Category News & Updates

Packback Takes on $1.5M in New Funding Including Strategic Investments from University Ventures and ICG Ventures

Packback adds $1.5 million of new capital with participation from industry strategic investors as the Chicago-based education technology company doubles its user-base since the last semester and anticipates over 70,000 new students at 50+ universities using the service throughout the academic year.

The investments from University Ventures, the premier investor in education technology focused on higher education, as well as ICG Ventures LLC, the corporate venture capital arm of Ingram Content Group, will help Packback continue to scale nationally not only through capital, but strategic expertise as well. Packback intends to raise additional funding through an upcoming Series A investment.

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What’s New with Packback

Some of you may be wondering what Packback has been up to lately. About a year ago, we claimed space in our own office in Chicago’s South Loop and introduced our 1.0 platform, Packback Answers. Shortly after, in the Summer of 2016, we launched our 2.0 platform, Packback Questions. We shared about this update back in August, including the feature tab, how the clusters feature makes every class size feel intimate, information about our community management and a tutorial for new users to Packback Questions.

So what have we been up to since August? We’re glad you asked!

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Rich Text Editing: Beautifully Add Images, Videos, Text Formatting (and Even Emojis!) to Posts on Packback

The Packback Product Team has integrated Rich Text Editing into the Packback Questions platform to allow every student to fully express their ideas through videos, images, formatted text, formulas and more. Communities on Packback span a huge range of majors, and the introduction of Rich Text Editing provides all of our communities with the tools to fully and clearly explore any subject matter.

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Introducing the new Packback Questions Tutorial

The first few weeks in a Packback Questions community set the tone of the rest of the semester. In those first few weeks, the goal is to get everyone using Packback to buy in to the importance of asking great questions, learn the community guidelines, and start posting. No longer are those critical first moments on the platform left to chance; Packback Questions has a new tutorial that ensures that every community will get off to the best possible start!

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Big Changes at Packback

Dear friends,

You might know us as that “cheap eTextbook startup”.  Or maybe “those guys that went on Shark Tank”.

We started our business as college students about 3 years ago. As students, the cost of textbooks felt like the BIGGEST issue in education. And don’t get us wrong…textbook prices are a HUGE problem, (like a 7 Billion dollar a year problem in the USA alone). But over years of building this startup, we’ve gotten a glimpse at the bigger picture.

We realized that even if we were 100% successful with our affordable textbooks (and reached every student right away in their freshman year)…we might be able to help them save a few thousand dollars throughout their time in college.

But what about the other $80,000 (or more) dollars that it costs to get a degree these days- are students getting the full value? The cost of a degree is at an all-time high, and that degree no longer guarantees students a job after graduation. But that does not mean that education has no value. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

We’re facing bigger and more challenging problems today than ever before in the history of our world, and education defines our future because it directly touches every other industry from politics to engineering. We believe that how well students are prepared to think critically, ask questions and be curious impacts whether or not they’ll go on to innovate in their field after graduation.

We realized that the most important problem we could work on was how to help college students get real, lifelong value out of their education…not just them save a few bucks on books. And don’t worry- we still do that too! We’re just thinking a whole lot bigger now.

Our team believes that every student has the potential to become the next great innovator when they become a lifelong learner. 

At Packback, our purpose is to awaken the fearless relentless curiosity in every student.

We launched our new product Packback Questions to be a safe place for students to ask questions and be curious. Since we launched Packback Questions (Formerly called Packback Answers) this fall, over 240,000 questions and answers have been posted by curious students at 50 universities. Packback Books is growing bigger and better than ever, with over 500,000 new titles being added this fall to help fuel more students’ curiosity with super affordable books.

Our previous brand identity had its “nose stuck in a book” too, and it was time that it looked up! We revisited our logo to better reflect our evolving purpose (check it out above!) And as of Monday April 24, 2016, the Packback website will be located at, with an all new identity and updated design.

Check out the new and let us know what you think!

We are so grateful to all those who have supported us along our journey; our early team members, our angel investors, the amazing Chicago startup community (big shout outs to Catapult, ContextMedia, Learncore, Leo J. Shapiro and 1871 who housed us along the way!), Mark Cuban and the Shark Tank crew, and most importantly, the students who have used our products and believed in our mission since day one.

We are so excited for the future of Packback, but even more excited to follow the journeys of the students using our platform and do everything we can to support their curiosity and help them realize their full potential.

After all, if we shoot for the stars…we might just find out something incredible about our universe along the way.

– The Packback Team


No more wandering…Packback found a home!

The story of how Packback — and our equally scrappy, entrepreneurial landlord — turned a vacant space in Chicago’s South Loop into a true home for our team on the tightest budget you can imagine.

Packback has lived in 6 offices in our 4 short years of existence. Ok, ok, maybe 6 is an exaggeration…since our first “office” was actually just our 4 person founding team clustered into a very, very dirty college apartment.

The last four years have been quite a journey. We’ve come a long way from starting as college students with no connections, no money, no degree and no experience…to partnering with all of the largest publishers in America, and having our platform in use across the country by over 50 universities. We’ve helped over 120,000 students save money on their books (over $14 Million in fact, by our calculation!) with Packback Price Comparison and Packback eTextbook Rentals. We’ve had over 100,000 curious questions and answers posted on our platform. We’ve had 83 professors this semester integrate Packback into their classroom as their full classroom curiosity solution.

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Introducing the brand new

Meet the Packback team behind the new website, and learn about our process that led us to the relaunch of our new site!

After nearly 9 months in the making, we are proud to announce the release of the brand new website! We could not be more excited, not just about the new site and what it’s going to allow us to do in the future…but about the awesome people that built it.

For a little background on the relaunch: Packback was founded by four students at Illinois State University 3 years ago. Of our four cofounders, three are business guys and I am a product designer…but none of us are engineers. We launched the first Packback MVP in 2012 out of our dorm rooms at ISU with the help of an awesome Chicago tech incubator Dashfire, who handled our engineering work in the early days of Packback. The Packback MVP carried us through two years of growth, including surviving the spike in traffic from our appearance on Shark Tank, but it was time to build our long-term solution that would carry us into Packback’s future. Continue reading