a board member) the Propel Baltimore Fund, Baltimore Angels and TEDCO.
Jokl and and Alam said they are planning to stay in the city, and said they will likely be starting another venture. Alam said it will be focused on addressing “a large societal problem.”

Companies: Citelighter / Sylvan Learning Systems Inc.

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