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EdTech Thoughts 5/16 - 5/22
A new era of Collaboration in Class
Lots to get through this week, on to the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Masterschool raises $100M: Masterschool is a “network of tech career-training schools” that is somewhere between a coding bootcamp and a cohort-based course provider. The asset-light bootcamp franchise model, pioneered by Holberton School, is one I am particularly interested in, but this “seed” round was still eye-opening to me, as it matches ThriveDX’s January round as the largest ever by a bootcamp or bootcamp-adjacent entity. Unfortunately, the founders did not share any business metrics in the announcement
A.team raises $60M: A.team is an outsourcing marketplace for product teams. The platform aspires to be a more complex version of Fiverr, where companies outsource the entire product development stack rather than individual tasks. On the “talent” side of the marketplace, A.team offers long-term (12-18 month) projects, high wages ($130/hr as a starting point), and a matching algorithm for pairing team members with complementary skills. The traditional thought on outsourcing is that it is a cost-efficient tool for “maintenance mode” projects. I’m curious whether A.team, and others like it, can open up a market for using outsourcing in more strategic use cases
Pintarnya raises $6.5M: Pintarnya is a network for blue-collar workers to find job opportunities. At gut level, a blue-collar Linkedin feels like something that should exist, but it is early to predict that Pintarnya will succeed where Linkedin and others have struggled to build traction
Class acquires Blackboard Collaborate for $210M: Blackboard Collaborate was Blackboard’s in-house webconferencing tool. Class is an education-specific webconferencing tool built on top of Zoom, founded by Michael Chasen, who’s last act as founder of Blackboard was spending $116M on…two webconferencing tools.1 There is a lot to unpack with this acquisition, but my high-level reading is that it is centered around Class adding a significant number of new clients and Blackboard not wanting to support a custom webconferencing tool. Phil Hill has a more comprehensive take here
Amplify acquires Desmos: Desmos is best known for its free online scientific calculators, which are helping to crack open Texas Instruments grip on the market. Amplify, resuscitated from a dark nadir, announced themselves as the newest and most modern major education publisher last Fall with a $215M funding round. It sounds like most of Desmos’ IP will be incorporated into the Amplify product portfolio, though the calculator and a few things will remain free under the Desmos brand
K12 schools on the precipice, but also can’t spend money fast enough: I’ve written | on | the financial challenges of the US K12 public system several times this year, so won’t belabor the point here. $100B in unspent American Rescue Plan dollars should help short term finances, but schools (which are still desperately shorthanded) still face bureaucratic complexity to spend this “free” money
Byju’s eyes Chegg, 2U: I would love to be a fly on the wall of the Byju’s M&A department. Not in the corporate espionage sense, just to know whether they are screwing with us or not. Chegg and 2U are very different businesses! Are Bright Horizons and Lambda School on the table too?
The one parenting decision that matters: is the neighborhood you choose to live in. Before you agree/disagree, I encourage you to engage with the article, which is based on a study by Raj Chetty, one of the world’s top economists. As a hopefully-sometime-in-the-future parent, it is a relief that I really only have to nail one thing to answer “How do I know if I’m a good parent?” Unfortunately, the article does not answer my follow-up question of “How do I keep this little alien alive once I bring it home?”
D2L launches Brightspace Creator+: I’ve long been curious what the LMS providers think about the cohort-based course movement. Particularly D2L, which has roots in the corporate learning space. I think this is it?
Solving student loans is complicated, unless you are a billionaire: The Education Department (ED) warned the Biden administration that putting an income cap on student loan relief - which seems to be Biden’s preferred solution - will create sheer and utter chaos. ED’s preferred solution? Encourage university graduation committees to seek out billionaires for commencement speeches, who can then be expected to relieve graduates of their debts. I jest. But Evan Spiegel did pay off ~$10M in student loan debt for the Otis College class of 2022. Only $1.75T in billionaire bucks to go!
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OK, it might not literally have been his last act, but it works better for my narrative if it was. To be fair, buying into webconferencing in 2012 seems like a reasonably shrewd bet.