BWP Ep. 7: Fiveable w/ Amanda DoAmaral

Meagan Loyst
Building with Purpose
7 min readJan 15, 2021

The power of community & peer-to-peer learning in a crowded D2C consumer EdTech landscape.

A particular topic that’s been front and center in the VC community lately is community — how it’s becoming an integral source of revenue for creators, drives long-term retention for consumer companies, and has created a string of startups in-and-of itself in community management tools.

I think the intersection of community and EdTech is quite interesting. I’ve written about this and the importance of peer-to-peer learning in other BWP articles (see a snippet from the Codecademy piece here), but community and peer-to-peer learning is truly at the core of what makes Fiveable special.

A true Gen Z-focused company, Fiveable is an all-in-one solution focused on helping high school students ace their AP exams. The platform encompasses a combination of user-generated study tools, community, live events, and most recently, creating a social content library that creates new ways for students to study together.

I took 10 AP classes when I was in high school, which helped me enter college with close to 50 college credits and let me graduate early. This was instrumental to me because (a) I could take more of the classes/electives I actually enjoyed vs. the core classes required by the university and (b) it saved me a year’s worth of tuition and student loans. So I’ve seen the power of AP courses first-hand, and truly wish Fiveable was around back when I was in high school — I guarantee I would’ve loved it.

Fiveable also encompasses so many themes at the intersection of next-gen consumers and education — like empowering Gen Z to build (ie: we’ve seen this play out with Roblox) and meeting consumers where they are to think creatively about customer acquisition.

Amanda DoAmaral, the founder and CEO of Fiveable, has empowered students all over the country, and done so in a way that’s accessible and truly innovative. I’m very excited to share our conversation with you all!

A Conversation with Amanda DoAmaral, Founder & CEO of Fiveable

First start with telling me about your mission, and how you and your team at Fiveable are building with purpose everyday.

For us, it’s all about having students at the center of everything we do — the more that we think about education in schools and all of the inequities that exist, what’s really frustrating for students is how many things are out of their control. For example, students can’t control where you live, what school you go to, what teachers you get, what resources you have, etc. And then on top of that, layering in everything you can’t control about your family, your own parents, and your/their education history.

We want to be able to put the power back into the students’ hands. So that regardless of any of these factors, any student can be successful.

They just need access to opportunities, support, resources, and also to know what’s possible! Because part of it is that you only know what you know. Even for myself, I’m not in a job that I knew existed when I was in high school, and many adults feel the same way.

We’ve always been student-first, and that that means building the product for students, not for their administrators or even for their teachers. We’re bringing students into the whole process, including ~50 student part-time employees that we hired to come work with us and build! They work with the product, they are on social, they are on the support team — they’re everywhere! The important piece is that it has to be built by them, and built for them.

How do you define social learning — especially as it pertains to Gen Z and trends you’re seeing in the market and how that’s influenced your product roadmap.

I only took one AP class in high school because I didn’t think that I belonged in them. I remember studying for that one AP psychology test — literally in my bedroom with a prep book, on the floor trying desperately to synthesize things — and thinking just how ridiculous that whole experience was. There were probably all of these other students doing the exact same thing at the same time, and we could have all helped each other. Even when I think back to college, some of my favorite ways of studying was in a group, where we would practice questions together and just talk through concepts. And that unfortunately was not really a thing in high school — partly because there’s this social pressure in the classroom where being smart isn’t always cool.

Students right now are very online, very social, and they spend so much of their time on social channels. They’re learning on Youtube, Reddit, and Discord — but these platforms aren’t built for helping one another to gain true understanding if there are questions because there are just comments sections. We’ve tried to rethink this around both content and study resources, so when students are learning on Fiveable, you never feel like you’re alone in doing so and there’s always someone you can go to for help.

Our technology helps to enable that — so for example, if you comment a question on a video, it not only shows up there, but also on the main community page for that subject too so that it’s seen by more people.

The UGC piece is also important here, so not only enabling the creation of social threads throughout, but also giving kids the tools to create these communities and connect — even if they’re the only kid at their school taking that particular exam. There are still thousands of other kids that are doing the same thing and can point you in the right direction.

It also helps to provide access to new learning methods. So for example, if one kid has a fantastic teacher who showed them a great way to memorize a particular topic, then the other kids in the community can learn from that as well. That one kid got lucky to have that one amazing teacher, but every other kid should be able to get that support as well — Fiveable makes that possible.

With 100k+ students studying with Fiveable, how did peer to peer sharing & virality/organic growth play a role in your growth? Tips and tricks for growing a large user base in EdTech?

Our user growth is crazy — we keep making projections every month and knocking them out of the park. For some context, in the last 30 days, we’ve had 415,000 kids (up 14x y/y) studying with Fiveable in some capacity. Over 90% of them came from organic channels and word of mouth. What’s worked for us is meeting students where they are — on Youtube, TikTok, etc.

And part of that was bringing the kids, our users, into the content creation and the social strategy. For example, we had one girl that’s been basically our entire TikTok team — she’s in high school, and she just posted a video on TikTok and another on Instagram Reels and got over 1m+ views! People pay so much money to get that type of reach, but I think having your customers create the content that you want to reach them is super powerful — they know what they want and they know what’s cool and will resonate with their peers.

It’s also the community that keeps you coming back and why you stay — that’s why building the community spaces is such a big part of our next product iteration.

In our first few years, building up the content machine was what we started with. And now that we have the content creation down to a science, we can engage all of the students through these different community-based efforts.

Advice for an entrepreneur building something transformative in education? And what would you like to see built?

I want to see more teachers becoming founders. I think that it’s a really big jump right now because these two groups of people are not as connected as they could be. Teachers have been brought into the greater economy with Teachers Pay Teachers or courses, but at the end of the day, they’re not marketers and so those are hard for them. And I think there are a lot of ideas that teachers have, but they just don’t feel that they have the tools to go and create a company around those ideas. Even for me, Fiveable was essentially hacked together using no-code tools for almost our entire first year. So I think for founders that are getting started, it’s important to just jump into it and start building. There’s a lot of reasons that you can convince yourself of why you shouldn’t, but the upside of just putting something out there and being innovative, even on a small scale if it’s just a tool for your students, is that is can grow much bigger than that.

A huge thank you to Amanda for sharing her perspective on scaling Fiveable. I think UGC and community will continue to be strong pillars for the next generation of EdTech companies, of which Fiveable has clearly been leading the charge! I’m excited to watch some of their TikToks as well!

To learn more about Fiveable, check them out on Twitter, and follow Amanda as well!

If you’re an entrepreneur building in education, especially with a focus on community & UGC-driven content, please shoot me a note at I’d love to learn more about what you’re building.

Keep an eye out for future editions of Building with Purpose, and in the meantime, let’s keep in touch on Twitter :)



Meagan Loyst
Building with Purpose

VC @ Lerer Hippeau | Founder of Gen Z VCs | Advisory Board @ Girls Who Invest