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Microsoft snaps up Minneapolis tech startup Flipgrid

Source: Katharine Grayson  – Senior Reporter, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

MINNEAPOLIS – Flipgrid, a startup spun out of the University of Minnesota that makes a video-sharing app for classrooms, has been sold to Microsoft Corp. for an undisclosed amount.

Microsoft will retain Flipgrid’s operations in Minneapolis. It also will begin offering the startup’s product for free, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant said in a news release.

University of Minnesota Learning Technologies Professor Charles Miller invented Flipgrid to engage students in his classroom. The product lets people create short videos around certain topics and easily share them.

The tool became the foundation for a startup, then called Vidku, that launched about three years ago. The company raised $17 million in 17 days and tech veteran Jim Leslie signed on to lead it as CEO, while serial entrepreneur Phil Soran signed on as executive chairman.

The company initially planned to launch a product for businesses, but scrapped that strategy two years ago and changed its name to Flipgrid. It continued to focus on the education market. Today about 20 million students in 180 countries use the application, Microsoft said.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) didn’t disclose the Flipgrid’s employee count, but said the business has less than 30 workers.

“We’re thrilled to see the impact Flipgrid has had in social learning thus far and look forward to helping them continue to thrive as part of the Microsoft family,” said Eran Megiddo, corporate vice president for Microsoft, in the news release. “We’re diligently committed to making sure their platform and products continue to work across the Microsoft, Google and partner ecosystems to benefit students and teachers everywhere.”

In a statement, Leslie said the deal will allow Flipgrid to grow.

“Flipgrid has always been about the educator community. They are the source of our innovation and impact. Now as a part of Microsoft, we have the opportunity to scale so we can support every educator across the globe as they empower student voice.”

About 80 investors participated in Flipgrid’s $17 million round of funding, most of them individuals, Leslie said at the time. Arthur Ventures, which has offices in Minneapolis and Fargo, N.D., was the “anchor financier.” The University of Minnesota also retained a stake in the startup.

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For more information contact:

Chad Johnson, 952.253.6010 | cjohnson@cherrytree.com

Cherry Tree & Associates acted as exclusive investment banking advisor to Flipgrid in this transaction.