EdTech Thoughts 6/6 - 6/12
Calling Dibs on the "Netflix of Education"
Lots of funding announcements coming in before the traditionally slow July, hard to pick from them all.
On to the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Multiverse raises $220M: Multiverse is a platform that facilitates apprenticeship programs for large employers. This round adds to the $190M that Multiverse raised over 2 rounds last year. Given market conditions, it is likely that the Multiverse team raised this round for defensive reasons, but it is hard to tell without more data around valuation and revenue growth. The company did disclose that they now have 500+ employer partners across the US and UK
Go1 raises $100M: Go1 is an aggregator of learning content focused on the corporate learning market. If that sounds familiar, you are not crazy, I wrote about one of Go1’s largest competitors, Odilo, just last week. Thoughts on Go1, Odilo, BibliU (which raised $15M), BoClips (which was acquired), and all the other “Netflix[es] of Education” below
PhysicsWallah raises $100M: PhysicsWallah is a platform for test preparation, largely focused on India’s undergraduate Medical and Engineering exams. The platform differentiates itself from other test prep platforms by 1) focusing on affordability, with prep kits starting at $4 and 2) being profitable on $65M in revenue
CareAcademy raises $20M: CareAcademy finds, trains, and places caregivers in home health roles. The company plans to use this round of funding across product and go-to-market, setting a goal of impacting 1 million caregivers by the end of next year
Kinside raises $12M: Kinside provides a marketplace for parents of young children to find qualified caregivers. The company also helps these parents leverage flexible spending accounts to pay for this childcare
Cloverleaf raises $9M: Cloverleaf joins a growing cohort of well-funded coaching/mentoring platforms. Cloverleaf focuses on leveraging well-known personality frameworks to send individualized content to employees on a daily basis
Gomycode raises $8M: Gomycode is a Tunisia-based digital skills bootcamp provider with locations in 12+ African countries. At $250-750 per multi-month program, Gomycode is considerably cheaper than the typical $7500-15,000 US-based program, though it is unclear how apples-to-apples the content is. The company hopes to grow from four thousand to one hundred thousand students over the next 2 years
Kira Learning raises $6M: Founded by Andrew Ng, arguably the world’s most well-known AI researcher, Kira Learning sells computer science curriculum to K12 schools. The company is pre-revenue, but about to pilot its first product, an introduction to coding and neural networks course for 9th grade students
We can’t all be the “Netflix of Education”
OK, so here is my proposal. I am going invite the leaders of all 17 “Netflix[es] of Education” (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17, in no particular order1) to Philadelphia, home of Ben Franklin, well-known pioneer of the subscription service in America. The night before we gather, I’ll buy a USB stick, cover it in, like, honey, and then stick it in an iMac. The CEO who successfully wrenches the USB out of iMac the next day will be emailed an NFT declaring them the one true “Netflix of Education.”
It’ll be just like the Sword in the Stone, except the general public will be way less invested in the outcome.
I kid, sort of.
I don’t blame any of these companies for wanting to be the Netflix of Education. It’s a relatively easy analogy for investors to understand - aggregate a bunch of content on an easy-to-use platform for users and watch the learners learn.
However, as Netflix is currently learning, this model gets more complicated as more participants enter the market. Both incumbents and upstarts have strategic advantages that they press, adding noise to both the supply (Netflix paying $150M for Shonda Rhimes) and demand (Disney+ growing to 130M subscribers in ~2 years) sides.
Last week, one of my footnotes outlined the three business models content producers have to pick from:
Vertical Integration: make and sell content directly to customers
Horizontal Integration: buy content from others and sell it to customers
Production-only: make content and sell it to others who sell it to customers
What’s unclear, in both the streaming and EdTech markets, is which strategic direction will be the most rewarding long-term. Many of the major publishers are in the midst of strategic pivots from model #3 to model #1. Go1, as part of their funding announcement, discussed their own plans to launch a direct-to-consumer product. Sony (not an EdTech company, but strategically relevant) is being lauded for staying a production-only mercenary.
So, for the time being, we are left with 17 Netflixes. We’ll see if any of them accept my calendar invite.
Teachable launches Public APIs: Last week I talked about my disappointment in Upwork’s training academy, which reads as more focussed on encouraging in-platform activity than helping users build a business on the platform. Teachable is going the opposite direction, investing in APIs that allow faculty and app-builders to leverage course data in whatever ways they choose
Colleges building housing: Middlebury College, among other colleges and universities, is partnering with local developers to buy land and build local housing. It was particularly striking to read that over 20% of Middlebury’s faculty and staff commute from out of state due to housing affordability issues in and around the school’s Vermont campus
California’s “Community Schools”: While Middlebury is thinking about building housing, California’s community schools are thinking about nearly every other aspect of building a diverse, resilient community. Services these schools provide include health screenings, family support, counseling, and adult education, among other things. I would’ve liked to see more quantitative data in this specific article, but the description of these services feels logically consistent with building stronger communities with education at the center
Byju’s prepares for a “new normal”: A good primer on all of Byju’s different product and go-to-market ambitions, including a nice infographic on the $2.6B the team spent on acquisitions last year
Test prep for all at Cleveland State University: A new deal between Kaplan and Cleveland State provides access to Kaplan test prep resources to all enrolled students and Spring 2022 graduates. The appeal is obvious to Kaplan, who instantly gains access to 17,260 Cleveland State students. It makes sense at first blush for Cleveland State too, providing a distinct piece of differentiation relative to its peers, but feels inconsistent with the trend of students taking more time off between undergraduate and graduate programs2
Thing(s) I’m Thinking About
As a washed-up athlete and person-who-writes-a-lot, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the relationship between energy, concentration, and performance. This article stuck out to me for the way top-level cricket players describe creating playing environments that help them succeed.
You don’t need to be a cricket player, or to even understand cricket, to appreciate the tactics these players use. My favorite part:
It starts with the logical principle that mental energy is a finite resource that a batsman must conserve if he is to achieve his ultimate objective of scoring as many runs as possible, which will require him to spend hours, if not days, out in the middle.
Chappell realised that he had three ascending levels of mental concentration: awareness, fine focus and fierce focus. In order to conserve his finite quantum of mental energy, he would have to use fierce focus as little as possible, so that it was always available when he really needed it.
My reflections on this article focused on how I can create writing environments that can help me succeed, but there are probably applications for broader classroom/learning environments as well.
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There are probably more, but 17 was the number where I finally lost patience
Caveat Emptor: I hear this trend discussed often, though I can not actually find published data to support it