Sydney startup Clipboard strives to be the extracurricular ed-tech 'every school needs'

Sydney startup Clipboard strives to be the extracurricular ed-tech 'every school needs'

Clipboard founders (from left) Sam Clarke, Christian Hind and Ed Colyer

Sydney-based ed-tech startup Clipboard has secured $3.1 million in funding as the developer of a fast-growing extracurricular management system for schools sets its sights on becoming a global player in the education sector.

Clipboard will use the proceeds of its second major capital raise to expand its software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering with aims to ultimately position Clipboard alongside the likes of US-based ed-tech giant Canvas, which supports learning management systems for schools around the world.

Clipboard co-founder Sam Clarke tells Business News Australia Clipboard is aiming to become the third pillar of management systems within schools, complementing learning management systems that cover school curricula and the student information systems that manage all student data.

“We are really pioneering this new category in ed-tech that we believe every school in the world needs,” says Clarke, the sales and marketing manager at Clipboard.

Clipboard was founded in 2017 by Clarke and Ed Colyer while they were studying at university and taking a part-time job at their former high school coaching the Year 8 basketball team. They later brought Christian Hind, the Clipboard CEO, into the fold after developing an extracurricular activities management system that was quickly adopted by schools through a viral word-of-mouth campaign.

“It was really obvious that the systems in place for managing extracurricular activities were terrible and created all sorts of challenges for us as staff members and the other coaches, but also for the school from a liability perspective,” says Clarke.

“Every school seemed to be facing this problem, so we initially built the system for ourselves as coaches, used it for a year or so and then pretty quickly other schools heard about it. We initially gave it to them for free and it wasn’t long before they started to pay. There was a clear need there.”

Clipboard grew revenue by 330 per cent in calendar 2021, despite four months of lockdown in what were the company's biggest markets at the time, NSW and Victoria. The company is on track to grow another 200 per cent this calendar year.

Clipboard is currently being used by more than 100 schools with preliminary research by the company showing big economic and social benefits being reaped by the schools, teachers and parents. Among its customers are Pymble Ladies’ College, Geelong Grammar School, Matthew Flinders Anglican College, Covenant Christian School and Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School.

“One case study we did recently with St Joseph’s College in Hunters Hill, which has been using Clipboard for about four years, found that Clipboard saves them over 140 hours of admin every single week,” says Clarke.

“We are also seeing that students actually participate more, so attendance and participation in extracurricular activities have gone up because schools are on top of who is participating and who isn’t. Before, most of these schools were running paper as their tracking systems and they would have no idea if a student didn’t show up.”

Clarke says apart from saving teacher hours managing extracurricular activities, Clipboard leads to improved activity programs while filling a child-safety ‘black hole’ that activities outside of school can create.

“Prior to using Clipboard, many schools weren’t able to effectively track attendance and participation of these activities. It was a bit of a black hole outside of the classroom but with Clipboard schools know exactly where the students are. If they aren’t there, parents are immediately alerted.

“The third benefit is the enhanced student and parent experience. Clipboard brings in relevant, timely and personalised schedules and notification about these activities that has never existed before.”

Clipboard’s $3.1 million capital raising has been backed by specialist SaaS venture capital investor EVP, supported by Jelix Ventures and Sprint Ventures.

Jelix Ventures is among the early investors in Clipboard after participating in an $850,000 seed capital raise in March 2020.

Clarke says the support of the new investors has been invaluable to the company, which already has a team of 22 and is expected to grow further this year as a result of the fresh capital injection that will eventually give the company scope to explore international markets.

“It helps us massively having their expertise, business experience and advice,” says Clarke.

“We want to continue growing in Australia and New Zealand, as that’s really our focus now. We’ve got a big opportunity here to become the dominant extracurricular activities management system and then we can start to look offshore.”

Clipboard is seen as a relatively easy fit for the international market compared with programs such as Canvas which have to adapt to the curricula of each region in which they operate.

“The great thing about the category we are in is that basketball, drama and debating is pretty much the same everywhere,” says Clarke.

Among the new equity investors in Clipboard, EVP partner Daniel Szekely has joined the Clipboard board.

“With the capital raised, the business is now attracting top-tier talent from much larger ed-tech businesses and we are excited by its growth plans locally and offshore,” says Szekely.

“Educational organisations have always been laggards when it comes to adopting new technologies but in the case of Clipboard, the self-evident demand for efficiency and safety by parents and students is driving rapid adoption. Clipboard ultimately drives up the quality of extracurricular programs and enrolments in a virtuous cycle that leads to revenue for schools and higher quality activities for students.” 

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