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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 20, 2010 at 2:52 PM

Netflix founder on DreamBox deal: lots of hiring, no Wii yet

Bellevue’s DreamBox Learning struck a chord for Netflix founder Reed Hastings, who partnered with a venture firm to buy the online education software startup today.

After graduating from college, Hastings taught 9th grade math, he explained during a phone interview today. He remembers the challenge of having to figure out a lesson plan for a class with kids at varying levels.

“I never knew what lesson to present to which group of kids,” he said. “What this software does is really adapt to put the right lesson in front of each kid at their level. That’s why it’s really personal for me.”

Reed Hastings-high.JPG

Although Hastings has connections to the Bellevue area — he’s on Microsoft’s board of directors — he discovered DreamBox by chance while visiting a school in San Jose, Calif. A class was using the software and he was “wowed by how kids were engaged because it has some entertainment built into it.”

Hastings called to see if DreamBox was open to an investment.

“I got so excited I ended up acquiirng the company,” he said. “I think it’s just got tremendous potential.”

In addition to the purchase price, which wasn’t disclosed, Hastings and the Charter Fund investment group are investing $10 million to grow DreamBox.

“We’ll go in a mode of some significant hiring now,” Hastings said.

The vision is that 10 years from now, laptops will be so cheap that every student will have one. Software like DreamBox could then become a core part of class, instead of a supplement used in a lab before or after school.

Asked about DreamBox being a subscription business like Los Gatos, Calif.-based Netflix, Hastings said he’s “learned some things from Netflix” about licensing content like movies and TV shows, but DreamBox creates original content.

The business opportunity isn’t so much direct to consumers, like Netflix, as it is an enterprise play selling material to schools for classroom use.

So Hastings doesn’t plan to stream DreamBox math learning games to the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii?

“Not right away, no.”

Comments | Topics: dreambox, Education, education

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