Minneapolis Start-up is Igniting Classroom Discussion Worldwide

Over 45 million seconds of video was recorded and shared in January 2017 on the Flipgrid video-based platform. Five years prior, Flipgrid was just a weekend project put together by co-creators Bradford Hosack and Charlie Miller. The two have struck a chord engaging students and teachers in classrooms across the globe with an “experience that is creative, social and allows every student to have a voice,” shared Bradford.

The Weekend Project

In 2012, Dr. Charlie Miller, a professor at University of Minnesota, received a grant to conduct research around the world.  This travel meant being absent from the classroom but Charlie was determined to have interaction with his students during the semester. Charlie connected with Bradford, a friend, and graduate student, to create a tool that would provide such connection and interaction with the students.

“In one weekend we built a tool for Charlie to post video questions and students could respond with video answers,” explained Bradford.  While Charlie was traveling to remote places in the world, this tool allowed for him to stay connected to the students’ progress through the class by watching their reflections. Each week, Bradford would update the code for the platform and upload new video questions from Charlie for his students. Over the course of the semester, the two co-creators realized that the tool they had built to meet a small need could be rebuilt for teachers to manage and utilize in their classrooms.

Momentum and Buy-in

flipgrid2012 was a momentum-building year for Flipgrid. With the technology being shared across the campus for professors to use in their classrooms, it soon multiplied to several hundred users on The University of Minnesota campus. Which then resulted in Flipgrid accounts were being created at Universities around the nation. “It was exciting and thrilling to see how the tool was being used…but we were scaling faster than we imagined,” shared Bradford.

The problem was resolved after a conversation and sales pitch to Dr. Jean Quam, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at the University. The Dean was more than willing to help the two co-creators of Flipgrid and the number of users began to grow organically. Over the next few years, growth was continued and Flipgrid gained attention from local Minneapolis entrepreneurs, Jim Leslie and Phil Soran. “In 2015, we partnered with these two entrepreneurs and raised 17 million dollars in 17 days to buy the technology from the University of Minnesota,” explained Bradford.

Since the purchase in 2015, the Flipgrid team has pursued both the education platform and a social media platform (Vidku). However, the education tool brought more organic and exponential growth, causing the team to focus primarily on the education product. Currently, Flipgrid utilizes teachers and their networks as ambassadors to receive feedback to constantly improve the technology. Bradford described that “Flipgrid is a simple technology that empowers students to have a voice….I enjoy being a part of something that is changing the way people interact, communicate and grow.”

Learn more from Bradford Hosack and Flipgrid as he speaks at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Brent McNeal