Co-authored by Rebecca Kaden
Inequities in our education system are well-documented. High-quality instructors, college prep classes, and affordable test prep materials are unevenly distributed. However, learners in today’s classrooms don’t have time to wait for systemic change. Educational equity can be advanced today, through student-led communities working at the edges of the existing system.
Students are often one another’s first and best resources when navigating the social and academic challenges of high school. Today, the ‘hallways’ of the high school experience – where students find friends, share resources, and catch up casually – have shifted online.
Fiveable is a social learning platform that broadens access to the resources of a top school district. On Fiveable, students find high quality academic content and intentional peer-to-peer spaces. Adjacent to these channels, learners access a support network of student-led affinity groups and mental health resources. As students interact, their academic questions and community posts guide the next suite of content investment from the Fiveable team.
Nine years ago, we noted that the best networks not only ‘get out of the way’ (light architecture), they also efficiently minimize negative externalities and actively create positive ones. Fiveable does just that. Fiveable’s earliest study guides were grounded in the AP curriculum, a standardized set of subjects that delivers an immediate ROI for learners.
AP exams can reduce the time and cost of earning a degree. College prep courses are also recognized as the most important factor in university admissions. Last spring, half of AP test takers used a Fiveable study guide to prepare for an exam. The team has built authority in AP, often outranking the College Board’s own test prep materials.
This fall, Fiveable launched SAT and ACT modules to extend student support into the latter years of high school. Fiveable’s content decisions are guided by requests from their student community. More than 120 student interns are embedded within the organization. Soon, the platform will expand to further support the whole student, including content around financial literacy, career/ internship exploration, and mental health. Earlier this year, Fiveable also acquired Hours, a leading virtual studying platform, to be a link between individual and group study sessions.
One of the most compelling parts of Fiveable is the standout management team. Co-founders Amanda DoAmaral (CEO) and Tán Ho (CXO) bring authenticity, vision, and ambition to this bottom-up learning community. The two met on Reddit and know the power of digital communities.
Amanda was an AP World History teacher herself. She began livestreaming study sessions for former students working to pass spring exams. What started as a few students became hundreds and then thousands. Learners gravitated towards the low key, conversational and fun approach she used to talk through what they needed to learn. Tán is an expert in community-led growth, running his own digital marketing agency for more than a decade. Together they have grown Fivable to more than 7mm students worldwide.
Digital learning will increasingly promote self-service models of study. It will also mandate easily navigable pathways that teach students resilience, creativity, and compassion as they leave the structure of high school. Fiveable will be the scaffolding that helps students access the academic and social resources they need at the moment those resources are most essential. Their product places students at the center by treating learners as both customers and builders.
USV is thrilled to lead Fiveable’s Series A with participation from Owl Ventures and Progression Fund as well as the support of existing investors BBG Ventures, Metrodora VC, Swell, Serena Ventures, Emerson Collective, and Spero VC.