Danish startup Peergrade.io has quietly grown into a community of more than 4000 users. So far it has been bootstrapping, growing from money it makes, but it looks now for wider markets.
Peergrade.io lets students evaluate each others’ assignments online. Graded by their peers, students can receive faster and more detailed feedback than if they had to wait for one teacher to evaluate each assignment. Grading others’ work also solidifies students’ own knowledge.
“Complex and open-ended assignments are a key part of my teaching. But it is difficult to use these as a teaching tool in large classes, because of the high time-cost associated with grading and providing detailed feedback,” said Sune Lehmann, Associate Professor, Technical University of Denmark, Peergrade.io user.
Peergrade.io launched their first prototype in September 2015. It offered 4 courses. Nine months forward, they have grown to 50 courses, from Creative Writing to Mathematical Modelling. The software is now used by 4200+ students and teachers across 5 Danish universities.
“This is the most interesting bootstrapping startup I have ever talked to. Too many startups today are not solving a real problem. Peergrade.io was born out of an actual teacher’s need,” said Laurynas Almanis, regional ambassador at Beta-i accelerator.
Peergrade.io was founded by David Kofoed Wind, a PhD student at The Technical University of Denmark researching machine learning and deep learning. He was teaching a course on data science. When his number of students suddenly grew from 20 to 130, grading the assignments became difficult and the quality of feedback he could give deteriorated. This is when he built the first version of Peergrade.io to deal with the problem.
After a while, other teachers at David’s university got interested. Two other co-founders Malthe and Simon joined to help redesign and build the tool into a commercial product. Currently Peergrade.io is used by 4000+ students and 200+ teachers.
Peergrade.io is not the only student feedback tool on the market. A not-for-profit initiative Teammates, developed with a support of Google Summer of Code and National University of Singapore, has processed over 3 million feedback entries from over 700 universities worldwide. A range of other commercial and non-commercial tools with different focus and maturity are available around the world.
“Our primary competitors are Learning Management Systems that often include a limited possibility to do peer evaluations. Unfortunately, these systems are extremely hard to use, have limited functionality and do not tackle the most important challenge of peer evaluation: making sure that students provide good feedback and fair grades to their peers,” said David Kofoed Wind, founder of Peergrade.io.
100% of shares are still held by the founders. The startup is running on revenue from sales and a grant from the Danish Innovation Foundation. The team is now refining their original prototype based on user feedback, particularly focusing on user interface. Once this is done, they plan to spur up sales outside Denmark. According to David, there are already discussions with potential clients and investors.