Milwaukee-based Fiveablewill offer its social learning, test prep and educational platform for free in an effort to reach more students, the company announced Wednesday.
Until now, Fiveable sold a monthly membership that gave premium members access to content at any time. While this was the startup's main revenue stream, Fiveable founder Amanda DoAmaral said she found flaws in the model 5 months ago.
“Although memberships are very popular business models, it wasn’t meeting the needs of students on a school schedule,” DoAmaral said. “In the month before (the advanced placement exam), our traffic typically doubles and we know that’s when students are looking for extra support.”
Fiveable offers high school students’ educational resources including weekly live streams with teachers, trivia battles, study guides, a personalized dashboard based on each student’s needs and a community forum with live support.
Fiveable's core services will be free to teachers and students. However, students who need another layer of support before the AP exam can purchase the “Cram Pass,” which provides access to 12 live reviews weeks prior to the exam where the highest-qualified teachers stream unit reviews, rubric breakdowns and facilitate Q&As.
“Learning shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive, which is why we’re shifting away from EdTech norms to make business decisions that better align with our commitment to a student-first approach,” DoAmaral said.
Fiveable recently closed on a $673,000 seed round of funding, which came during a time when Fiveable was in “survival mode,” DoAmaral said.
In a candid blog post, DoAmaral described Fiveable’s struggles in 2019, including several instances where the company’s bank account nearly hit $0, having to let a teammate go and another instance where she asked teachers who stream live on the platform to delay payment before the holidays.
The ask was a “gut punch” for DoAmaral, but to her surprise, all 86 streams were more than okay with the delayed payment, she wrote in the blog post.
“Each of them truly believed in what we were building and understood this as a necessity,” DoAmaral wrote in the blog post. “It felt like a dark time while I was in it, but looking back, I think it was a crucial moment of team building.”
The round of funding drove DoAmaral and her team to gather as much information as possible about users including surveys, calls and open forums to dig into the challenges, hopes and fears they experienced, DoAmaral said.
All the user research suggested that Fiveable’s content was having a positive impact on student achievement and to some extent, mental health – content creators not only teach content, but also build confidence, DoAmaral added.
“This user research is what led us to this decision as a team and with the blessings of our investors, we’re forging ahead,” DoAmaral said. “This is what’s best for Fiveable in the long-term because it's what’s best for students.”