Aceable Overview: The Austin Startup that Revolutionized Online Education

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: March 25, 2021

Aceable is a mobile education company that focuses on creating affordable, engaging and convenient educational content across all devices. Built by former teachers, Harvard-trained educators, NASA engineers, and those passionate about education, the Austin-based team is obsessed with helping people change their lives through online certification — whether that means getting that first taste of freedom through a drivers license, or making a better life for yourself with a new career.

Since the launch of its first mobile app to provide accredited drivers ed courses, Aceable has now expanded into other verticals for required education by offering real estate pre-license and continuing education courses. To date, Aceable touts more than 550,000 users and counting, as it continues to expand nationwide.

How did Aceable come to be?

In 2013, Aceable got started pretty much out of opportunity and necessity. The necessity was that they’d been through about seven failed product ideas and were down to their last dollars of funding. Thankfully, they were able to pivot (thanks to some great advice) into an area of opportunity: licensing and certification training. Every year, 40 million Americans have to do it, so why not do it with Aceable? They, of course, started with drivers ed and defensive driving, which led to offering pre-license and continuing education courses in real estate education.

What was this great advice that sent Aceable off on the right track? One fateful day in 2013, the Founder and CEO of Aceable, Blake Garrett, sat down with an advisor and was told something along the lines of, “You basically do not have a company worth investing in”. To the advisor, the idea of mobile made a lot of sense, the idea of using game mechanics made a lot of sense, and even mixing content and education made a lot of sense, but the material that Aceable was offering at that point–none of it was have-to-have.

The original focus of the company was to gamify books and training manuals to make them more consumable and engaging, but none of their areas of focus were on required education. That advisor told Garrett to “go focus on areas where people have to learn things and deliver THAT content through mobile.”

After that, Blake focused Aceable on required education, and on consumers’ growing desire for mobile-based learning, targeting its first product at mobile-centric millennials looking for a more convenient and entertaining drivers education experience. Aceable’s first product, Texas Parent Taught Drivers Ed, launched in May 2014.

The Aceable Team

Aceable’s culture was pretty instrumental in the early days of their success, and it continues to be a massive part of their company even today, five years later.

The company operates under seven main company values:
Help Others Succeed“We work to enable our customers to reach their goals. We work hard as a team to help one another reach personal and career goals.”
Be Authentic“Be transparent; do not harbor feelings. We do what we say we are going to do and trust that others will do the same. We express priorities through action.”
Create Delight“Delight is the difference between expectations and the reality you deliver; we strive to exceed expectations. Tackle challenges with positivity and empathy. We believe it is the small actions that make teammates and students feel great.”
Seek To Understand“We attempt to understand before trying to be understood. We listen to the deeper challenge behind user feedback. We listen and synthesize the ideas of all teammates, regardless of title.”
Exhibit Grit“Passionately persevere through the obstacles blocking long-term goals. Encounter challenges, not problems. Work to find creative solutions to difficult challenges.”
Get Shit Done“Work with a bias towards relentless, impactful action. A good decision today is better than a great decision tomorrow. Fail fast and learn from our mistakes.”
Pursue Growth“Be curious. Be innovative. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We pursue growth, personally, professionally, and as a company.”

Aceable’s seven core values guide their work and interactions with one other. As their team grows, they do everything they can to make sure those seven values remain constant.

The team has seen explosive growth over the last twelve months, repeatedly outpacing projected growth in the real estate vertical, scaling to over 100 employees, and adding proven horsepower in critical new leadership roles. Its vibrant culture and supportive environment snagged top 10 spots on both the Austin Business Journal’s Best Places to Work and the Austin American-Statesman Top Workplaces lists.

Aceable is proud of their roots in the Capital Factory accelerator program and to have received backing from great funds like Silverton Partners, Floodgate Fund, Next Coast Venture Partners, Wildcat VC, Nextgen Partners and the Capital Factory Fund.

The Team that Built Team Aceable

One of the key components of the growth the team at Aceable has experienced is the leadership that has been put in place. You know about the CEO, Blake Garret, but let’s take a look at the rest of the team that has built Team Aceable:

Eric Seifert, CRO
Seifert most recently served as the COO and CMO of A Place for Mom, a Warburg Pincus portfolio company. Under Eric’s leadership, APFM grew by 400% over 5 years and delivered a 6x return for investors, eventually leading to a successful sale to General Atlantic and Silver Lake Partners in 2017. Prior to AFPM, Eric served as VP of Marketing and Strategy at Expedia where he oversaw 50% of Expedia’s traffic acquisition across 26 countries worldwide. Throughout his career, Seifert has valued, negotiated, and integrated dozens of acquisitions and partnerships on both the buy and sell sides.

