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*NEWS: Edtech Startup, Recognized by OCTANe, Raises $7.5 Million

This article was written by Cara Davidoff, director of marketing at OCTANe OC about edtech startup CLI Studios.

For our third quarter Success Series, we are featuring OCTANe’s 2019 Technology Innovation Forum LaunchPad Presentation Winner: CLI Studios. See related story on the startup here.

Co-Founder & CEO, Jon Arpino, took the time to talk to us about his recent growth and funding after presenting at TIF 2019. Jon has a huge passion for the arts and improving arts education in schools, which was reflected during our interview. Read more below about how CLI Studios is using technology to transform arts education at schools around the world. 

Tell me a little about CLI Studios and how you founded the company.

CLI Studios emerged from the vision of me and my co-founders, Teddy Forance, Justin Rucker, tWitch and Allison Holker, and an amazing group of world-renowned choreographers and instructors. We are all interested in the arts and studied them from a young age, and have extensive backgrounds in performing and educating around the world. When we created CLI Studios, we knew that teachers in the arts needed more access to great continuing educations resources, ideas, tips and techniques to stay ahead of the trends and provide the best education to their students.

CLI Studios is a platform that leverages technology and video content delivery to inspire teachers and students by allowing them to work with world-renowned instructors, 24/7, right in the classroom. We are using technology to share ideas in a collaborative way, enhancing collaboration making great arts education accessible to every student around the world.

That’s a big mission! Who is part of your team?

Key to our success towards our mission is our group of over 200 amazing instructors and choreographers. These artists are passionate about educating and helping the next generation of students, and they’re a crucial element to our success as an organization.

In addition to these amazing instructors, we have assembled a great business team at CLI Studios. My co-founder Justin’s has over 8 years experience consulting for Fortune 500 businesses, I have a background as both an artist and an attorney at Cooley, and everyone in the organization has dual backgrounds both in the arts and their respective roles. This creates an incredibly passionate business team that deeply connects and empathizes with our customers/users.

Talk about the technology associated with your company.

At the core of CLI Studios, we are a video-based collaboration platform. We focus on using technology, communication, and collaboration to help solve the issues in arts education that are difficult for schools, districts, states, and governments to solve. Over the last three years we have come close perfecting the art of teaching remote and virtual classes, and we’re excited to enhance this experience with emerging technology. I view CLI Studios as not just a video-based platform, but a platform to enhance the arts community in a global way.

How did you find out about LaunchPad, and how did LaunchPad help CLI Studios?

I learned about LaunchPad from one of our seed investors at Okapi Venture Capitol. They connected us to LaunchPad and recommended that we connect with the team there to help prepare for our upcoming Series A round. I found that the best part of the LaunchPad process was that it helped craft our story and refine our pitch deck. It is so important when pitching to have a clear and succinct story, and LaunchPad helped immensely with this. 

LaunchPad helps companies get an outside perspective in order to create a clear and concise way of sharing their company’s story. Through working with LaunchPad, we were able to get to the core of our business and begin to tell a great story.

In terms of the LaunchPad process itself, we received real time feedback from the panel of instructors as we built the pitch deck, which was invaluable. LaunchPad helped coordinate a rotating panel of experienced investors, attorneys, consultants, etc. that would hear the pitch and provide real time feedback, week to week. The LaunchPad team really helped refine our fundraising story, and this clearer story definitely helped us in our fundraising process.

Walk me through the process you had leading up to presenting at TIF? What were some of the changes you made in your presentation? What was the hardest part?

We went through about fifty iterations of our pitch deck before we settled on the right version and story. The hardest part for me through that process is to keep moving forward as quickly as possible, while also allowing for time to step back and get a new perspective on the deck. The upfront and honest advice I received from the LaunchPad team was really helpful here.

As I mentioned, most of the process is really about refining the story and deck. Once you feel like you have the right story that reflects the success of the business, it’s a fun process moving forward. I love sharing what we’re working on at CLI Studios with others who are passionate about using technology to improve education, and so pitching at TIF was a great experience.   

One of the benefits of LaunchPad and their team is that they help make a difficult process easier, and the expertise in the room, during feedback, and on the TIF panel, was great. The opportunity and resources of the business experts will help any company, and it was a very enjoyable process throughout. Each of the experts had diverse backgrounds and different opinions, all which were immensely helpful. Overall, it was a great process!

I know you just closed a $7.5 MM round in July – congratulations! How do you plan to grow with your round of funding?

Thank you! With the additional funding, on top of launching new products and services (that I can’t disclose just yet), we’re building out our creative and businesses teams and adding expertise in areas that we haven’t had in-house before. The additional funding will help to accelerate our goals at CLI Studios, in terms of expanding our reach and impact with teachers, students, and schools around the world. 

Right now, we work with thousands of schools in over 30 countries around the world. While that number does seem like a lot, there are millions of schools that teach arts education, and I’m excited to start to scale faster so that we can have an even bigger impact on arts education and creativity for teachers and students. 

Why are you planning to stay in Southern California as CLI begins to grow?

Here in Los Angeles, we can connect with talented individuals who are at the height of their chosen craft. We’re able to share their expertise and insight on our platform, allowing them positively impact the future of CLI Studios and our mission within arts education. From both a creative and business standpoint, Southern California is an excellent home for us as we continue to grow.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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