Labster, a virtual science lab edtech company, today announced that it is partnering with California’s community college network to bring its software to 2.1 million students.
California Community Colleges claims to be the largest system of higher education in the country. The Labster partnership will provide 115 schools with 130 virtual laboratory simulations in biology, chemistry, physics and general sciences.
As COVID-19 has forced schools to shutter, edtech companies have largely responded by offering their software for free or through extended free trials. What’s new and notable about Labster’s partnership today is that it shows the first few signs of how that momentum can lead to a business deal.
Based in Copenhagen, Labster sells virtual STEM labs to institutions. The startup has raised $34.7 million in known venture capital to date, according to Crunchbase data. Labster customers include California State University, Harvard, Gwinnett Technical College, MIT, Trinity College and Stanford.
Lab equipment is expensive, and budget constraints mean that schools struggle to afford the latest technology. So Labster’s value proposition is that it is a cheaper alternative (plus, if students spill a testing vial in a virtual lab, there’s less clean up).
That pitch has slightly changed since COVID-19 forced schools across the world to shut down to limit the spread of the pandemic. Now, it’s pitching itself as the only currently viable alternative to science labs.
For many edtech companies, the surge of remote learning has been a large experiment. Often, edtech companies are giving away their product and technology for free to help as schools scramble to move operations completely digital.
For example, last week self-serve learning platforms Codecademy, Duolingo, Quizlet, Skillshare and Brainly launched a Learn From Home Club for students and teachers. Before that, Wize made its exam content and homework services available for free. And Zoom offered its video-conferencing software for free to K through 12 schools, which had mixed results.
Labster itself gave $5 million in free Labster credits to schools across the country. The list continues.
Labster’s new deal shows edtech companies can secure new customers right now — without breaking the bank.
Labster CEO and co-founder Michael Bodekaer declined to give specifics on what the deal is worth. He did share that Labster works with schools one by one to understand how much they can, or want to, invest in teacher training and webinar support. He also confirmed that Labster does profit from the deal.