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EdTech Thoughts 8/29 - 9/5
A Sesquipedalian Argument
Hope you all enjoyed the holiday weekend and are excited about returning to your offices tomorrow.
I am planning to be in NYC for EdTech Week 9/19 - 9/22. If you will be around town, please do reach out.
With that, on to the news!
Funding / M&A
Glints raises $50M: Singapore-based Glints is a recruiting platform with 3M professionals that helps over fifty thousand companies (primarily in SE Asia) source tech talent in the Philippines for remote roles. These types of international businesses frequently provide me with a helpful reminder that the world is big and a strong incumbent in the US (or globally!) does not preclude a competitor from emerging from an underserved niche1
Learnsoft raises $17M: San Diego-based Learnsoft provides a compliance-focused Learning Management System that grew from a longstanding (founded in 1987!) technology training business. This is Learnsoft’s first external funding round and, whether Learnsoft becomes a “unicorn” or not, this raise provides a helpful data point that the *narrative* for venture funding is what matters, not the age or even initial product of the company
Astro raises $13M: Similar to Glints, Austin-based Astro helps technology companies source engineering talent in Latin America. This round will be used to help the company develop a payroll solution that supports use of their core product, as well as improvements in their “matching algorithm” connecting their roster of software talent with appropriate clients
LumiQ raises $5M CAD: Toronto-based LumiQ hosts a podcast that provides continuing education programming to CPAs in the US. The company is already profitable and it sounds like this is something of a non-traditional round, coming from angels who expect good, but not venture-scale returns
EarlyDay raises $3M: New York-based EarlyDay provides a staffing marketplace for early-childhood educators. I wrote about the competition building in this space just last week. I continue to be curious how geographic choices - both where to start and where to expand - will play into the eventual scaling of the various platforms in this market
Discovery Education acquires Pivot Interactives: Private Equity-backed Discovery is a leading player in the K12 content space. Pivot Interactives, which provides science activities for (mostly) K12 students, is Discovery’s second acquisition this month.
$12K/student is the new magic number for US K12 spending; reminder to update all your TAM models!2
Apologies if US News’ infographic is a little hard to read below, but the range of spending by state is also fascinating:
What should you make of this? We’re still figuring that out. The dataset, a product of 2015’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), remains relatively new. But it provides helpful context on how spending is used.
For example, does spending lead to a stronger position in US News’ state education rankings? To a certain degree, yes, but there are notable outliers like Colorado (7th in the state rankings, 34th in spending) and Alaska (5th in spending, 49th in the state rankings) that make "yes" an incomplete answer.3
Overall, I find the dataset useful as a reference point for asking questions and trying to build a bigger picture of what is going on across the US K12 system.
Are there any more national education debates?: I don’t agree with this author’s conclusion, but find the prompt interesting. Qualitatively, it does feel like there is as much variance in state education policies as there ever has been (see per-pupil spending above), but the expansion of early-childhood education and remaking post-secondary financing are two of the weightiest national education debates we’ve reckoned with in years
The polarization of the K12 system: Perhaps relatedly, Bloomberg’s polling finds some stark differences in opinion of the US system between Republicans and Democrats
Free student lunches made permanent in Maine: The state of Maine agreed to take over funding of free school lunches for K12 students as pandemic-driven federal funding for lunches comes to an end this year. As someone who not infrequently purchased six (6) Otis Spunkemeyer cookies in lieu of an actual lunch (sorry Mom!), it is probably better for everyone involved if schools have more control over what students are eating4
More Public Private Partnerships: At the crux of 2U’s re-structuring announcement in late July, and the Chronicle’s recent survey of university leaders, is the thesis that universities want (are demanding?) more nuance in their relationships with private partners. How this plays out is anyone’s guess. But there will be teething pains - like at Oberlin, who’s private (Catholic) healthcare provider decided that it would not provide birth control pills to students, seemingly without telling the school
Scott Galloway and Mitch Daniels on student loan forgiveness: I give NYU Professor Galloway credit for addressing the issue with nuance, particularly in the potential solutions he offers to the student loan crisis. Former Purdue University President Mitch Daniels comes across much worse - constructing an argument with fancy words and anecdotal examples rather than studying the problem, and potential solutions, with the reader
Thing(s) I’m Thinking About
There were a slew of articles on student loans beyond the two op-eds above this week, but there is one data point I have yet to see when calculating the cost of the forgiveness policy: what percentage of borrowers were expected to default on their loans when payments resumed?
This is a complex and potentially uncomfortable scenario to try to predict - if many of the borrowers who will now have their loans forgiven were unlikely to pay them back anyways, how do we factor that into the cost (and value) of the policy?
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
“The World is Big” would be a great title for a VC memoir
This is a (bad) VC joke. TAM = Total Addressable Market, a metric most early-stage investors use to gauge the potential size of a given startup’s market
We can debate whether US News is the best source for ranking States by education, but hopefully you see my point that the answer is more nuanced than spend by pupil
For those who are interested, the school intended the cookies as an upsell - for an extra $1, you got cookies to go along with your hot lunch. Recognizing a flaw in the system, I instead chose to just spend all my lunch money on cookies