Discover more from ETCH
EdTech Thoughts 1/9 - 1/16
A New Nordic Empire
Hope US folks enjoyed their holiday weekend and found a way to celebrate MLK today.
Thank you to everyone who read and supported my EdSurge essay. Transparently, it was pretty hard to get to the end product, but the reception was worth it. I will continue to be protective of your inboxes, but plan to spend more time this year on original essays and guest posts.
If you are a new subscriber, a quick refresh: this newsletter is a short ( ~ 5 mins), weekly overview of the top stories in EdTech, with a few (hopefully interesting) gut reactions attached
With that, on to the news!
Funding / M&A
Hack The Box raises $55M: Folkestone-based Hack The Box helps current and aspiring cybersecurity professionals upskill in a custom-built learning environment. While not directly comparable in product or business model to ThriveDX and InfoSec, all 3 companies are now private equity-backed, which may emphasize a particular focus on the space from that class of equity investors
Sana raises $34M: Stockholm-based Sana is a Learning Management System (LMS) that uses generative AI (using the same base model as chatGPT) to blend in-house and external resources into organization-specific learning content. The company also offers built-in support for live online courses.
Toddle raises $17M: Bengaluru-based Toddle provides software to private K12 schools so that the schools can offer International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. Founded in 2019, the company currently works with 1500+ schools in India, Australia, China, the UAE, and the US.
WorkIndia raises $12M: Bengaluru-based WorkIndia helps companies find “grey collar” talent for roles like call center representatives, delivery drivers, and door-to-door sales. The company highlights fraud detection as one of their key values, which appears to be a larger issue than I was aware of on both sides of the hiring equation. Among the company’s investors is the family behind Nintendo, who have one of the coolest investor websites I’ve ever visited (sound on).
Supermom raises $6M: Singapore-based Supermom provides 20M parents with community groups, often focused on product comparisons. The company monetizes by asking parents to complete surveys for (mostly consumer goods) companies interested in this demographic. The company is not, strictly, an EdTech company, but reflects a trend I plan to talk about more this year: social communities/features that accelerate learning. As you’ll see below, companies are willing to pay a premium for access to these types of communities as long as they are not incontrovertibly fraudulent.
Howdy raises $5M: Austin-based Howdy helps companies source software development talent in Latin America. Hiring core talent in lower-cost foreign countries, particularly in software engineering, was a trend pre-COVID. It would make sense for COVID to have accelerated this trend, but I haven’t read recent, conclusive data on it (please send if you have!). This round is an extension of the company’s $13M fundraise last August.
Equalture raises $2.7M: Rotterdam-based Equalture makes “scientifically validated” assessments for companies to use in their hiring processes to understand candidates cognitive skills, cultural preferences, and behaviors. Imbellus and Pymetrics received attention in this space in the past; balancing efficacy research with commercial demands has proved to be a challenging needle to thread.
HMH acquires NWEA: Apologies for the acronym-soup…The important thing to know here is that NWEA administers the highly-regarded MAP Growth assessment for 10K+ K12 schools across the US.
Albert acquires Film och Skola, Strawbees,and Holy Owly: Gothenberg-based and publicly-traded Albert is both buying and building a constellation of EdTech apps. What’s interesting about these acquisitions is that all 3 companies being acquired were doing less than $10M in annual revenue. This is often thought of as sub-scale for an acquisition. I’m not sure if this type of aggressive play is unique to Albert or reflective of a generally opportunistic acquirers’ market.
Lead School raises $20M in debt: Mumbai-based Lead School offers ERP software to over 9000 public and private K12 schools in India. Debt funding does not have the same crazy-growth assumptions as a traditional venture financing, which is how we end up reading about an acquisition, layoffs, and a debt raise during the same week. To be clear, this is not good or bad, it just gives the company a different strategic outlook.
Looking for a job or hiring in EdTech? We are beta-testing the EdTech Career Home (ETCH) job board. Email me for free job-post coupons : )
If you have an Ask you’d like to see published in EdTech Thoughts, please fill out this form.
I wish that this issue was at the top of every legislature’s policy list. I get that it is politically fraught, but long-term investment in media literacy would have so much more impact than the whack-a-mole technology bans schools are trying to enforce today.
This only captures a small portion of the pandemic’s effect, but Axios provides a helpful map of percent-changes in public school enrollment by state from 2009 to 2020. Of note, the states with the largest growth in public school enrollment were (in no particular order, but with one obvious outlier) Idaho, Nevada, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Texas, and Washington D.C. If you are in the mood for more charts, K12 Dive also provided an update on the Department of Education’s fiscal 2023.
The detailed descriptions of the companies building Mastery-based Learning Platforms are good. The overview of the current state of the the corporate learning was particularly compelling.
While there are generally positive rumblings about China's re-opening, the Chinese Ministry of Education doubled-down on 2021's EdTech crackdown over the holidays. This is not financial advice, but investing in the US IPO of a Chinese EdTech company seems ill-considered
In 2021, JP Morgan acquired Frank, a tool that helped students fill out the FAFSA, for $175M. Frank’s CEO, Charlie Javice, claimed the company had 4.25M users. It turns out they had closer to 300K. You may read that Javice is countersuing JP Morgan for “groundless” investigations. Where this case goes (and how it was made public!?) is beyond my pay grade, but I do know that JP Morgan possesses a sequence of emails that Javice sent, using her Frank email address, to a data science professor she paid $18,000 that includes the sentence “will the fake emails look real with an eye check or better to use a unique ID?”
Question of the Week
Note: votes are anonymous
Results of last week’s poll: Not the distribution I expected!
Ed Tech Thoughts is a short ( ~ 5 mins), weekly overview of the top stories in EdTech, with a few (hopefully interesting) gut reactions attached. If you enjoyed this edition, I hope you will subscribe and/or forward to your friends!
If I missed something, or there is a topic you’d like to learn more about, I encourage you to submit a story! Submissions can be named or anonymous