How Felix Brandon Lloyd’s Beanstack Went From Receiving A $250K Investment From Mark Cuban To Generating $5M In Annual Revenue

How Felix Brandon Lloyd’s Beanstack Went From Receiving A 0K Investment From Mark Cuban To Generating M In Annual Revenue

Reading is one of the fundamental skills required for youth to excel academically. However, there has been a rising number of children who struggle with literacy skills. According to The Nation’s Report Card, only 33% of fourth-grade students could read at or above the basic reading level as of 2022.

To be a part of keeping students motivated to read, Beanstack, formerly known as Zoobean, stepped in. Founded by husband-and-wife team Felix Brandon Lloyd and Jordan Lloyd Bookey, the edtech startup was created to not only support children’s reading growth but also grow their overall love for reading. 

The drive to launch the company stems from the founders’ background in education. In addition to Bookey serving as Google’s head of K-12 education outreach, Lloyd had worked in the public school system. He started out as dean of students at the SEED Public Charter School, where he was named Washington, D.C.’s “Teacher of the Year.” Then, in 2007, Lloyd was selected for Echoing Green’s fellowship, which led to him founding Skill-Life Inc. Lloyd described Skill-Life to AFROTECH™ as “a technology company that developed MoneyIsland (formerly CentsCity), an online world where tweens learn financial skills and earn rewards by going on fun adventures.”

The company went on to be acquired by BancVue Ltd. in January 2010. While Lloyd says that the opportunity helped him in starting Beanstack, he credits his personal life for laying the foundation of the company’s mission.

The early idea for our company came one night when [me and Jordan] were reading a book to our 2-year-old son and soon-to-be big brother,” Lloyd explained to AFROTECH™. “He pointed to biracial characters on the page that looked like him and said, ‘That’s me, and that’s little sister.’ The power of reading was so clear. We immediately decided to put our backgrounds in education to work on a new business idea.”

In addition to keeping children motivated to read, Beanstack empowers librarians, teachers, and staff, providing them with data to assist them in effectively working with students.

2014 was a pivotal year for Felix and Jordan as the couple made an appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank and received a $250,000 investment for a 25% stake from Mark Cuban. When reflecting on the 10th anniversary of being featured on the TV show, Lloyd says a piece of advice that has stuck with him from the billionaire entrepreneur is “Trying new things is crucial for success. Success only requires being right once, and pivoting is a natural part of the process.”

Following “Shark Tank,” Felix and Jordan pivoted by changing their company’s business model from being a book-of-the-month business. The change came after the co-founders spoke at the Annual Library Association Conference in 2014, which led to California’s Sacramento Public Library becoming the company’s first client. After months of development and testing, the library supported the launch of Beanstack. Later, when working with Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Libraries, the usage of Beanstack for summer reading challenges grew rapidly.

While there was a rebranding of Zoobean with a move to the name Beanstack, the core mission remained the same, and it allowed for creating a bigger impact in education, Lloyd says. Along with facilitating reading challenges at libraries and schools, the rebrand included offering family registration, custom reading challenges, and gamification features to further engage and encourage young readers.

“Through these new ideas, our purpose became clear—to empower libraries and schools to build a culture of reading through reading challenges and motivation tools for readers of all ages,” Lloyd said.

He continued, “The product featured on ‘Shark Tank’ is very different from what we offer today, but our mission, purpose, and goals remain the same. We help educators and librarians encourage reading by making it easy to employ gamification principles, including reading challenges, for their communities.”

Lloyd shared that over 15,000 public libraries and schools around the world use Beanstack. In addition, today, the company has generated around $5 million in annual revenue. When it comes to collaboration, Beanstack helps schools and districts implement practices for motivating students to read without quizzes. For public libraries, Beanstack simplifies reading logs and gives online access to community reading programs. Additionally, it provides reading fundraiser tools that support schools and libraries in raising money. 

As for the future of the company, Lloyd shared that it is focusing on catering to schools’ and libraries’ needs such as updating requirements for logging reading progress and helping teachers to identify patterns and trends in students’ reading growth.

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