Saberi and co-founder Farnaz Ronaghi, both natives of Iran, started NovoEd in January 2013. The online learning platform that integrates elements of social media was originally developed as an in-house Stanford program called Venture Lab.
NovoEd was originally a Stanford operation called Venture Lab that allowed faculty to put classes online with a platform designed for team projects and collaboration. In January, Saberi took a leave of absence from the university to launch the company with co-founder Farnaz Ronaghi, who was a Ph.D student. “There was so much demand from the outside,” Saberi, a Stanford management and engineering science professor who built the platform over several weekends in 2012, told me. “We also had such rapid growth within Stanford that there was no choice but to spin out.”
The company is backed by Costanoa Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kapor Capital, Learn Capital, Maveron, Ulu Ventures and a number of angel investors. The amount of capital raised is not yet public. Previous online education startups born out of Stanford, Coursera and Udacity, raised $22 million and $21 million, respectively, when they turned their Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) into independent companies.
NovoEd aims to support collaboration among students. Co-founder and CEO Amin Saberi says that it doesn’t matter how many people are part of the lecture aspects of classes but the sweet size for collaborative groups is between 4 and 10 people. Completion rates on NovoEd have been relatively speaking high: 17% of the students who sign up complete a class (and half of those who finish the first assignment also finish the class.)
Since it debuted earlier this year, NovoEd reports that 458,600 students (in 152 countries) have taken its classes. More interesting: NovoEd says that 56,190 project teams have been formed and that they’ve created about 1,500 businesses (or at least a marketing page and pitch deck) via NovoEd.
NovoEd is also using the data generated by students’ activities to both help match them with the most suitable teammates–and most intriguingly–to improve the assessments of their work. “If you have a submission from a certain [person’s] profile, who would be the right person to match the assignments so they can give the ‘most accurate’ evaluation and feedback,” Saberi says. By “most accurate,” Saberi means an evaluation that most closely corresponds to what the professor (or say, the professor and a small number of top assistants) would be likely to give.
NovoEd offers a mixture of free and fee-based programs. (NovoEd splits any revenue with the course provider). Students can earn certificates of accomplishment.
Click Here to view the courses offered by NovoEd.