Erin Defossé, CSO
Defossé oversees M&A, government affairs, and long-term strategic partnerships. Before joining Aceable, he was SVP of Product Management at Bazaarvoice and also founded the Magellan International School in Austin. He started his career as an engineer for NASA. Defossé holds an MBA and a BS in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and an MS in Aeronautics & Astronautics from Stanford University.

Randy Jonkers, CFO
Randy Jonkers has raised over $100M in financing from VC, PE and debt sources, conducted due diligence on over $100M of acquisition targets, integrated multiple acquisitions,
and led $400M in exits. Randy is looking to retire after 25 years in the business.

Derrick Mar, VP of Engineering
Mar brings 35 years of technology leadership experience in high-growth environments. Derrick has led multiple companies to successful exits in his career. Most recently, Mar served as the CIO at Travelport, where he drove innovation and broadened the products’ footprint to include cloud and mobile to position the products for the future.

Emily Lawrence, VP of Learning Experience
Lawrence joins Aceable after an incredibly successful run at the online education company, Craftsy.
As SVP of Content and Production at Craftsy, Emily and her team grew an award-winning online education business from its infancy to serve over 12M members, partner with 600+ instructors and create 1300+ classes across 16 verticals. The company was acquired by NBCUniversal in 2017.

So what is Aceable Drivers Ed?

Aceable Drivers Ed is the fastest, easiest way to get your permit and license. Aceable lets you skip the classroom and finish drivers ed at your pace so you can take the course any time, anywhere.

You might be wondering: is it legit? Short answer: Yes!

Long answer: In order to let you get your license through their course, they first had to get approved by the governing bodies in charge of drivers ed in each state. And they do not give their stamp of approval to just anyone.

Aceable Drivers Ed was first approved by the state of Texas’ DPS in 2014, and continue to gain approval from many other states on a regular basis. Rest assured, they would not have received approval from state governments had our course not covered all of the material students need to learn in drivers education.

Just because students can do Aceable on their phone or laptop does not make it less legit than classroom drivers ed — in fact, it kind of makes them more legit.

Aceable Drivers Ed is self-paced, so you can stop and start the course whenever you like and take plenty of breaks. And that’s not the only benefit of their fully online platform. Aceable lets you sync your progress to any device — so you can switch from tablet to iPhone, to desktop, to Android and back again without losing your place. You can actually do Aceable anytime, anyplace, whenever it is convenient for you.

Aceable was specifically designed to hold your attention and keep you entertained. How? They only let you read 500 characters or less per slide in our course — that way you do not get bogged down with information. They also have a customer support team who is available seven days a week to help with any questions you may have.

The Content

The content on the app is memorable and fun to read, and Aceable makes sure they know their stuff before completing each level. Best of all, there’s zero pressure. With Aceable, they get unlimited attempts to ace each quiz and really get their facts straight before going for the real thing.

Teens already spend so much time in a classroom, listening to teachers while sitting at an uncomfortable desk. The Aceable app makes learning fun for them. While many courses claim to be entertaining, Aceable uses clever and witty writing, relevant and hilarious memes, interactive videos, and virtual reality to keep everyone entertained and engaged, making it easier to remember what you’re learning.

The app also provides practical tools and help in the process of becoming licensed. They are able to keep track of their drivers ed to-do lists with an in-app checklist of requirements, ensuring they do not miss any steps.

A copy of their permit is even stored in the app, so they have it on hand at all times.

The Tools

Teens can utilize the app’s study tools to help prepare for their written tests. Such as:

– Practice tests to help them recall assorted information from the course and for their DMV exam.
– 360 virtual reality videos to learn complex practices, like merging onto a highway or how right-of-ways work in certain occasions.
– They always stay up to speed on the progress log and see how much is left to learn, also seeing how far they have come.

For many teens wanting to get their learner’s permit, they do it the boring way. They get the 200-page booklet from the DMV, read it, and only retain a few bits of the information. It’s like reading a dry history textbook and then attempting the final class exam. Needless to say, many teens fail their first attempt.

The app works hard at teaching students all of the safest driving techniques so that they become second nature by the time you become a licensed driver.

Teens do not get to have all the fun, either. Aceable also has tools for parents! Students’ parents are able to monitor their progress on their own device, see test results, and understand the course material that is being covered so they can be assured that their child is learning how to become a safe, competent driver.

Aceable Plus

Aceable also offers their students access to Aceable Plus, an exclusive club for all Aceable students and grads.

