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Declara Raises $16M for Personalized Continuing Education

VCs invest in the team that's helping Australian public schools and the Mexican teaching union learn smartly.

The education startup Declara has raised a hefty $16 million Series A funding in support of its efforts to provide continuing education services to customers like thousands of teachers in the Australian public school system and Mexico’s enormous teachers’ union SNTE.

The two-year-old company helps teachers document their lessons and teaching materials, connect to each other through a closed social network and find additional learning resources online.

So far, Declara’s customers are usually governments and ministries, but it also sells its Web and mobile products to companies like Genentech and schools like the University of Pennsylvania.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company’s backers are edtech specialist GSV Capital along with Catamount Ventures and previous investors Data Collective and Founders Fund. It has now raised a total of $25 million.

Declara is led by indomitable entrepreneur Ramona Pierson, whose personal history was profiled last year by BusinessWeek; as a U.S. Marine in her 20s who was injured in a drunk driving accident, she spent 18 months in a coma and had more than 100 surgeries to reconstruct and repair her body since.

Pierson previously built an online education system for Seattle public schools backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and sold a different edtech startup called SynapticMash.

She said this week that Declara is built on top of fancy technology like semantic search, predictive analytics and machine learning — but it gathers much of the content it analyzes by offering a simple forum for people to discuss what they’re working on, and share existing training documents and videos.

The point is to turn lots of data into a personalized curriculum for each user.

With the new funding, Pierson’s next projects will include expanding the Declara business into Asia and hiring more people to do data science, she said.

She said existing customers pay Declara $50 per user per year for its services, though sometimes less if they have a lot of users.

“Declara looks like Facebook and Google had a baby,” said Data Collective investor Matt Ocko in an earlier interview about the company (for good analogous measure, he also compared Declara to the scary smart data analysis company Palantir). “It’s a stream of relevant information that you can also search. There’s 14 years of neuroscience about what will help you learn more, better, faster, with the right peers, at the right time.”

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