By GREGORY ZELLER //
Buncee notched its 80,000th user on Monday, a cause for celebration certainly, but also a bittersweet milestone for the Calverton-based “digital canvas.”
It’s been great so far, but it’s time for Buncee to stretch its legs.
The plan: a $3 million (or so) funding round that will allow the 2010 startup to “hire more people and promote the heck out of this thing,” according to founder and CEO Marie Arturi. That $3 million number isn’t etched in stone – more of a best guess, Arturi noted, based on a plan to focus resources primarily on its burgeoning Buncee for Edu product line.
“We were going to aim higher and push the business and consumer clients as well,” she said of the still-growing corporate segment that uses Buncee as a cooler PowerPoint substitute and the company’s original e-greeting consumer clients.
But while her company is “absolutely” remaining in the corporate-communications and e-greeting spaces, the plan for 2016 is to go hard-core on education tech – a segment already so busy that “we really need a separate division for it,” according to Arturi.
The projected $3 million round would cover company estimates for marketing hires, new software developers and additional professional-development staffers – field personnel who visit schools and teach educators the finer points of the Buncee for Edu platform.
That’s a key component to thriving in the education space, Arturi noted.
“Kids as early as second grade get how this works,” she said. “But the teachers usually need help. Professional development is really common for helping teachers learn about new tools.”
The investor quest is new territory for Buncee, which has been self-funded “in the millions” to this point. But with the company maxing out its current resources, the capital infusion is a must, according to the CEO.
“The technology space is a competitive landscape,” she said. “It’s time to throw accelerant on our marketing efforts.”
That led Buncee to the Oct. 23 Technology Capital Forum hosted by the Long Island Capital Alliance, an organization focused on the exchange of ideas – and, often, funds – between entrepreneurs and investors. As one of five tech companies pitching their goods and services at LICA’s quarterly forum, Buncee found itself in front of an audience comprised of VC firms, investment banks, private equity firms and angel investors.
Arturi netted a few “conversations” from the forum, and while she isn’t ready to announce any buy-ins just yet, “we’re getting closer.”
Meanwhile, Buncee is expanding its markets, with Buncee for Edu spreading to schools in Tunisia and Bulgaria and across the United States. Educators are flocking to the new Buncee for Edu website, which includes a back-end administrative dashboard allowing instructors to create lesson plans, grade student work and perform many other basic teacher tasks.
In addition to raising funds for professional-grade marketing efforts and pushing Buncee for Edu via word-of-mouth, staffers are slated to hit education conferences and conventions around the country through the end of the year – with one company rep making a quick stop at an education forum in India – while the firm also focuses on the formation of new professional partnerships.
The award-winning multimedia messaging tool is already slated to be part of a software bundle built into Dell and HP computers – and even Canon cameras – sold through the QVC network starting Black Friday weekend, and Arturi said she expects to announce new collaborations with other education-technology manufacturers early in 2016.
“There are other ed-tech companies we think we could do well partnering with,” she noted.
“There’s the micro and the macro of this company,” Arturi noted. “The micro is the stuff that warms your heart – the anecdotes about the students with special needs or the kids who haven’t excelled who find Buncee, and suddenly they take off. That’s exceeded our expectations for sure.
“On the macro, we’re thinking big,” she added. “We hear from teachers who tell us how kids who were trouble students now do more work than they’re assigned to do. They actually do extra school work.
“That’s how we know we’ve built something that really resonates.”