North Carolina’s community colleges were among the first to embrace an NC IDEA-funded online tutoring platform called Upswing in 2014. 

 
They saw the big vision of founder Melvin Hines to reverse traditionally high dropout rates, by offering his company’s on-demand virtual tutoring, advising and coaching and using its powerful analytics to track student performance over time. 
 
Their initial support helped Upswing win the grant that’s now funding development of its mobile platform, along with more than $800,000 from a mix of local investors like the Charlotte Angel Fund, Hines’ Duke Fuqua School of Business Professor Ashish Arora and Triangle resident Linda Bohnel, and national ones connected through the Tech Wildcatters accelerator program Upswing completed in Dallas in 2014. 
 
And those investors, along with early success with 29 community colleges around the nation, have prompted Upswing to grow faster, this time through acquisition. Late in 2015, the Durham and Austin-based company acquired Boston’s AskOnline to become the fourth largest online tutoring platform for higher education. The terms of the deals weren’t disclosed.
The deal means Dougherty joins the Upswing board of directors, one of its employees moves to Durham and another, a developer, stays remote to oversee the AskOnline platform. Hines is still deciding whether to keep AskOnline—renamed AskUp—separate from the Upswing platform or to integrate it into Upswing’s existing mentor, tutor and advising offerings. 
He also hopes to finish the mobile platform soon—three colleges are testing it now—and to expand into four-year colleges. Upswing’s goal has always been to shift from an online tutoring company that collects data to a data company that does tutoring. Hines wants to help as many colleges struggling with attrition as possible.
As he told me back in 2014 when he earned the grant: “We want to be considered experts in the field when it comes to education retention. That’s where we see the next step in our growth.”