Why We Led Stellic’s Series A
by Tony Wan, Head of Investor Content
It’s no surprise that the best solutions are often designed by those who feel the pain most acutely, and some of the most popular education tools are built by students. Such is the case for Quizlet and Course Hero, both category leaders in the studying space.
And there’s Stellic, which is tackling one of the biggest challenges in higher education: the fact that nearly 40 percent of college students who start college drop out without a degree. With roughly 20 million students spending $500 billion on U.S. higher education every year, the attrition is costly not just for students, but for institutions as well.
One of the biggest hurdles is navigating the maze of coursework toward completing a degree. There are many paths, but the required classes, available options, and how one choice impacts others are often not clear. Certain courses have required prerequisites and corequisites. Some are only offered during a specific time of the year. Adding minors, switching majors, transferring from one institution to another — all common realities of the college journey — only adds to the complexity. Wrong choices mean wasted time and credits.
As first-generation college students at Carnegie Mellon, Sabin Bin Wasi, Rukhsar Neyaz and Musab Popatia found themselves hacking together spreadsheets to lay out their graduation paths, before starting Stellic in 2016. “If we could build a platform to personalize completion pathways and share it with higher ed administrators, everyone wins,” recalled CEO Bin Wasi. “Especially students who are betting a lot on their college experience.
That product-led approach has given birth to an elegant suite of advising, degree audit, degree planning, and analytics tools. It integrates with the student information systems and course catalogs to allow students to map out their semester and paths to graduation. It simplifies the complexity of pre-requisites, degree requirements, scheduling constraints, and personal interests into a beautiful, drag-and-drop user interface.
As one student put it:
“I would describe Stellic as an opportunity to make academic planning something you can look forward to rather than dread… It gives you an opportunity to explore rather than be the one who has to come up with everything on your own.”
In too many colleges and universities, student records, course catalogs, registrar systems and other support software are siloed and duct taped together, often leading to disparate user interfaces and challenging data integrations. By unifying these tools on a single platform, Stellic provides a seamless experience on both the front and backend of the technology stack.
For advisors and administrators, this delivers better, actionable insights to help them better plan course offerings, see how students are progressing on their course roadmap, and intervene with those who are off track. It provides a holistic overview of what students want and how they can help. It saves precious time and expands capacity for advisors, many of whom have been working remotely with an increased workload throughout the pandemic. As one university dean said:
“We were more focused on finding a tool for students but realized it was all interconnected. Combining this effort will optimize resources and ensure consistent, real-time, and accurate information for students, professors, administrators, and leadership. In the end, better forecasting and improved internal processes will help lead us towards our ultimate goal of being a more student-centric institution.”
Serving a diverse mix of large public and community colleges, along with Ivy Leagues and international programs, Stellic is now a staple in 40 universities across five countries, helping over 300,000 students make more than 2 million decisions about their courses. Not one institution has dropped the platform.
Rare is the educational software that is universally loved by college students, faculty and administrators, and Stellic is one of them. With zero customer churn and an NPS exceeding 80, the company has grown 4X over the last 12 months and is quickly expanding its footprint across the globe.
The company is poised to be a linchpin of higher education’s digital transformation that has accelerated during COVID. Over 80 percent of institutions increased their use of virtual advising for students (especially as many were forced to reduce staff). Many students paused their studies or took online courses offered outside their university, and will need a way to transfer those credits. Declining enrollments exacerbated by the pandemic has cemented student retention as a top priority for college leaders.
Getting to college is hard enough, and there are many meaningful challenges that students will encounter along their journey. Figuring out schedules and navigating legacy systems shouldn’t be one of them. It’s why we first invested in Stellic in 2019, and why we’re leading its $11 million Series A round as it continues to modernize the course planning and advising experience. And we’re delighted to be joined by some of the leading founders in the education industry, including David Blake (Degreed), John Katzman (Noodle and 2U), Dan Carroll (Clever), Philip Cutler (Paper) and Matt Pittinsky (Blackboard and Parchment).
Want to help? Stellic is growing and looking for talent in product design, customer success, engineering and many other roles. Check out these opportunities!