Until the end of March, schools can sign up for a free 90 day trial of Flocabulary, the edtech program that uses hip hop and videos to help kids learn about everything from the news to Pythagorean Theorem. This is the second year that the company has offered this opportunity for a free trial.
About 12,000 schools so far have taken part in some sort of trial from the service over the years. Last year, about 7,000 schools signed up for the free trial in March, and Alex Rappaport, cofounder and CEO, said that about 3,000 schools have signed up so far this year.
“This company was started on an extremely simple idea, which was wouldn’t it be great if memorizing a vocab word was as easy as memorizing a rap song,” Rappaport told us. Founded in the Bay Area in 2004, it moved to New York in 2005 and moved to Dumbo in 2008 when the startup community was really getting off the ground. The company outgrew its space in 2013 and has been operating out of downtown, but is likely to come back to Dumbo shortly, he said.
For its first several years it functioned more as a traditional publisher, making books and selling CDs of the educational hip hop music it was recording, but it pivoted in 2010-11 to digital. Now, it’s a subscription based service and it was able to add a video component to its songs.
“With the proliferation of classroom technology, as soon as we started putting music on the web and making music for it, the business really blew open … it was as though we started the company again in 2011,” Rappaport said.
The company is headed toward another reinvention, or at least a new iteration. Their big goal, Rappaport said, is to get students creating content based on their learning. The company is hiring developers now who will be in part working toward the next phase. While the exact look and feel of the platform is still taking shape, look for it to give educators the way to incorporate high tech skills in working through curricular content. So, for example, students using Flocabulary music about history may also do sound and video editing to make their own projects on historical events.
At the moment, Rappaport and his cofounder Blake Harrison have found a division of labor that works for them. Rappaport is largely doing the business development and marketing, while Harrison is overseeing the creative and content side. In the beginning, Rappaport was bringing a lot of his musical production skills to bear on the work, but that’s shifted, he explained “I came to a realization in ’08, that there are a lot of people in the city of New York who were more talented and better at making beats than me, but no one could run my business like I can.”
Flocabulary currently has 16 people working there full time and about a dozen freelancers. He expects to make several hires this year. The company had an angel round of investors in its first couple years of about $150,000. Since 2008, it has been profitable and has not yet needed to pursue further investment, so far.
The company has about 1500 schools as individual subscribers at its flat rate of $1200 for a full school. Most of its schools are low-income, lower performing schools. It also has about 15,000 individual teacher or parent subscribers.
We really enjoyed the company’s “Year in Rap 2013” video, which is one of its videos that can be seen for free on YouTube: