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Knack preps for a high-profile pitch

Margie Manning

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Samyr Qureshi (Photo courtesy of The Corridor)

Knack is one of three finalists for the Lumina Foundation Education Innovation prize, and a potential $50,000.

Samyr Qureshi, co-founder and CEO of the Tampa-based educational technology company, will travel to San Francisco later this month for the competition. He’ll pitch to an audience of venture capitalists, impact investors and stakeholders in post-secondary and higher education, telling them how Knack’s technology helps connect both traditional college students as well as adult learners in tutoring and mentoring relationships.

“Our value proposition is allowing college students to find help in their courses, but instead of a typical tutoring interaction, or an online tutor, we provide a platform where high-achieving students on their own campus can make themselves available, and when he or she needs help, they can book them for an in-person interaction on campus,” Qureshi said in a video interview with The Corridor, a publication focused on the 23-county Florida High Tech Corridor. “Our technology takes care of all the logistics, the timing, billing and rating review.”

Qureshi was one of 12 professionals honored by The Corridor as 2019 “faces of technology” for contributing to the advancement of research and innovation in the region.

The Florida High Tech Corridor is an economic development initiative by University of South Florida, University of Central Florida and University of Florida, and Knack has ties to all three schools.

“As a Gator I’m proud to be part of something that’s an initiative of University of Florida and their mission to grow high tech innovation in this region,” Qureshi said. “My cofounder went to UCF and we’re housed not far from USF … I hope this helps with deeper collaboration between those universities.”

Since Knack was founded at UF and won $25,000 in the school’s Big Idea Business Plan competition, it has scored some big funding wins, including its most recent capital raise led by  Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and San Francisco-based  Precursor Ventures.

The Lumina Foundation competition offers access to additional potential future investors and business partners, as well as prize money.

“We’re not raising venture capital now, but grant money is a good thing to add to the bank account because it’s non-dilutive,” Qureshi said.

Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all, focused this competition on increased access to post-secondary education for adult learners.

While Knack’s product primarily has served the traditional college student, 18 to 23 years old and attending a four-year institution full-time, “our goal is to provide access to every student,” Qureshi said.

“We are excited about the ability to put folks together from various background,” he said. “Our network of tutors is growing every day and being able to grow with both traditional and adult learners will serve us well. Lumina gives us the chance to place an emphasis and ensure we are serving that subset of the market.”

Knack applied to the contest in early March and learned last week it was in the top six from the 75 applicants. After a virtual pitch, Knack made it into the top three.

Qureshi will be pitching April 16 in San Francisco at the Lumina Investing in Future Talent and Education (LIFTed) Convening. There’s a $25,000 audience choice and a $25,000 judge’s choice award, and one company can win both.

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