When sister duo Claudia and Carolina Recchi were first building EdSights, they used a big guiding question.

“In a perfect world [where] we somehow had a magic wand that allowed us to collect the data on whatever we want on our fingers, what would we want to know to prevent [college] students from dropping out?,” Claudia said. The co-founder’s first few years were spent understanding data points, whether it was helping connect students to the right resources or simply hearing their concerns and communicating them to decision-makers. They landed on using a chatbot as a service that could both effectively check in with college students and collect data in a timely way.

The chatbot got a deep injection of vulnerability amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the startup began selling its services to universities in search of better ways to retain and engage students, especially as the pandemic locked down campus’ and left students more alone than ever.

Last year, EdSights’ product was defined by its chatbot. Branded under the guise of a school’s mascot, the chatbot would send personalized questions and messages to students to understand their biggest stresses. It then would connect them to university resources ranging from financial aid to food and security services. EdSights sold the service to universities in search of better ways to retain and engage students, especially as the pandemic disrupted basic communication across the world.

The startup announced today that it has raised a $5 million Series A led by Album VC, the same firm that led early investments in Podium, Andela and Degreed. Other investors in the round include Lakehouse, Good Friends, Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig and GSV Ventures’ Deborah Quazzo. With the new cash, EdSights’ total known capital raised to date is $8 million.

The new money isn’t without momentum. EdSights declined to share specific numbers, but shared that it sports 6x annual revenue growth. It also landed 70 customers, which can be colleges, institutions or universities, which is up from 16 last May. Co-founder Carolina Recchi, who built the company alongside her sister Claudia, said that their company is “very close to being profitable” and would be if they chose to stop hiring additional people. She estimates that EdSights will hit profitability in 14 months given these new growth goals.

Image Source: EdSights

A constant challenge for EdSights is if it can spark action based off of the visibility that it provides. Universities notoriously deal with red tape, which could halt new initiatives or fast deployment, which could hurt how EdSights’ return of investment plays out. The co-founders positioned a counterargument, saying that the student body data will help universities spend smarter on resources that students demand, and cut costs on newly irrelevant services.

“Universities are inefficient about how much money they spend, so I think we’re really uncovering when that happens,” Carolina said. “And I think that’s really why data is important…it’s the next phase of optimizing higher ed.”

But the startup doesn’t plan to just consult. Eventually, EdSights wants to start providing in-demand services such as mental health specialists, financial resources and career readiness.

“Once you reach a certain level of scale and actually understand, what do we do about the areas in which the institution cannot help?” she said. “Is there someone else that can? And can that be us?”