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Exclusive: Zuckerberg-backed micro-scholarship startup raises $15 million

Exclusive: Zuckerberg-backed micro-scholarship startup raises $15 million
[Photo: courtesy of RaiseMe]

For many high school students, it’s hard to feel motivated by the connection between getting an “A” in trigonometry and getting into college. College feels abstract and distant. When a teacher assigns math homework, it can be easy to ask: Why bother?

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Enter RaiseMe, a San Francisco-based startup that uses micro-scholarships to motivate students and demystify the cost of higher education. In partnership with over 300 colleges and universities, RaiseMe has extended over $2 billion in scholarships for milestones like an “A” in an AP course or a leadership role in an after-school sport. Roughly one-third of the students who participate are the first in their family to attend college, and over half are underrepresented minorities.

Now, with 1.2 million students served, RaiseMe is looking to further expand. The startup has raised $15 million in Series B funding, led by Teamworthy Ventures. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic organization founded by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg; Salesforce Ventures; and Strada Education Network also participated.

“RaiseMe uses a creative solution to open doors of college opportunity, especially for students who are often overlooked,” Vivian Wu, managing partner at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, said in a statement.

For CEO Preston Silverman, the round is a validation of RaiseMe’s approach, which has been informed by behavioral science. “Shorter feedback loops lead to better outcomes overall,” he says. “You help students break down this goal of having a 4.0 GPA into the smaller milestones.”

The funding will support RaiseMe’s expansion into community college, where it aims to serve the growing number of students pursuing a “2+2” degree: two years at community college, followed by two years at a state or private university. The 2+2 strategy helps lower the cost of college, but can be challenging to execute without advance knowledge of how credits transfer. “We believe this platform can help them complete the community college, as well as set them up for success when they transfer to a four-year school,” Silverman says.

RaiseMe, founded in 2014, previously raised $16.5 million from investors including First Round Capital and Owl Ventures.

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