10 Questions With Flipgrid CEO Jim Leslie On The Microsoft Acquisition

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Microsoft’s education division announced yesterday the acquisition of Minneapolis’ own edutech startup Flipgrid.

Charles Miller created Flipgrid with the help of Bradford Hosack inside the University of Minnesota’s Learning Technologies Media Lab in 2012.

In 2015, Miller united with CEO Jim Leslie and director Phil Soran to spin Flipgrid out of the University (originally called Vidku).  Together, they achieved an unusually large and fast fundraise to the tune of “$17 million in 17 days,” as the story goes.

After some time in market, Flipgrid made a deliberate decision that would yield the type of traction necessary to reach meaningful scale: pulling out of the enterprise video market and returning to its classroom collaboration roots.

In the 12-24 months that followed, the fledgling venture matured from some 30k users to 20 million Pre-K – PhD educators, students and families spanning 180 countries around the world.  We asked Leslie 10 relevant questions regarding the Microsoft milestone:

When and how did the relationship with Microsoft commence?

We’ve known the Microsoft Education team for a couple years through our product integrations (Flipgrid integrates with Microsoft Teams and OneNote) and through education events.

How long was the process of purchase from start to finish?

Not public.

Other than the University of Minnesota, Arthur Ventures, and Brightstone Venture Capital – were there prior investors involved to mention?

Yes, we raised a Series-A round in February of 2015 with local investors interested in supporting our mission of empowering educators across the globe.

Why did you/Flipgrid’s board make the decision to sell the company at this time to Microsoft?

Our mission is to empower educators as they help learners define their voices, share their voices, and respect the diverse voices of others. This decision is centered on better supporting educators and the creative ways they engage their students. By joining Microsoft, we are able to make Flipgrid 100% free to all educators and we are now part of an organization that supports millions of educators around the world.

What drove your success of the previous 12-24 months?

The educators in our community. They are the most inspiring people on the planet. Since day one Flipgrid has grown because educators creating positive student impact with Flipgrid and sharing their experiences with each other. As more and more educators were drawn to social learning, more and more educators joined Flipgrid.

What is the main asset or value to Microsoft in the new partnership?

Microsoft is dedicated to helping educators foster a social learning environment, which research states leads to better student outcomes. This makes Microsoft the ideal home for Flipgrid where educators are inventing and sharing new ways to engage their students every day!

If going freemium, how will the product make money for the company in the future?

Flipgrid was freemium and with the Microsoft acquisition, Flipgrid is now 100% free for all educators. Microsoft believes that strategic investments in education will benefit the company and the world long term.

What was the size of the Flipgrid team upon close (In Minneapolis and overall) – what does it mean for future headcount?
We are currently around 25 employees. We will add to our team as needed to support our mission of making Flipgrid available to every educator on the planet.

Will you continue as the CEO in a foreseeable future and/or what’s your new title?

Yes! My role is unchanged.

Are either Charlie Miller or Bradford Hosack, two of the companies original founders still involved at this point and if so, going to remain?

Charlie’s role at Flipgrid is unchanged.  Bradford’s role at Flipgrid was to lead our integration with EMC Schools’ Passport platform. Today, he leads that same team within EMC as he recently announced on Twitter.

Comments

  • Tom Brossart

    Congrats to the Flipgrid team! I remember sitting down with Vidku and FoodBuilding a few years ago exploring if/how Vidku would play in the Food/Bev/Ag space. Glad to hear about the productive pivoting and traction over the last few years.

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