Bolt’s Adaptive Learning Platform Increases Access to Education

Founded by Jack DeFuria (NYU ’19) and Phil Fishbein (Stevens Institute of Technology ‘19), Bolt’s adaptive learning platform introduces custom-paced courses, starting with SAT prep.

One of the Internet’s greatest virtues is democratized access; it has enabled a global economy, global communication, and, now, global education. TechCrunch recently outlined the opportunity, highlighting that 74% of educators use ed tech to facilitate teaching and that startups in the category raked in $8.15B in funding during 2017 alone. Udemy, an online learning platform for professionals, announced a $60M Series D in 2016, and Khan Academy boasts more than 10 million unique visitors a month. Online learning tools have become a table stakes part of student’s education and even their careers.

While enrollment in Massive Open Online Courses (dubbed “MOOCs” for short) has gone mainstream, concerns about their efficacy still remain: Students utilizing these MOOCs have no personal support from their teachers and are far more likely to have low course completion rates. Rough Draft Ventures recently backed Bolt, a company that aims to address these inefficiencies to further democratize access to education.

Founded by Jack DeFuria (NYU ’19) and Phil Fishbein (Stevens Institute of Technology ‘19), Bolt’s adaptive learning platform introduces custom-paced courses, starting with SAT prep.

“Our mission is to improve access to education and accelerate people toward their learning goals. While the internet is a powerful medium to achieving that, traditional online learning needs to be flipped on its head to get there.,” said founder DeFuria says.

Increased affordable access to SAT prep is key to democratizing access to higher education. A high SAT score is a student’s golden ticket to getting accepted to a top college and results on the SAT are irrevocably linked to social class: students belonging to households with incomes greater than $200,000 score 80% above the national average. Beyond acceptance letters, strong SAT scores can qualify students for merit scholarships and grant access to advanced programs. Furthermore, access to higher education opens doors later in life: high school graduates still earn only 62 cents to every dollar compared to those with four-year degrees, a gap that only continues to increase, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

Bolt’s adaptive technology modularizes concepts that can be re-ordered according to a student’s specific priority and competency. Mimicking the customized planning of a personal tutor, Bolt allows students and their parents to instantly access dynamic study guides of the concepts they missed alongside a granular assessment of their progress. Beyond the SAT, Bolt plans to expand its personalized and data-driven approach to all sorts of test prep — from professional certifications to standardized tests like the ACT & GRE.

Founder and CEO Jack DeFuria is a junior at NYU and an active part of the New York tech community: he’s worked at Stripes Group and Oscar Health, helps run the largest student-run technology community in NYC, and joined RDV as one of our inaugural NYU Venture Fellows this year. Phil Fishbein is a long-time friend of Jack’s who previously worked in engineering at VTS and CBS Interactive.

For Phil and Jack, democratizing access to test prep is at the very core of their company thesis: To that end, they are partnering with scholarship and community organizations in NYC and DC to provide free access to Bolt for disadvantaged students through their Scholars program.

RDV is excited to back the Bolt team as they work to improve access to high quality education and democratize opportunity for students across the world. Bolt is currently in beta — learn more and get started on their website.