EdTech News Roundup 2/14-2/20
This newsletter is coming to you from Carretera Pacífica Fernández Oreamuno (aka Route 34) in Costa Rica, where my fiancée transcribed my wandering thoughts from the passenger seat. If this one makes you laugh, you can give her credit. If it makes you groan, please blame me.
On to the news!
Funding / M&A / Public Cos
Paper raises $270M: Paper provides 24/7 tutoring support to K12 students through a platform custom-built for the task. I can only imagine how crazy a ride it has been for the Paper team, growing from 50K students in 2019 to 2 million last year
Vivvi raises $15M: Vivvi provides childcare and early education, in its own physical spaces, to the families of the employers it works with. This round will be used to grow their Care Cash product, which allows employees to receive reimbursement for childcare provided by their “trusted village” of family, friends, and/or neighbors. From a company-building perspective, administering the cash feels like a much surer bet
Esme raises $15M: Esme provides tools and infrastructure for online courses and has grown from 2 employees to 160 since 2019. Their press release cites an $80M 2022 revenue trajectory (holy moly!) anchored by contracts with top universities
Empowerly raises $10M: The average college counselor-to-student ratio is 424 to 1. Empowerly tackles this gap from the student side, providing personalized college and career guidance
Edurino raises $3.5M: This Munich-based early childhood learning startup focuses on hybrid learning for ages 4+. Their offering is a mix of software and hardware – the hardware being an internet-connected toy fox named Mika. Trying to figure out the right mix of screentime is one of the most critical open questions across education, but especially so with early childhood. It is obviously early days for Edurino (and SayKid, a similar US-based company with a toy robot), but I hope that they can shed light on what works well in this space
This one was hard to write, with points that I’m sure folks will disagree with. To me, that signifies it is a problem worth figuring out! *Takes deep breath* … Onward!
There is a popular discourse that accreditors are bad. The effort required to get and maintain accreditation stifles innovation while not actually rooting out underperforming institutions. Therefore, accreditors are bad.
There is more nuance to this topic than the above implies.
Accreditation is an immense responsibility for an institution to have. It is, rightly or wrongly, the reason by which many students make the life-changing choice of where to go to school. Given the weight of this responsibility, it makes sense to me that the folks in charge of giving their seal of approval ask for a lot.
However, success in achieving the goal of making accreditation hard to get does not absolve the accrediting bodies of finding opportunities to improve. It is almost comical that, until recently, accreditors were differentiated on the basis of geography. Moreover, it is shockingly difficult for an institution to lose accreditation - since 2000, only 18 of the 4000+ colleges and universities in the US have done so. I would accept a lot of arguments as to where the bar should be for under-performing institutions, but I struggle to believe it is < 1%.
The accreditors need to improve. I would love to see incumbents or new ones (the six major accreditors do facilitate access to Title IV funds, but there is no rule, to my knowledge, that it has to be six) organize around subject areas rather than entire institutions.
I will end by pointing out that is also possible to build new educational institutions – good ones! – without accreditation. Neither OnDeck nor Crypto, Culture & Society has accreditation. These companies, and others like them, are focused on providing real value to students rather than the empty promise of accreditation. This is a harder path, but one that can still be rewarding from both a financial and impact standpoint.
Google creates $100M skills training fund: It’s hard to know what a $100M investment represents for a behemoth like Google, but for partners YearUp, Merit America, and Social Finance, this is certainly enough capital to make an impact. I’m particularly interested in their focus on transitions like retail to IT, rather than shinier and high-paying jobs like software engineering. While a transition from a 30K to 40K+ salary may not be jaw dropping, in many markets, this step up could represent a transition from less reliable shift work to salary + benefits and enable workers to save money they can invest in their own futures.
The classroom | video wars: I am always entertained when two (or more!) competitors make press announcements around the same time. It is almost always a coincidence that neither worries about. Nevertheless, I like to picture the competing executives as rival warlords shouting from their keeps, which lie across a babbling brook. In this case, Engageli had a major product release and Class partnered with D2L. The Class/D2L news is slightly more interesting because D2L competitor Blackboard has invested heavily in their Collaborate product
Over half of US students think coding skills are as vital as foreign languages: Caveat emptor that the firm who did this study, KX, is a data analytics firm that may have had a vested interest in the outcome it got, but this is still directionally interesting
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