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EdTech News Roundup - Week of 4/19
Why isn't Linkedin an OPM? Tom Brady does EdTech
Also, if you know anyone _making_ news, we’d love to have them on to talk about it - Friday at 3pm ET. The conversation is always better with an expert in the room.
On to the news!
I usually find “predictions” articles to be pretty click bait-y. However, I appreciate that the HolonIQ team put a stake in the ground defining complex scenarios for their 2030 survey. Here are the options their respondents picked from in this report:
I find these quite provocative! They also fit in with many of the geopolitical challenges we (royal “we”) struggle with today. I’m not going to go too deep into those symmetries, but do want to add commentary to two categories.
Global Giants: The Chronicle started reporting on “Mega” Universities (ASU, WGU, SNHU, etc.) at least as far back as 2018. However, outside of Laureate, we haven’t really seen a US institution make a major impact abroad.1 The MOOCs have made inroads here, but education trends towards being an intensely national good.
Peer-to-Peer: Outside of the OPM space, this is where the majority of EdTech investment appears to be going. From tutoring to cohort-based-courses to bootcamps, most of it operates outside the bounds of traditional education. I think Holon nailed it by calling out how important credentialing is to success here. Today’s accreditors are not perfect, but we also can’t live in a world where there are 1M+ credentials vying for attention!
Tom Brady does EdTech! And other fundraising bites
Three big fundraises announced this week:2
ClassEDU (same link as above): Raised $12M (~$60M total) to continue building their UI on top of Zoom for HED and K12 classroom usage. Tom Brady, noted EdTech investor and 2-year starting quarterback at Juniper Serra High School, contributed to the round.
Outlier: Raised $30M ($45M total) to build their course catalog from 6 to 14 by the end of next year. They’ve also hired Coursera’s former head of enterprise, Anjuli Gupta, to lead their renewed focus on university partnerships.
ExecOnline: Raised $45M (~$90M total) to advance their go-to-market efforts, including a partnership with Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, announced in conjunction with the fundraise.
I hate to sound like Eeyore here, but this is a lot of money raised very early in these companies’ lifecycles (excluding ExecOnline, which has been around since 2012). It feels a lot like Peak Market to me.3
Linkedin launched a new tool…sorry, “experience platform” for users to find, engage, and receive certifications from learning content. I like Josh’s write-up because it leans in to all the ways this makes sense for Linkedin (there are many!).
There are fun tactical questions to think about here. Most notably, when will Linkedin figure out that my mom, as truly wonderful as she is, endorsing me for “Social Media Marketing” does not mean I actually have this skill?
Of more strategic interest, if Learning is to be a first-class citizen in Linkedin’s product suite, would they ever consider becoming an OPM? That might not be the right framing of the question - what I’m chasing is, if Linkedin controlled the top of the education marketing funnel (both HED and Corporate), how would they best extract value from it?
Any answer to those questions should be weighed against their (very real and probably large) business selling ads to current education players.
Vitalsource is a name/business folks may not be familiar with, but they are an ebook reader that quietly powers a big chunk (no public stats on market share that I can find, sorry!) of higher ed student reading activity.
PE shops like Francisco often buy companies with an eye towards cleaning up odds-and-ends and harvesting cash flow or rolling up several companies in an industry into one big player. Phil Hill wrote about the former when Canvas was bought last year. Powerschool, which will likely go public this year, is an example of the later, having acquired at least 10 companies since joining Vista’s portfolio in 2015.
I don’t know what Francisco will do with Vitalsource. Their other recent EdTech acquisition is BARBI, a test prep company focused the Legal industry, which doesn’t feel like an obvious complement. However, I expect that the big publishers, many of whom are owned by PE firms themselves, are watching closely.
Can someone write a book on Laureate? Please!? There has got to be a treasure trove of stories and lessons learned there
I do not have any inside information here, consider anything outside of what is cited in the articles speculation
As an aside, I agree with John Danner’s writing on Peak Market here - entrepreneurs, if the money is available, take it! Obviously no one likes down rounds or dilution, but having a war chest to navigate coming out of COVID (hopefully…) gives you that much more optionality