Edtech startup Niche lands $35M Series C funding to reimagine and simplify the school and college search experience
Niche, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based edtech statup and a school search platform connecting people to the perfect K-12 school or college, today announced it has raised $35 million in Series C funding to advance the platform as the leading destination for users to manage their school search journey. The round was led by Radian Capital, with additional participation from Salesforce Ventures, as well as existing investors Allen & Company LLC and Tim Armstrong. In addition to the funding, Niche also announced the appointment of Weston Gaddy, Partner and Co-founder of Radian Capital, and Francisco D’Souza, Executive Vice Chairman and Co-Founder of Cognizant, to its board of directors.
Founded in 2002 by Carnegie Mellon graduate Luke Skurman, Niche is a platform that helps you discover the schools and neighborhoods that are right for you. As a two-sided platform, the company currently has over 1,400 school clients including Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard Westlake School, Boston University and k12.com, and Niche will use the funding to partner with thousands of additional schools. Niche has established itself as the go-to recruiting tool for the nation’s education market, particularly during this uncertain time when students and schools are exclusively online.
“At Radian, we focus on companies that build technology-enabled businesses that redefine industries and Niche is doing exactly that with its modern approach to enrollment marketing for schools,” said Weston Gaddy, Partner and Co-founder of Radian Capital. “We believe that Niche is revolutionizing school search and will lead the way for the future of recruitment, as it continues to gain market share at an impressive pace.”
The company has shown impressive growth over the last year while maintaining capital efficiency. In 2019, Niche increased its ARR over 100% and client base by more than 60% YoY and was cash-flow positive for the majority of the year. Additionally, Niche grew its team size by 60%, and plans to continue to expand headcount across product, engineering, marketing, and sales. As schools have come under increased pressure from tighter budgets and higher student acquisition costs, Niche’s value proposition of matching high-quality candidates with the right school provides a strong return on investment for educational clients.
Combining the best of both qualitative and quantitative student experience data and comprehensive academic statistics, Niche is transforming how prospective students and parents discover best-fit education options, and authentically experience a school or college beyond its academics. Niche’s website and native app include over 130,000 in-depth profiles on colleges and schools, over 140 million reviews and ratings from students, parents and alumni, providing powerful user search tools and resources to use during the school selection process. In 2019, Niche’s platform had over 100 million visits and currently more than one in two college-bound high school seniors are registered on the site and using the company’s discovery tools to find a college or university.
“Practically overnight, tens of millions of students across the country switched to online classes, standardized testing was canceled, and school tours went virtual for the foreseeable future,” said Luke Skurman, CEO and founder of Niche. “Students and families need a reliable way to research and authentically connect with schools online. Schools need a better way to connect with millennial parents and Gen-Z students in this mobile-first, digital era. We’ve been seeing these trends for a long time and they will be accelerated in a post-COVID-19 reality. We’re now more confident than ever in our ability to successfully help schools navigate the changing digital landscape and connect with more best-fit students.”
In response to COVID-19 and to further Niche’s goal of strengthening relationships between schools and students, Niche has accelerated the roll-out of several new free features to support schools that have been impacted by closures. Due to the shift in virtual schooling, Niche is updating its platform to better clarify for students which schools offer online classes and degrees. Additionally, Niche is giving schools the opportunity to include links to their virtual tours on their site profiles to allow students to virtually explore campus life. The company has also extensively surveyed over 50K students and parents to track how school communities and students’ academic progress and college plans are being affected by COVID-19.