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EdTech News Roundup - Week of 11/1
You can't spell "re-education" without "welding"
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On to the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Lovevery raises $100M: In a reminder that there are fantastic businesses outside of the SAAS world, 4 year-old Lovevery surpassed $100M in revenue this year by providing “play kits” to children aged 0-3. This funding round comes with the launch of their digital app, which offers parents suggestions on how to utilize the kits.
Hone raises $16M: Hone is a corporate-focused platform for hosting online classes, predominantly in management training. They offer both synchronous and asynchronous courses, but part of the value proposition to employers appears to be the platform’s ability to schedule classes across offices/time zones
Uvaro raises $12M: Uvaro is a tech sales bootcamp in Canada. As I wrote about two weeks ago, it is a tough time to be a full-stack bootcamp provider - even high-flyers like Lambda School are in the news for the wrong reasons right now. However, the overall market continues to grow, so I am on the lookout for new models and new jobs coverage (like Uvaro) to see if anyone can buck the trend
Guardians Collective raises $3.6M: Guardians Collective pairs 3-5 families with an early childcare educator to help them navigate the trials and tribulations of raising a kid. It is not a replacement for childcare or a learning pod, but rather a supplement to them and traditional childcare options
Udemy goes public: Bloomberg notes the lack of “pop” in price upon initial trading, but, otherwise, this seems to have been a relatively smooth offering and a good exit for Udemy’s investors
D2L goes public: to relatively little fanfare and with a similar lack of “pop.” However, Phil Hill noted at the end of last year that D2L has quietly been growing its market share in the LMS space and announced new partnerships with Noodle and Ellucian over the past 6 months.
Leeds Equity buyout fund raises $1.2B: Leeds is one of a couple of EdTech-focused PE funds (they define the category as Knowledge Industries). Given the unruliness in the public markets (see “Other Tabs” below) and open questions about how much of the industry’s growth in the past ~18 months will be sustained, it feels like a good time to have a war chest ready to deploy
Fiverr acquires Stoke Talent for $95M: Stoke Talent provides tools for employers to manage freelance workers. Combined with their acquisition of freelancer-supporting Creative Live a month ago, Fiverr now has an end-to-end suite that provides training, talent, and employer support within their “freelancer” vertical
Faculty’s role in the evolution of the university
There were two stories this week about the crossroads that university faculty find themselves in right now. The first was the University of Florida barring several faculty members from serving as expert witnesses in a voting rights case due to a “conflict of interest” with the university/state. The second was the University of Hawaii attempting to change/limit its tenure requirements to “faculty members and librarians who are engaged in direct instruction consisting of active engagement with students.”
These cases are, of course, extremely different in both context and implications for higher ed faculty.
However, they both call on the same meta question - what is the point of a post-secondary faculty member? Is it to produce expert-level research? Is it to provide an elite learning environment? Is it to act as an agent of their employer, providing research, instruction, both, or neither, as decided by their institution?
US Higher ed’s 1.5M faculty members are, arguably, the industry’s greatest resource, producing many of the building blocks for our knowledge economy. And yet, there is no collective consensus on what their role should be, leaving room for politicization.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a great answer to these questions. However, I will be on the lookout for the universities and leaders who are most willing to face them head on.
There’s not enough nurses, we need to train more! | Wait, why won’t anyone hire our nurses?: The “nursing shortage” is a popular topic in higher ed, leading many institutions to grow their training programs to “meet demand.” However, freshly graduated nurses are struggling to gain employment, seeing unemployment rates as high as 40% in major cities. Ryan Craig wrote in more detail why this might be happening and his plans for fixing it
ByteDance ends 996: In Chinese tech companies there is a work norm called “996”, which stands for working 9AM to 9PM, 6 days a week. Leaders of some of the largest tech companies championed it out loud. Then, tech workers in China started pushing back and the government supported them. It seems the companies are taking the message?1
You can’t spell “re-education” without “welding”: The Hechinger team did a good job outlining all the new types of jobs Americans are studying for coming out of the pandemic. Many of the folks profiled are switching from service jobs to vocational ones and seem happy with their choices. I rolled my eyes a little at the decision to profile a welder, a job which gets a disconcerting amount of media and political play (thanks Marco Rubio!) given it doesn’t actually pay that well
Weld North changes name to Imagine Learning: There are a couple of relatively untold stories in education that I hope someone writes a book about some day. One of them is the story of Jonathan Grayer. In the 90s and 2000s, he built Kaplan from $80M to $2.3B in revenue, largely via acquisition. I’m not sure what, if any, significance this name change has, but it did make me think about whether there are similar aspirations for the Weld North portfolio, which now includes 4 different assets (Learn Zillion, Study Sync, Edgenuity, and Twig Education)
Chegg 3rd quarter results: Down 500K subscribers from the previous quarter despite the start of the Fall semester occurring during the reporting period. Chegg’s CEO believes this downturn is a function of lower overall enrollment in US Higher Ed. The market was not happy with this result, driving the stock down almost 50% after Monday’s earnings call
Coursera 3rd quarter results: Coursera continues to grow larger, which is even more impressive given their year-over-year comparison would be in the thick of the pandemic boom. The magic numbers I’m watching: +5.5M new registered learners (92M total) and 16K Degree students.
Thing(s) I’m Thinking
What would happen if Coursera’s largest shareholder was the University of Illinois Endowment, the financial arm of their largest degree-granting partner?
My gut reaction to this proposal was one of intrigue. As someone who works inside of an entity housing multiple traditional institutions but whose job description includes the word “disruption”, I think a lot about “value share” between the two.
The reality of today’s MOOC platforms is that they *could* take as much of the value as they want over and above the marginal cost to the university partner of serving an additional student. University partners have little leverage to say no. That the platforms don’t do this is mostly a sign of goodwill and long-term thinking by their leaders.
If one or more university partners owned a significant stake in a platform business, how might this leverage equation change?
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I work hard to stay neutral here, but it’s important to me that you all know my potential biases!
There is almost certainly more to this story - most notably how many of the founders/leadership of China’s largest companies are being pushed out of their positions and, for some, disappearing for months on end. However, digging further feels like opening a can of worms that I just don’t have the right information/experience to be able to defend responsibly