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Edtech Knack strikes a $540K deal with University of Florida for expanded tutoring

Margie Manning

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Knack co-founders David Stoker, Shawn Doyle, Samyr Qureshi and Dennis Hansen (PHOTO CREDIT: Michelle Stoker Photography)

Knack has an expanded agreement with University of Florida to provide free tutoring for many students, including those in in the school’s most difficult classes.

Knack is a Tampa educational technology company that connects students who need tutors with other students who can provide tutoring services. The company been working with University of Florida for several years, and the new program was created after UF officials asked students about their transition to remote learning amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Hundreds of them asked for academic resources like tutoring.

“Given the lack of physical engagement and disruption of physical tutoring services, UF has signed a large-scale engagement with us to provide free tutoring for students in the most difficult courses, their traditional high-fail course, as well as an additional bank of hours for free tutoring for students with demonstrated financial need,” Qureshi said.

The platform is open to all of UF’s 35,000 students and more than half of them potentially could receive free tutoring services under the $540,000 agreement, said Samyr Qureshi, Knack co-founder and CEO.

The expanded program got underway officially on Monday, so Qureshi doesn’t yet know how many students will sign up to receive tutoring. More than 500 applicants sign up to be tutors in the first 48 hours after the program was announced, and almost 50 percent of them are now trained tutors.

It’s the latest in a series of updates and advances at Knack, which launched about five years ago and now works with colleges and universities across the entire United States. The company has grown revenue by triple digits since the beginning of the year, Qureshi said.

“It’s exciting because students really need jobs and obviously this is an interesting way to create a win-win where a high-achiever gets a job at a time when many of them are being furloughed, students gets support and the institution gets to improve important metrics such as retention and student engagement,” Qureshi said.

When it launched, Knack had a direct-to-consumer model, offering a mobile app that allowed students to find academic tutors.

Knack no longer is actively marketing its direct-to-consumer model, Qureshi said. Last year, the company began to focus on strategic partnerships, working with businesses looking for talented workers and with universities that wanted to boost performance measures.

Knack now has two product offerings — a Software-as-a-Service platform that universities can buy and use to operate their own tutoring center, and a service-based model, which provides an additive tutoring network that sits alongside what the school does to supplement and help scale support for high-risk populations.

Knack also has launched new product features, such as a tablet and mobile-friendly virtual teaching and learning environment called “Knack Classroom.” It includes a video-conferencing system with a real-time digital whiteboard and screen sharing.

The company has renewed all of its campus partners and added others, including St. Petersburg College. That’s especially meaningful for Qureshi, who earned his associates degree from St. Petersburg College. He was student body president when Tonjua Williams, now St. Petersburg College president, was the provost.

“We have been talking for a while, and we’re really excited to kick off an amazing engagement where we are supporting African American males especially with free tutoring services, provided by Florida A&M and USF,” he said.

In  addition, the company has hired two key employees: Priya Thomas, who will spearhead the campus success management division, and Hae-Yang Chang, a product designer.

 

The company now has 12 full-time staff members and Qureshi expects that number to grow to 15 by the end of the year.

Knack raised an undisclosed amount of capital in a round of funding earlier this year, with another round currently underway. Qureshi expects most of the new capital to come from existing investors.

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