Having used Dallas ISD—the second-largest school district in Texas—to help develop its technology, a local startup may soon take its digital world for helping students learn far beyond Texas borders.
STEMuli, a Dallas-based company developing an “educational metaverse,” is looking to expand nationwide after landing a $3.25 million seed funding round co-led by venture capital firms Slauson & Co and Valor Ventures and joined by Draper Associates.
“We’re bringing this technology to the country’s largest urban school districts, of which a majority of the students are economically disadvantaged,” said Taylor Shead, founder and CEO at STEMuli, in a statement. “Our vision is to improve learning outcomes by providing all students with an experience that rivals playing their favorite video game.”
In addition to fueling the company’s growth, the funding also makes Shead—a former board member of the Dallas Education Foundation—one of less than 100 Black women to have raised more than $1 million in venture backing.
A learn-to-earn model in the metaverse
STEMuli’s platform allows students to interact with each other and play games in the digital environment around them, then be quickly transported to a classroom when the teacher is ready to start a lesson. Students are rewarded for things like good attendance with tokens that can be used to upgrade their avatar or provide other game-like rewards. Eventually, the tokens could be used to exchange for real money. Teachers are able to track student progress and engagement on the platform, while having things like grading become automated.
The company is also opening its metaverse to allow companies to connect with students for mentoring and potential internships, to help them develop skills for the future workforce.
“We are pioneering the learn-to-earn model to increase engagement, and utilizing AI to improve teacher’s productivity,” Shead said. “This investment will increase performance results worldwide and make quality education a human right for all.”
‘We’ve only scratched the surface’
Shead co-founded STEMuli in 2016 alongside Wade Aston, after the two met while working for Apple. The company initially launched its corporate mentorship-focused platform, which also helps students do things like apply for jobs and colleges, at Dallas’s Pathways to Technology Early College High Schools in 2019. Since then, it has launched in a number of school districts across Texas. Its game-based learning metaverse has been piloted at Dallas Hybrid Prep since last summer.
Expanding to four new states and Washington, D.C.
With the new funding, STEMuli said it’s looking to expand its reach to New York, California, Illinois, Georgia, and Washington, D.C.
“We have seen the accelerated adoption of digital platforms in education over the last two years, but we’ve only scratched the surface of what has been enabled for remote learning,” said Austin Clements, managing partner at Slauson & Co, in a statement. “We’re excited to see this expand to the rest of the country.”
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