Clutch Prep’s journey from startup to exit: What a run it was

The #MiamiTech edtech is now part of Pearson

Miami edtech startup Clutch Prep has helped more than 2 million students succeed in their classrooms and get better grades.   

Last month, the startup was acquired by Pearson, the London-based edtech giant that bills itself as “the world’s learning company,” serving customers in nearly 200 countries with digital content, assessments, and data. Terms of the transaction were not released.

“We’re proud of our work and we’re hungry to serve more students with even better experiences. Working with Pearson will give us the opportunity, Pearson shares our mission and has a commitment to creating vibrant learning experiences designed for real-life impact.” Souza said in a blog post.

I reached out to Pearson team to learn more about what attracted them to Clutch Prep.

“Pearson needs to get deeper into the video space if we are going to meet students where they are. So, we began to explore ways to license, create or acquire video to add to our direct-to-consumer app, Pearson+, which today is heavily focused on e-textbooks. In this process, we met Marcio and the Clutch Prep team and struck a bond. We found that we shared the same mission and vision for education. We even prioritize many of the same academic disciplines,” said  David Kokorowski, SVP of Product Management for Pearson, in an email.

“Clutch Prep brings Pearson a talented team with ten years of experience creating thousands of short-form tutorial videos that students love. Clutch Prep understands students and brings a strong direct-to-consumer culture to Pearson,” he continued. “We are excited to bring a much larger audience of students to the content and tools that the Clutch team created.  We are also excited to help the Clutch team scale-up to cover more subjects and learners at different life stages.”

The early days

Clutch Prep was founded in 2010 by Marcio Souza (CEO), Artem Volos (COO/CFO), Johnny Betancourt (Chief Academic Officer) and Alain Fontaine (CTO).  The startup started as a helpful, straight-forward, supplemental undergraduate curriculum for students of its flagship university, FIU.

At first it was all in-person. It stemmed from Betancourt building organic chemistry tutoring modules for FIU that became very popular, because by leveraging effective storytelling, Betancourt had an uncanny ability to get students from knowing nothing to acing an exam.  

Clutch Prep was quickly becoming more than a side hustle.  “In the Summer of 2011, I quit my full-time job and we got our first office space to teach from — after having started in FIU classrooms. This was a special period because it solidified our commitment to the business,” said Souza.

After teaching primarily at FIU, and running some tests at UM, FAU and UCF, Clutch Prep first launched online with its video courses in the Spring of 2014.

A milestone moment for the team: “In the Summer of 2014, we were accepted into Techstars’ Chicago program — after getting rejected from Techstars and Y-Combinator in their final rounds. This was special because it marked our transition into a nationwide, video-based edtech startup,” Souza recalled.

The startup continued to teach in-person classes as well until the summer of 2015, when Clutch Prep transitioned to video content only. That content included videos, questions, and exam reviews specific to a particular class. “Hundreds of hours of recorded content later, our 25k+ local students responded to our mission with enthusiastic feedback and markedly higher grades,” Clutch Prep said on its website.

Scaling up

That’s when the largely bootstrapped Clutch Prep began to scale beyond South Florida, ultimately reaching over 2 million students when Pearson came calling. The startup was a team of at least 32 before its exit — and had a lot of fans in #MiamiTech.

“The sweetest moment was this March, when we gathered at — where we worked from in 2015-16 — to celebrate joining Pearson. It was truly special to celebrate with so many special people: significant others, family members, most of our current and former U.S. team members, and many friends,” said Souza.

“Clutch Prep was one of our first members at Building and they were the first to outgrow us,” recalled Jose Rasco, co-founder of “I got to see them up close as they went through two different accelerators and it was so refreshing to see the team soak up everything they learned and put it into practice. From time to time, they would ask me to sit in on a pitch or a strategy session and I always enjoyed it because I would come away with a new growth hack or tactic that they had implemented that was so simple and cost efficient and yet so brilliant. Those were fun days … Pearson is very luck to have Clutch Prep on their team now.”

What’s Souza’s advice to other #MiamiTech founders going through an acquisition process? First, Get trusted, experienced professionals such as advisors, lawyers, etc. to support you. Second, he said, “try your best to manage your psychology and the team’s, and to keep everyone focused on operating the business as if the deal will fall through, since most deals do.”

This deal didn’t. The Clutch Prep team has already become a part of Pearson’s Higher Education Product organization, Kokorowski said, “and we’re excited to have their talent and entrepreneurial spirit on the team.” The team will also work cross-functionally with our direct-to-consumer team responsible for growing Pearson+. A small number of Clutch Prep sales executives have also joined Pearson’s sales organization, he said.

Congratulations, Clutch Prep!

Photo at top of post: Clutch Prep founders Marcio Souza – CEO, Artem Volos – COO/CFO, Johnny Betancourt – CAO (Chief Academic Officer), Alain Fontaine – CTO.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and email her at [email protected]

Nancy Dahlberg