Once you complete signup for an Aceable course, you gain access to Aceable Plus and all of its perks. Check out some of the awesome Aceable Plus partnerships that bring students exclusive discounts:

Allstate: Students are in good hands with 6 FREE months of roadside assistance (this is a $49 value!). With the Aceable Plus membership, students are able to call for a helping hand with all kinds of roadside issues from jump-starting their car to changing a flat tire to towing.
TrueCar: After students get their license, they (their parents) will likely be in the market for a new car. TrueCar allows you to see what other people paid for the same car- both brand new and used. Customers save an average of $3K off suggested retail and can get exclusive discounts on used cars. With AceablePlus, you’ll get an additional $100-300 off your purchase.
Kaplan Test Prep: Kaplan has online and in-person SAT and ACT prep courses. They even guarantee that your test score will improve, or you get your money back.
Current: Current is a debit card for teens that helps to teach them about financial responsibility. Aceable students get 3 free months with Current when they sign up. Parents can load money onto the account and track spending while teens can shop online, add their card to Apple Pay and experience the ease of having their own debit card.

Aceable currently offers Drivers Ed courses in:
Texas
California
Georgia
Florida
Illinois
Nevada
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania

Aceable currently offers Defensive Driving courses in:
California
Texas
Florida

And They’re Not Just Changing Drivers Ed…

In early 2018, Aceable launched their second vertical: AceableAgent

AceableAgent is an online real estate school and first-ever provider of real estate education designed for mobile app and web. Their mission? To create and support real estate agents in their pursuit of becoming the best in the world through superior educational programming and instructional tools.

AceableAgent aims to be the innovator in a centuries-old industry, putting real estate pre-license, continuing education, and professional development courses right at the fingertips of the agents who need it. With their fully online platform, both aspiring and active real estate agents can quickly and easily complete courses right from their smartphones, tablets or computers.

What’s more, AceableAgent is the first real estate school to offer practical coursework that prepares students for real-world scenarios. Through advanced video technology and cutting-edge teaching practices, their real estate school sets up students for success in the real estate industry better than any other program.

Their Texas Pre-License course currently allows them to boast a 78.36% TREC state exam pass rate, with our students far out-performing graduates of our competitors. This makes them #1 in passing rate when compared to all other companies with over 100 passed exams. That’s pretty impressive when you learn the average pass rate is just 59%.

How is AceableAgent Changing the Real Estate Game?

AceableAgent is creating pre-license and continuing ed courses that agents will actually want to take. It’s not just about making it convenient and easy by providing the courses on an app – although that’s a huge plus. They really try to bring in experts in the field who can act as virtual mentors and teach subjects that directly help agents maximize their careers.

AceableAgent is bridging the gap between what’s been historically required from real estate courses and what’s been proven as best practice in the educational field. With Harvard-trained educators and former teachers on staff, AceableAgent has implemented some of the best pedagogical practices to ensure that their students actually get relevant information and value out of our courses.

In addition to the value of their courses, AceableAgent is building valuable coaching content provides real-world strategies that help agents STAY in the business.

What Does AceableAgent Offer Students That No Other School Does?

AceableAgent offers a plethora of features that no other real estate school currently offers. Here are a few examples:

Interactive Contract Workshops. Filling out contracts is intimidating for anyone when first studying real estate. It’s a legal document with real consequences! Other schools show you a blank copy of a contract and that’s basically it. AceableAgent walks you through the process step by step, letting you practice filling out a contract and showing you examples.

Mastery Tracking. AceableAgent’s real estate courses some with smart algorithms that learn the learning habits of the student. It learns their areas of strengths and struggles so that it can offer them extra support in the areas they need.

Conversational, Real World tone. The best part of the CE package is the real-world conversational tone of the video courses. Current and successful coaches give easy to understand actionable to-do’s that can improve agents’ business immediately.

Ace the Test Guarantee. If you don’t pass the Texas state licensing exam after taking AceableAgent, they’ll give you your money back. To be eligible, students must purchase a pre-license package and complete all 6 courses as well as the Ultimate Exam Prep course. Students must achieve a grade of 85% or higher on at least one practice test and attempt to pass the Texas state licensing exam at least 3 times within 90 days of completing the Ultimate Exam Prep course. Students can take as many practice tests as they want or need to in order to reach the 85% goal.

Aceable and Continued Change for Online Education

After experiencing success in Drivers Ed, Defensive Driving, and Real Estate, Aceable has been given the opportunity to keep scaling their efforts to change the face of online education.

In December, Aceable secured a new $47 million Series B led by a Connecticut firm which is intended to help expand its national footprint and will help Aceable expand its catalog of education products to new markets and education verticals. With the Series B, Aceable’s team, which had already grown to 100 by 2018, will increase by hundreds more in 2019.

Dean Nelson and Mike McClure of Sageview Capital will join Aceable’s board of directors as part of the new funding.

“The future of required education is online and mobile first, and the Aceable team has done a terrific job building a leading business at the forefront of this revolution,” Nelson said in a news release.