Education tech startup Intersective wants to get students learning real-world skills, and a $3.75 million investment from Main Sequence Ventures is allowing its founders to “get back into the lab”, with a renewed focus on R&D.
Main Sequence Ventures, the manager of CSIRO’s $200 million innovation fund, is focused on ‘deep tech’ and announced initial plans to invest in Intersective in October last year.
Speaking to StartupSmart at that time, Main Sequence partner and ex-Pollenizer chief executive Phil Morle defined deep tech startups as those which are “solving a difficult problem with a unique solution, often achieved through science of technology”.
Founded in 2010 by Suzy Watson, Beau Leese and Wes Sonnenreich, Intersective is designed to solve one such difficult problem.
The startup’s machine learning-enabled platform, Practera, connects students with corporate and government accelerator, internship and mentoring programs, allowing for what Watson calls “experiential education”.
“The platform provides actionable data and insights based on interactions of participants,” she tells StartupSmart.
Watson says the technology helps students learn certain life skills that are difficult to pick up in the classroom.
“The 21st century skills that most people are going to need for their jobs in the knowledge economy are not easily learnt by current teaching methods,” she says.
“Students need to be learning those skills experientially now and applying them … and they need to learn those skills before they leave university.”
Until now, Intersective has been bootstrapped. But, according to Watson, it’s the “perfect time” for a funding round.
“We’ve worked closely with great partners, which has allowed us to get to this point,” she says.
Intersective is now “a startup trying to get back into the lab”, and it will be using the $3.75 million investment to continue working on R&D, as well as to fund overseas expansion. Main Sequence Ventures is the ideal investor to help them do that, says Watson.
“We’re an R&D intensive organisation and have been for many years,” she says.
“An investor like [Main Sequence Ventures] understands that story.”
For Watson, getting the right investor was important — not only for the funding, but for the experience and networks they can bring to the team. In Main Sequence Ventures, she says, Intersective have “a very experienced group of deep tech VC operators in the team”.
As part of the funding deal, Main Sequence partner and co-founder of Blackbird and Southern Cross Ventures Bill Bartee has joined the Intersective board, bringing a “long track record of helping companies grow,” Watson says.
“He has already provided valuable advice in terms of keeping focused on strategy and introductions into the US,” she adds.
In fact, Watson advises fledgling technology startups: “Your greatest asset is people. Getting the right team in place is really key.”
That doesn’t just mean employees and customers, but partners as well, she says.
“Customers are important, but also research partners and collaboration partners are important,” she adds.