EdTech News Roundup 3/28-4/3
Please feel free to send in your bets for biggest GSV news splash - Most Accurate and Most Ridiculous will receive a shoutout and Carl Kasell’s voice on your home answering machine.
On to the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Chief raises $100M: Chief is a professional leadership network designed for women. They currently have 12K+ women in their network, with another 60K(!) on the waitlist. Assuming even a modest annual fee of $2500 puts Chief at $30M+ in revenue. As a theme, I am excited about businesses that replace the “old boys club” with more modern and inclusive models. Chief is on the premium end of this new model spectrum, but I could see a world where a variety of competitors emerge in different niches and at different price points
HackerRank raises $60M: HackerRank provides a platform for assessing candidates for software development roles. The platform has a surprisingly small footprint of just 2,800 companies, but 25 of those companies are part of the Fortune 100. Perhaps more importantly, the platform also reaches 18M developers, which is a significant portion of the global developer population
FutureFit AI raises $4.5M: FutureFit provides a personalized career path for professionals across almost all professions. Many EdTech companies provide “pathways”, but usually in the context of one main offering - content platforms offer courses, job boards offer jobs, and training platforms offer coaching. FutureFit approaches pathway creation in a more holistic manner, combining courses, training, and jobs on the same platform and prioritizing the right mix based on the user’s need at a given moment in time
Shikho raises $4M: Shikho provides an all-in-one (content, assessment, and personalization) course platform for 350K Bangladeshi students in grade 6, 7, and 8. This round of funding will be used to add to their content library, including the addition of more vocationally-oriented courses
Seekho raises $3M: Founded barely a year ago, Seekho is an India-based upskilling platform that already has 5M users registered and $5M run rate revenue. Rather than resting on this past year’s success, Founder Divya Jain has set his sights on $100M in annual revenues within “3-4 years”
A few weeks ago, I mentioned LAUSD’s new Superintendent, Albert Carvalho, and his plan for “winning” students back to his public school district from private alternatives. The term struck me as particularly commercial coming from a public school official and, perhaps, a harbinger of things to come.
If Carvalho’s statement was a wire being tripped, Schoolmint’s announcement was a bulldozer through the front door. From the release:
“Most schools are not equipped with the marketing and recruitment resources and expertise to effectively compete with surrounding schools. SchoolMint Engage helps schools to position and promote their schools, and effectively connect with families to grow and support enrollment,” MacDonald added. “By integrating the marketing, recruitment, and enrollment processes into a streamlined solution, we can help our customers overcome these challenges. For many schools and districts, this will be a game changer with respect to fiscal sustainability and leveling the competitive playing field for schools and districts.”
Readers from the Higher Ed world might be saying “Huh, that sounds an awful lot like an OPM?” Popularized by publicly-traded 2U and now populated with a host of unicorns and soonicorns, Online Program Managers (OPMs) help universities finance, build, and enroll online degree programs, mostly at the graduate level. The field has grown to be one of the largest, most lucrative, and most competitive in the EdTech world.
Spurred on by the COVID-wrought competition between public schools and private alternatives, Schoolmint clearly thinks the time is now to launch a similar field in K12.
I’m curious to see what types of competitors emerge over the next few years. Will a Higher Ed player attempt to transfer its learning and move into K12? Will a high-flying K12 startup with a different core business attempt a move into enrollment? How will these players compete at a dramatically lower price point than a graduate degree?
MIT goes back to the SAT: I strongly encourage you to click this link and read MIT’s blog post on the topic, no matter the other coverage you may have read. I appreciate the earnestness and transparency with which it is written. The TLDR; Standardized test scores are a significant predictor of success at MIT and there is no standardized test *currently available* to the MIT admissions department that is *more* equitable than the SAT/ACT1
Learning history from video games: I spent a fair amount of time playing video games growing up, so there is some risk of confirmation bias here, but I am convinced video games should be one of the larger tools in the learning content toolbox. This article, appropriately, calls out that games like Europa Universalis (a world-conquering game similar-ish to Civilization) often utilize game mechanics that end up teaching historical fiction rather than history. I would like to believe that that provides the perfect opportunity for a teacher to guide a classroom discussion, but concede that the area needs more study / experimentation
Byju’s a major sponsor of the World Cup: The glass-half-full way of looking at this is that this is EdTech’s mainstream moment. I am excited for friends to ask me what Byju’s is at Thanksgiving (the World Cup is being played 11/21-12/18 to avoid host nation Qatar’s summer heat)! The glass-half-empty take is that we might be flying close to the sun here - CEO Byju Raveendran funded half of his eponymous company’s last round himself, which could be interpreted as lackluster investor interest.2 The neutral take is that Byju’s took a major investment from Qatar’s Investment Authority (QIA) in 2019 and QIA may have encouraged Bjyu’s to participate as a sponsor
Schools have lots of cash, but none of it is for teachers: In a set of circumstances that is both logical and frustrating, schools are having trouble spending all of their ESSER funds on improvements like ventilation and technology due to labor/supply chain shortages. Meanwhile, teachers are scraping by by working multiple jobs, including, apparently, as Airbnb hosts
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Importantly, both MIT and other institutions will continue to study the topic. For further reading, the Hechinger Report put out its own report on standardized testing this week
To add some nuance: it is uncommon for a first-time entrepreneur (as Byju is) to be a major participant in any funding round, as their financial portfolio tends to be heavily concentrated in the company they founded. It is even more uncommon for an entrepreneur of any financial status to fund a later-stage round themself due to the sheer amount of cash required (in this case, $400M)