Microsoft buys a classroom video startup with 20 million users as it pushes against Google – Tech News| Tech News

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
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Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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  • Microsoft has acquired Flipgrid, an educational software startup.
  • Flipgrid, which has 20 million users from all over the world, will now be completely free for schools; previously, the service cost $1,000 a year per school.
  • The purchase will help Microsoft in its push against Google and Apple in the classroom.

Microsoft has announced the acquisition of Flipgrid, a Minneapolis-based educational software startup, as it pushes against Google and Apple in the classroom.

If you’ve never heard of Flipgrid, there’s a pretty healthy chance that the kids in your life have: It has 20 million users all over the world, including teachers, students, and parents, from Pre-K all the way up to PhD candidates. In its three-year lifespan, Flipgrid had raised a modest $17 million in venture funding.

For Flipgrid customers, the biggest change is that the service will now be completely free for schools, just like Microsoft’s own Office 365 for Education productivity suite. That’s down from its current price of $1,000 a year per school.

Flipgrid is somewhere between a social network and a homework assignment board. A teacher can set a topic – like “Who’s your favorite artist and why?” – and students record short video messages in response. Those responses are viewable by the rest of the class, and can garner responses of their own. Students can even attach files, like a book report or a snippet of computer code, and discuss those. It’s simple, but apparently addictive.

Much like LinkedIn, Flipgrid will be managed as an independent subsidiary of Microsoft. That means no big changes are on the horizon, and no plans to cut support for Flipgrid’s integrations with non-Microsoft tools like Google Classroom – though it already integrates with Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft tools.

“It’s gonna be Flipgrid, and we’re gonna be out there serving Flipgrid customers,” says Joey Taralson, VP of user engagement at the startup.

Free as a bird

Taralson tells Business Insider that the potential to make Flipgrid free was actually a large factor in the decision to sell to Microsoft. Originally founded in 2015, Flipgrid found its footing fairly quickly, but taking it to the next level requires the backing of someone like Microsoft to spread it even further, Taralson says.

Flipgrid works across tablets, phones, and PCs. It also integrates with Microsoft Office, Google G Suite, and other popular classroom tools.

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Flipgrid works across tablets, phones, and PCs. It also integrates with Microsoft Office, Google G Suite, and other popular classroom tools.
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Flipgrid

From Microsoft’s perspective, Flipgrid was almost unavoidable, says Eran Megiddo, the company’s corporate VP of education. Megiddo says that for the last few years, almost every school that Microsoft visited used Flipgrid in some capacity.

What impressed Megiddo was how Flipgrid encourages students to get involved with the coursework. Taralson says that teachers have come to him with stories of Flipgrid encouraging students who are quiet in class to speak up, or cases where those students share strategies for succeeding on a math test with each other.

Furthermore, Flipgrid encourages parents to get involved: Taralson tells another story, about how a teacher in a high-poverty school district got parents to record Flipgrid messages for the kids about how proud they are – and placed QR codes linking to those videos in their yearbook. There’s even an active #FlipgridFever hashtag on Twitter, popularized by educators sharing their own stories.

“It can be the first place [kids] realize their voices really matter,” says Taralson.

Flipgrid is almost like a social network, in that it encourages students to share their interests.

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Flipgrid is almost like a social network, in that it encourages students to share their interests.
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Flipgrid

It’s that kind of engagement that got Microsoft excited about the prospect of a deal with Flipgrid, says Megiddo. Since Flipgrid will keep much of its independence, Microsoft won’t use it as a lever to gain traction for Windows or Office in the classroom. And he says that in education, technology is an “and, not an or” proposition, with most classrooms using some mix of Apple, Microsoft, and Google hardware and software.

What Microsoft really gets with Flipgrid, says Megiddo, is a way to get kids to have more fun learning, which is good for everyone. If that means more schools choose to go with Microsoft tech, so much the better, says Megiddo. It’s the same strategy that’s led Microsoft’s own “Minecraft” to prominence in many schools and educational facilities.

“In the end, that all leads to our success,” says Megiddo.



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