Founded in 2012 with support from the National Science Foundation, Pivot Interactives develops cloud-based science activities and lab experiments that allow students to explore scientific phenomena without costly lab equipment. In late August 2022, the company was acquired by Discovery Education and its parent Clearlake Capital Group. The acquisition brings complementary education products together while giving Pivot Interactives greater market access. Their story follows.
A quest for a better learning experience and outcomes.
Peter Bohacek, CEO, and his co-founder, Matt Vonk, Chief Science Officer are both teachers. Like most teachers, they were struggling with the constraints of classroom learning in science. They knew students learn actively, not through lectures, and with science – through the phenomena. But the limitations of the classroom, budgets, and the phenomena themselves preclude practically setting up active learning situations on a regular basis.
So, Peter created videos with built-in measurement tools, now called interactive videos, that allowed students to create and execute experiments. Those original videos became the origin story for Pivot Interactives.
When Peter and Matt saw the impact of those early videos in their classrooms, they knew he had something. Matt’s grant proposal to the National Science Foundation gave them funding for a study. A careful test compared what students were learning with and without interactive videos, and the results were compelling. Students showed appreciably greater learning gains in science process and critical thinking.
Today, Pivot Interactives serves teachers, school districts, colleges, universities, and over a million students. A SaaS model provides access to an expanding library of science-based interactive video coursework in Biology, Earth & Space Science, Chemistry, Environmental Science, and Physics.
Success, and new challenges.
In the early days, the challenge wasn’t curriculum or video development, it was the lack of critical business knowledge. Covid brought a significant revenue boost when classrooms turned to Zoom-based learning. As the demand for online learning grew, Peter and Matt realized they needed mentoring to help them scale.
“We grew from two employees to 70 and from 2,000 to 100,000 users a day during Covid. Our revenue went up by a factor of 50, and we used that revenue boost to invest in the business,” explained Peter. “But after Covid our business needs became acute. We had a good idea that was working, but we had no business experience. Without good mentors to help us, I think we might have failed.”
“We managed to make it work for a while, but it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t fun.” Peter continued. “We absolutely needed that business expertise, and it was an ideal time for mentoring because the building blocks were there. Daren and John, our MESA mentors, came in and supported us with their background and business acumen.”
Mentoring to support the business and the founders.
Daren Cotter, Tech Entrepreneur and Investor, and John Tedesco, CEO of Drip began working with Pivot Interactives in September of 2021. From the start of the mentoring relationship up to the sale of the business, they worked with Peter and Matt on go-to-market strategy, product approach, and what they would need to do to grow the business. When Pivot Interactives started receiving offers, the mentor team explained the pros and cons of being acquired vs. growing on their own and provided counsel on what to consider as they evaluated offers.
“For every issue we discussed, John and Daren gave us five different examples of how we might address it. They’d been there and done it,” Peter said. “We’d talk about the different approaches and how we might tailor approaches to solve our problem. That kind of experience was relevant and incredibly valuable to us.”
“We talked about how to grow the business and the idea of being acquired. When we started getting a stream of acquisition offers, we really didn’t know what a good offer looked like. Daren and John knew enough about our business that they could give us a clear read, and along with other advisors, helped solidify the decision to go with Discovery Education.”
With Discovery Education, Pivot Interactives stands as a unique and compelling product. The acquisition was a strategic fit for both parties, with similar but not overlapping products for the same customers. Pivot Interactives naturally filled a gap with high-quality interactive science education.
Mentor John Tedesco said, “This was a great example of success on many levels. Peter and Matt just knew there had to be a better way. They saw a problem and went out on their own and built a solution. It’s classic entrepreneurial hustle and not accepting the status quo. The sale is a great outcome for good individuals doing the right thing to create better learning outcomes. We couldn’t be happier for them.”