New York- and Halifax-based education technology startup Pressto has raised a $1.5 million round of pre-seed funding led by Halifax’s Tidal Venture Partners, with New York edtech fund Copper Wire Ventures and a handful of angel investors also signing on.

Tidal Ventures, founded last year, is a pre-seed and seed-stage venture capital fund that invests specifically in Atlantic Canadian companies.

Pressto, founded by former magazine publisher Daniel Stedman, is a web app that lets children write and edit a mock newspaper and receive automated feedback on their work from an AI system. The app, which launched a year ago, is targeted at kids in grades 3 through 8. It lets them share their creations online or print them off to make a physical newspaper.

“Tidal takes great pride in seeking out and investing in transformational founding teams, with audacious goals, building deeply impactful products,” said Tidal Managing Partner Ian Whytock in a statement. “We’ve seen great strides in the progress and velocity of the Pressto team - incubated in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with an early global reach - and we are genuinely excited to be partnering with such an innovative and needed EdTech platform.” 

Pressto’s main business development strategy is to sell subscriptions to schools as a curriculum supplement that is adaptable enough to be useful for students with a range of learning needs. The company is in the process of piloting its technology with the New York Department of Education, with more than 30,000 students having access to the software.

Stedman spent 15 years in New York running two local magazines, The L and Brooklyn Magazine, with his brother Scott before selling their company.

Pressto was inspired by his efforts to help his son, who was struggling to become good at writing. Stedman’s solution was to make writing practice more fun by encouraging his son to create homemade newspapers.

His customer discovery process – which included advice from specialists such as University of King’s College journalism school director Tim Currie – has revealed considerable interest from decision-makers at schools and universities.

To meet that demand, Stedman plans to eventually expand Pressto’s offerings to include versions of the app targeted at high schoolers and post-secondary students.