OOHLALA Mobile has raised $5.3 million in Series A funding. The round is led by University Ventures, Y Combinator, Joe Montana’s liquid 2 VC, GoAhead Ventures, and Real Ventures among others.
Based in Montreal, OOHLALA develops mobile apps for universities with the goal of improving student retention and graduation rates. According to the startup, nearly half of students that enter university graduate within six years, and according to a 2013 study by the American Institutes for Research, 1,669 universities and colleges collectively lost close to $16.5 billion in revenue due to attrition.
“Twenty-five percent of freshman students in the US drop out of school every year. And not only is that a huge cost for universities, but also it’s a huge cost to society because most of these students have debt but no degree,” founder and CEO of OOHLALA Danial Jameel told MTLinTECH. “When you actually look into the factors that are causing it, it’s not just the grades. In fact, over 50% [of dropouts] are your above C grade typical students.”
OOHLALA hopes to solve this problem through increased student engagement and connection through a personalized university mobile app. The startup’s software uses algorithms and alerts to to simplify the student experience on a daily level and expose them to resources on campus geared towards retention.
“There’s a whole other host of factors that are in play for what’s causing students to disengage, and universities are really worried about that; that’s why they spend all these resources building what we call ‘university services’. Mental health to student affairs to student life events, career services and so on.”
The startup, which participated in Y Combinator this summer, already has 200 customers in 7 countries, with everybody from elite schools like Harvard Law, University of Chicago, Rutgers, and Mcgill to a rural community college in Kentucky. The funding raised will mainly be used to grow on what they already have and do things like scale the engineering team.
“We have a really good opportunity to actually be the market within the space. Right now there’s no one central point where students can connect everything, in all services.”
Investors include University Ventures (Troy Williams, former head of Macmillan Ventures will join the board), Y Combinator, Joe Montana’s liquid 2 VC, GoAhead Ventures (a fund backed by Japanese universities), Osman Rashid, Real Ventures, LiYuan VC, Fundersclub, Andrew Levy, and Ali Moiz.
Additionally, Zack Brown from Lightspeed will be joining the team as CRO, Zaki Mohamed from Influitive will be joining as VP or Product, and Ian Jeffery, GM at Intel passwordbox, will be joining as an advisor.
“All in all it’s just a great group of strategic people we’re investing with,” said Jameel.