After Major Pivot, PackBack Raises An Additional $1.5 Million
When we first met Mike Shannon and Kasey Gandham at Chicago TechWeek in 2013 they were fed up with overpriced books for college. Many people were. That’s why they launched PackBack an online textbook rental startup of sorts.
They were successful when they took the company into ABC’s Shark Tank. They secured a $250 million dollar investment from Dallas Maverick’s billionaire owner Mark Cuban. Cuban has always been a big supporter of startups that can demonstrate how they save people money and of edtech companies.
Back in July when we were in New Orleans for BlackBoard World 2017 we ran into Shannon and his team. We found out, in the interview below, that the Chicago based edtech startup, had made a good but risky pivot. When you have investors like Cuban on board you need to make sure that everyone agrees with what you’re doing.
The original Packback for textbook rentals was a great idea but it was plagued by two major factors. The first was that more and more colleges and universities were becoming less and less dependent on text books in the first place. The second was the textbook publishers themselves proved to be problematic and very slow to move in the fast paced world of millennial led startups.
Along the way though, another product started evolving out of Packback. as CEO and Co-Founder Mike Shannon explained to us at BbWorld 17 in New Orleans “we started to form this community around questions involving the text books. Students and teachers were using Packback to discuss the content of the books and ask questions” he said.
As the textbook business started fading away, Shannon along with Gandham and Jessica Tenuta started deep diving into the question platform. They realized that not only could they create a question platform for college students, somewhat similar to Quora, but also change the way students ask questions.
Packback has obviously made the right move as last week they announced that they had raised $1.5M in additional funding. The newest investment comes from University Ventures a venture fund targeting edtech startups, and ICG Ventures the corporate venture capital arm of Ingram Content Group. That brings their total funds raised to $5 million dollars and they are preparing to raise a Series A round.
“A.I. will play a huge role in the future of education, and the future of education is developing independent critical thinkers,” Mark Cuban said in a news release announcing the new Packback funding. “Knowing how to think is the most valuable skill to succeed in jobs of the 21st century. I invested in the Packback team because of their resilience and relentless focus on student success outcomes—this is what it takes to win in education.”
“Our team is so excited to be working on the frontlines of critical thinking, as we believe that there is no industry more singly impactful than education,” Co-Founder Jessica Tenuta said. “Schools can only effectively teach what they can effectively measure. Packback is setting out to become the new assessment standard for the 21st-century student focused on measuring how students think, not just how well they can memorize.”
Check out Packback here at packback.co