4 higher ed tech startups Mark Cuban is betting on

There are seemingly few areas of the business world that Mark Cuban hasn't invested in. Now, EdSurge reports that the famed Shark Tank investor is getting serious about higher ed, calling it "a business that doesn't know it's going out of business." He added that colleges are "too concerned with looking and sounding good instead of delivering a product,” saying that higher ed spends too much money on fancy dorms and cafeterias —​ not to mention athletics —​ and not enough on improving student outcomes. It's a sentiment many in higher ed can likely relate to.

So where is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres, and Magnolia Pictures placing his money in higher ed? Here are four startups he's betting will change the face of higher ed.

1. Copley Retention Services

Copley Retention Services' Copley Square application is focused on improving student success. It does this by pulling data from learning management systems, student information services, customer relationship management, and other campus systems into a single location, making it easier to provide early alerts when students are falling behind and allowing faculty and administrators to intervene.

Among its platform's other functions are smart phone notifications; a private campus social network; online video rooms for tutoring, advising, study groups, and faculty meetings; the ability for faculty and other campus personnel to leave notes and actions on any student; and more.

2. Ranku

Some students don't want the full campus experience and would prefer to get their degree entirely online. Finding the best fully online degree can be a difficult, strenuous proposition, though. That's where Ranku comes in, as co-founders Kim Taylor and Cecilia Retelle have essentially created a comparison shopping site for online degrees. The site partners with public, private, and state universities nationwide, helping connect prospective students to the best fit and weeding out those that are "call centers with a college built around it."

Cuban jumped onboard as an investor just three months in, with Taylor telling Women 2.0: "Mark believes there is a bubble in online education similar to the real estate bubble. Ranku makes schools shoppable and assigns an ROI to them based on job outcomes."

3. Packback

Every student has probably had at least one class where they had to buy an expensive textbook that they never even ended up opening in the class. Many professors only list a "required" text in their syllabus because they have to, and many of them are just as averse to high textbook prices as their students. Packback wants to be the answer to that problem by allowing students to rent digital textbooks by the day. The Chicago-based startup promises costs of $5-per-day or less for those rentals, and it's also working on additional tools for buying, selling, and using textbooks.

It is currently in beta, and while it has over 2,000 titles in its library, its founders stated on Shark Tank that it is still working to partner with more publishers. 

4. Degreed

Billing itself as a "digital lifelong diploma," Degreed is a social network currently in beta that allows students, professionals, and lifelong learners to track, share, and validate their learning — from formal learning to "micro-credentials," like books read and conferences attended, and experiential learning. The company wants its profiles to be the answer to "Tell me about your education."

Beyond displaying a user's learning experiences, the site also assists in discovering new content, learning with friends, and tracking progress on various skills and knowledge. Using your overall credit hours and mastery levels, the site also compiles a "Degreed Score" for your overall knowledge and for each discipline.


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