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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Flocabulary by Alex Rappaport: Adding Innovation to Education

At the time of a departure party at a pub house, Alex Rappaport started informing visitors regarding his innovative concept of creating instructive hip-hop songs. The majority of visitors who heard his concept just grinned and passed on. 

However, an MBA student of Columbia Business School became keen and assisted Alex to assemble a field for the Outrageous Business Plan contest organized by Columbia Business School. As a result, the Flocabulary business prototype turned a victor in the segment for social values. As a prize amount, it received $5,000 and drew the response of a variety of venture capital firms. 

In this way, Blake Harrison and Alex Rappaport became co-founders of Flocabulary. It was an academic startup venture located in Brooklyn, New York. At present, its online training course is utilized in over 20,000 schools across the globe, as confirmed by Alex Rappaport via his email. 

The Success Story of Flocabulary

Headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, Flocabulary is an organization that is involved in making academic videos, hip-hop (rap) songs, and other content for the K-12 grade learners. The company was launched in 2004 as a joint initiative of Alex Rappaport and Blake Harrison. The firm follows an avant-garde tactic for educating the following subjects:

  • The history of the United States
  • Vocabulary
  • Science
  • Mathematics and other subjects

Flocabulary combines content with hip-hop music and the official website of the company has instruction strategies, videos, actions, and evaluation with songs.

Since the time of its inception, Flocabulary has constantly stressed the act of reaching out to deprived schools in its corporate resolutions. Till 2015, over 35,000 schools have utilized the products and services of Flocabulary in their schoolrooms. The company has received accolades from luminaries like Ban Ki-Moon (Secretary-General of the United Nations), Snoop Dogg (rap singer), and Howard Zinn (prominent US historian). 

Flocabulary is dedicated to nurturing a passion for erudition in every student. All the products of Flocabulary have typically obtained optimistic reviews from the instructors and the print media. 

Their narrative begins with history. The hip-hop movement lays the foundation of the company. This movement originated from the young Latinx and Black communities at the beginning of the ’70s in New York. It is always crucial to realize the past and socio-economic cultural situations from which rap music originated while educating students via Flocabulary.

The voyage of Flocabulary commenced with a concept. 

The concept came to Blake Harrison’s mind while he was in high school. Who knew that the concept would become Flocabulary one day? He was motivated by rap performers like A Tribe Called Quest and Outkast. Harrison had a simple desire to blend the lyrics of rap music with academic content. Blake completed his undergraduate degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania. Subsequently, he shifted to San Francisco, California. This was the place where he came in touch with Alex Rappaport. Alex graduated with music from Tufts University, Massachusetts. Soon, Blake disclosed his concept to Alex. In 2004, they both created a sample recording featuring 2 songs where 80 vocabularies of the Scholastic Assessment Test were blended as a whole. Within just sixty days, the songs were made accessible for streaming without cost by Sparknotes. Shortly, Rappaport and Harrison launched the official website for Flocabulary. Cider Mill Press took up the responsibility of printing the Flocabulary study materials and Sterling Publishing did the delivery work for marketing the books at Borders and Barnes & Noble outlets. In the 1st year of its release, 10,000 copies of the book named The Hip Hop Approach to SAT Vocabulary were finished. As a consequence, republishing had to be done on five occasions. Flocab ventured into a publicity trip of gigs at schools in 2005.

By the beginning of 2006, the company started printing its products on its own. As far as the financing of their company was concerned, they raised funds to the tune of $50,000. They collected the amount from their friends and family members. Both Harrison and Rappaport started going to schools and attending academic seminars for marketing their products. 

Flocab also participated in a competition for startup ventures that was organized by Columbia Business School and became triumphant in the social values category. Following the participation in a cooperative business consultancy show with the learners of Columbia Business School, Rappaport and Harrison resolved to quit printing content on their own and got back to Cider Mill. In the course of its business operations, the company recruited 30 marketing representatives and accomplished fundraising of $110,000 from venture capitalists. A range of new products from Flocabulary was launched in September 2007 and the product range was named “Word Up”. The goal was to educate vocabulary for standardized tests. 

The introduction of Word Up proved to be quite effective and it made a significant contribution to make two-fold yearly revenue to $600,000 in 2008. Shakespeare Is Hip-Hop, the 2007 launch by Flocabulary had lyrical and melodious contributions from several rap performers that included 9th Wonder, a Grammy Award achiever. The Week in Rap, a conception of Rappaport and Harrison in 2008 drew huge attention from the audience. It was a weekly sequence of songs encompassing all the recent happenings such as the outcomes of the California Proposition 8 and the US Presidential Elections 2008. The amount of revenue made every year by Flocabulary by 2009 stood at $900,000.

According to Alex Rappaport, the availability of its products to the common people is more important to Flocabulary than its lucrativeness. They had a steadfast objective to reach out to those children who otherwise wouldn’t have made it to the SAT or whose households were not purchasing books from Barnes & Noble. As laid down by Alex, corporate social responsibility is a fundamental ethic of Flocabulary and they never allow their revenue objectives to overpower that. They attempt to make their products available in the most reasonable way since affluent schools don’t seek their assistance. So, they aim to function with certain government agencies and charitable organizations so that they can approach the needy schools. They also collaborated with the UN in 2016 for creating a video to endorse the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations to better the world as a living place by 2030.     

In June 2016, the company did a fund-raising to the tune of $1.5 million when Rethink Education extended a convertible bond. By that time, it had created over 725 academic hip-hop videos. The company collaborated with Atlanta Public Schools for a sequence of history rap encounters in the same year as well. 



The concept for Flocabulary comes into existence.

The concept for Flocabulary initially came to the mind of Blake Harrison, one of the co-founders, when he was in high school. He was marvelling why keeping the names of his chosen hip-hop songs in mind was possible but new vocabularies were not. So, could hip-hop assist students to get ready for the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)?


The concept turned into certainty.

While he was employed in San Francisco, Blake Harrison came in touch with Alex. They became friends and began making hip-hop songs for SAT for a website called Sparknotes.com. Shortly, the company got rewarded at the Business School Plan Contest held at Columbia Business School and begins raising funds.


The effectiveness of Flocabulary gets corroborated.

The International Reading Association carries out a survey that determines Flocabulary substantially grows vocabulary skills among learners. Boosted by this, Flocab starts generating videos and functioning with performers across the globe.  


Nearpod and Flocabulary join hands. 

Nearpod, the award-earning educational software, partners with Flocabulary to boost student participation and success for countless students throughout the world. 

Flocabulary’s goal propels their expansion. They have a firm commitment towards nurturing a passion for knowledge acquisition in every student.

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Kiara Dawson
Kiara Dawson comes from an Engineering background, with a specialization in Information Technology. She has a keen interest and expertise in Web Development, Data Analytics, and Research. She trusts in the process of growth through knowledge and hard work.

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