Possip, a Nashville-based platform that provides real-time education feedback from parents to schools, has announced the closing of a new funding round of slightly more than $1 million.
“We are using the funding to expand our work to new areas,” says Possip founder and CEO Shani Dowell. “Our aim is to grow to at least 200 new school partners and over 100,000 parent users. We also want to provide additional insights and perspectives to schools and districts based on what they are hearing from and learning from parents.”
With this raise, Dowell makes history as the first African-American woman in Tennessee — and one of fewer than 60 black women in the U.S. — to raise more than $1 million in venture funding.
Possip, a hybrid term created from a combination of the words “gossip” and “positive,” uses text-messages and weekly emails to parents as a way to gather thoughts, feedback, ideas and praise, in a variety of languages. The platform then captures and uses data analytics, human and technical intelligence, and historical insights to organize parental feedback into actionable reports, arranged in five buckets: academics, staff operations, teachers, classroom culture and school culture.
These reports help schools identify and follow up on priorities, and allows them to observe trends over time, as well as measure progress against other schools in Possip’s national community.
Nationally, less than 2 percent of all venture funding goes to women-led companies, and .006 percent goes to African-American women entrepreneurs. Despite the challenges associated with finding venture capital funding, Dowell says the support of her fellow founders kept her going.
“Black female founders in other states were part of my encouragement to reach this milestone,” says Dowell. “After raising over $800,000, other black female entrepreneurs encouraged me to keep pushing towards the larger raise. So, I was already inspired by other founders across the South and East Coast to continue pushing. Part of that was a responsibility to show that black women have great business ideas and can raise money as well.”
The funding will help Possip grow its school and district partnerships, deepen customer experience, and provide customers additional analytics and features. Serviced through convertible notes and grants, the round included investments from the Launch TN Impact Fund and angel investors committed to high-impact companies.
LaunchTN President and CEO Margaret Dolan highlighted the significance of Dowell’s achievement. In a statement, she said, “Shani’s success as the first black woman in Tennessee to reach the $1 million investment mark is an important milestone, and we’re confident that it is only the first of many as the company grows to serve more schools and students.”
Since its founding, Possip has grown to serve more than 50,000 users at nearly 100 schools across the country. Schools that use Possip experience as much as a tenfold increase in the number of families offering feedback, and Dowell hopes Possip’s organic growth will continue.
“Having worked for over 20 years in education, I had a pretty good sense for some of the needs in the space, so I started with the people and schools that I knew were really aligned around the value of parents and communities,” says Dowell. “From there, luckily, we have grown through word of mouth. Now we will grow similarly, leveraging our team to plant seeds.”
Dowell believes that Possip’s web-based application has the potential to be a true game-changer by streamlining communication in the edtech space. “Family engagement is more important than ever,” she says. “Especially as cities get more diverse, there is an increased need to create bridges between parents and families — and Possip is central to that.”