Kansas City is apparently a fertile area for burgeoning education tech startups.
Iowa City-based Pear Deck recently opened a Kansas City office to help develop a sales team for its student engagement platform. And Kansas City’s history in supporting successful education tech firms helped Pear Deck leaders make the expansion decision.
Pear Deck CEO Riley Eynon-Lynch said that in addition to maintaining its Midwest roots, Kansas City’s vibrant and supportive entrepreneurial community appealed to the firm. Pear Deck’s Kansas City office is located in the Kansas City Startup Village, which is offering it a community of like-minded entrepreneurs willing to help lend ideas and support.
“I’m grateful for all the support from the community here,” Eynon-Lynch said. “We think we’re onto something great and it’s nice when other people recognize that we’re onto something.”
Pear Deck tackles a problem that nearly any person with an education has experienced: inequitable student engagement in the classroom. Traditionally, Eynon-Lynch said that teachers pose a question in the classroom and the same few students will offer an answer. That creates a participation void that leaves a majority of students to passively learn, Eynon-Lynch added.
With Pear Deck, a teacher creates a live, interactive presentation of a lesson with a slide deck platform that’s similar to PowerPoint. The tool allows teachers to pose questions during a lesson that students each respond to on tablets or laptops. Pear Deck then aggregates the answers for either anonymous viewing as a class or private viewing for teachers.
Over the last two years, the platform has grown to more than 1 million student users in 40 U.S. states and 15 countries. The company employs a software-as-a-service model, charging school districts a monthly or yearly rate.
The tool adopts the principles of “active learning,” in which students participate in the process of learning instead of passively listening to a lesson. Pear Deck COO Michal Eynon-Lynch explains the process as one that prioritizes more participation.
“The idea of student learning is that students aren’t sitting passively — they’re taking part in discussions or different activities to get their minds moving and thinking creatively,” she said. It’s that distinction between passively learning or actively doing something with your brain and the materials.
In recent years, Kansas City has scored success with several of its education tech firms.
Netchemia — which developed talent management software for the K-12 education market — was acquired by PeopleAdmin in 2015 after growing to 91 staffers. K12itc — which provides cloud services for K-12 schools — is continuing its rapid growth around the nation and was named the Kansas City Chamber’s 2016 Small Business of the Year. MyEdMatch — a talent matching platform for schools and teachers — quickly grew in Kansas City before relocating to St. Louis for a merger with a nationwide teacher recruitment platform.
Founded in 2014, Pear Deck now has 12 staffers and is looking to hire at least two more employees. The firm has raised a little more than $1 million in capital from such sources as Digital Cowboy Ventures, the Iowa Economic Development Authority and various angel investors.
To learn more on Pear Deck, check out the video below.