Ed-tech startup raises $1.25M from investors, including Simon family members

ClearScholar Inc., an education-tech startup and High Alpha Studio portfolio company, announced Thursday that it raised $1.25 million from investors, including members of the Simon family.

The capital raise is the second for ClearScholar, which launched in June 2016 with $500,000 from High Alpha Capital and Butler University. The latest fundraising round includes those two entities, as well as Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures, Stephen Simon, Cindy Simon Skjodt and her husband, Paul Skjodt.

Stephen Simon is co-founder of San Francisco-based Simon Equity Partners and the son of Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon. Herb Simon and his brother Mel Simon co-founded mall giant Simon Property Group. Cindy Simon Skjodt is Mel Simon's daughter.

"We've been telling the story to a variety of folks, investors and obviously potential customers," said ClearScholar CEO Jason Konesco, a former CEO of Harrison College. "We're quite pleased with the local relationships."

ClearScholar runs an app for college students that aims to be a primary digital destination for school information. Among other features, it offers personalized news and information, school-based calendaring, emergency alerts, and a digital student ID card.

"We believe that post-secondary education is a critical stage that will impact the lives of many of our future young leaders," the Skjodts said in an emailed statement about their investment, which came through Carmel-based private equity firm Bulle Investments.

"The ClearScholar platform can enhance the college experience and push students to graduate. In addition, the platform helps to build lifelong relationships between students and the university."

The company believes its product will increase student engagement and academic outcomes in a country where only 59 percent of first-time students graduate in six years. Butler University was the first school to buy into its vision, launching the app on campus this August.

Konesco said the company is closing in on deals with other post-secondary institutions, including community colleges, for-profit schools and large public universities.

He also said the 10-person company plans to move out of its High Alpha nest in Circle Tower to digs elsewhere downtown.

The investment from the Skjodts and Stephen Simon came about partly from existing relationships, Konesco said. Erik Skjodt, the Skjodts' son, was involved in helping come up with the concept for Clear Scholar (he is not an employee, however), and High Alpha Managing Partner Scott Dorsey sits on the Indiana Sport Corp. board with Cindy Simon Skjodt.

Konesco said the company plans to use the cash on engineering, marketing and sales hires.

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