A startup that offers an online book exchange that helps kids learn to read and write English is raising $500 million in a Series A round led by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and backed by Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Bookbox, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ eponymous publishing company, has raised $50 million from the likes of Facebook’s former chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, venture capitalist and hedge fund manager Chris Sacca, media mogul Joss Whedon, actress Jane Lynch, philanthropist Mark Cuban and others.
The Series A funding is part of a larger $100 million fund announced in December by Bezos’ company, along with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Capital Gains and Sequoia Capital.
That fund also includes funding from Facebook founder Sheryl S. Sandberg and billionaire investor Peter Thiel.
BookBox, which was founded in December 2015, provides a way for kids and families to trade books and magazines online, using the Amazon gift card and Kindle e-reader.
The platform uses technology from Amazon to automatically create bookmarks, which can be personalized to help kids with their reading.
It was launched by Bezos and a team of employees at Bookbox last year, before moving to an office in Seattle.
The company now has offices in San Francisco, Chicago and New York.
Book Box also has its own store, but the technology is already in use on Amazon.com, Amazon’s retail site.
The startup’s product is free and works in a similar fashion to how a parent might use a smartphone app or a tablet to read a book, said CEO Matthew Miller.
Parents can access their child’s reading history and make purchases.
The app lets parents search by topic, type of book, genre, author and publisher.
It also offers personalized recommendations for each child’s favorite books, like whether they’d like to pick up a copy of The Jungle Book or the latest New Yorker.
Book box’s technology is also helping with some of the challenges of teaching kids how to read.
In a 2013 study, the company found that a child’s comprehension and reading skills improved in two years if they had a teacher who also had access to their reading habits.