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EdTech Thoughts 9/12 - 9/18
A $10,000 night at Top Golf
Lots of fundings and links this week, so no story. If you’re in NYC for EdTech Week, please give me a shout!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
HopSkipDrive raises $37M: Los Angeles-based HopSkipDrive provides an Uber-like technology platform for arranging transportation services for children. The company reports growing 3X last year as 88% of school districts struggled with bus driver shortages1
Hone raises $30M: San Diego-based Hone, who we saw raise $16M less than a year ago, provides live, online training courses for executives. Straddling the line between creator-led and traditional courses, the company leverages “creators” to teach a relatively standardized curriculum. It seems this funding will be used to move down market into individual contributor and “emerging executive” programs, also leaving the room for “in-person events where execs will be able to connect and exchange ideas.” The company is adamant that these in-person events will never include brick-clad buildings or bucolic quadrangles though2
Polywork raises $28M: New York-based Polywork, who we also wrote about last September, is building a professional network built around project-based work rather than role-based jobs (like Linkedin). Today, that project-based work is largely based on side hustles like angel investing, podcasting, and (ahem) newsletter writing. The company is also working on “Clubs”, which sound like a mixture of experience-based guilds and more ephemeral project teams
Virtual Internships raises $14M: London-based Virtual Internships provides…virtual internships to college students around the world. Though competing in a somewhat crowded field, the company has differentiated its brand around cross-border internships. This has driven fast growth from $100K in its 2019/2020 fiscal year to $4.1M in its latest (2021/2022) fiscal year
Tract raises $7M: San Francisco-based Tract provides a safe, moderated platform for school-age children to create educational content for other children. The company is led by former California teacher of the year (and mom of the CEOs of 23&Me + Youtube) Esther Wojcicki and one of her former students, former Uber veteran Ari Memar
LabLabee raises $1.5M: Lyon-based LabLabee provides training simulations for aspiring telecommunications workers. While soft-skills providers Mursion and Praxis Labs won simulation headlines in 2020 and 2021, LabLabee joins ETU, Fundamental VR, Transfr VR, Wilco, and Osso VR in fundraising for specific technical verticals this year. I will be watching closely for more stories of schools and training providers adopting these types of solutions en masse
Kyron Learning raises undisclosed amount: Palo Alto-based Kyron Learning is building a personal assistant for learning. This is one of the holy grails of EdTech and the company is led by one of very few people with plausible experience to pull it off, Google’s former VP of AI. Kyron has not launched a product yet, but I am curious to see whether the company starts in specific content niches and builds out (like a new publisher might) or attempts a more generalized algorithm
UpGrad acquires Centum Learning: Mumbai-based UpGrad, alongside PhysicsWallah, is one of a select few companies to raise significant venture funding amid a broader downturn in Indian EdTech market. Centum Learning, which provides corporate training services in India and Africa, marks Upgrad’s sixth acquisition of the year
Rockbridge Growth Equity invests in The Nest Schools: Following August’s early-childhood education (ECE) VC funding announcements for EarlyDay and UpKid, Rockbridge Growth Equity announces a control-share equity investment in The Nest Schools, which runs a network of 36 ECE centers (putting it in the top 50 in the US by students served)
Byju’s financials | start | to come to light: More reports are emerging on the updates to Byju’s fiscal 2021 that Byju’s auditor, Deloitte, finally signed off on. Its hard to draw too many conclusions from these press interviews without seeing the actual financials (which, to be clear, were never likely to be shared broadly), but at least now the company can start moving forward under the new reporting requirements
Failing private schools in New York’s Hasidic enclaves: A long investigation of the hundreds of private Jewish schools catering to New York’s Hasidic population. The key stat: when thousands of boys at these schools took a set of standardized tests, ninety-nine percent failed.3 The Wall Street Journal followed up on New York state's reaction to the reporting
Youtube for Education: While the Creator Economy appears to be hitting | some turbulence, Youtube is doubling down. In addition to offering a dedicated Education Player, the company will now allow creators to offer free and/or paid courses
The Tuition Assistance | Wars heat up: ASU’s Tuition Assistance spinout, InStride, winning Amazon as a client is one of the most important deals in this space. Combined with Starbucks, InStride’s employee network reach is likely similar to Guild’s. Meanwhile, Bright Horizons landed a large client of their own in Citi Bank. These two deals, announced in the same week, reflect a market that is rapidly growing more competitive
NYC does apprenticeships: New York City students from fifty-nine schools will compete for three thousand apprentice positions in finance, technology, and business operations over the next three years. Ever the optimist, program partner and JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said of the program, “I’ve been doing efforts like this for the better part of 30 years. We’re going to measure and report. We may fall short, but it’s not going to be for lack of trying”
Former accreditors on how to improve accreditation: Christopher Cross and Nancy Doorey, who have both worked for US accreditors in the past correctly identify the major problem with today’s accreditation system: it does not measure quality/expected outcomes for students. However, they do not address the root cause of the problem, which is that accreditation by peer review rather than by independent arbiters creates a system where no participant has any incentive to call out the faults of those in their cohort4
Stanford Law School endorses income share agreements: After Purdue University suspended its income share agreement (ISA) offering earlier this year, it was unclear when another name-brand university would take up the mantle, but it only took 3 months!
The post-pandemic college campus: A surprisingly detailed and fun interview between UT-Austin history professor Steven Mintz and architect Lori Mazor on how college campuses will start changing post-COVID
University of Texas spends $280K in one weekend to recruit Peyton Manning’s nephew: Reporting on College sports recruiting no longer provides the shock-and-awe factor it did prior to the Bag Men article, but this was entertainingly specific. It also makes me think about what the complete professionalization (and inevitable split from their parent universities?) of college sports will look like
Question of the Week
Maven’s pivot spurred me to think about *who* students want to learn from. Over the past ten years, we’ve seen online options emerge to learn from star academics at MOOCs, business celebrities at Maven/others, and anyone willing to invest time in building a course at Teachable/Udemy.
Given all these options, what type of instructor/content combination would you pick to learn from? I tried to come up with a medium-stakes scenario to test this question below:
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If you are really into school transportation issues, you might also find this article on electrifying the US school bus fleet interesting
My words, not theirs. The in-person events are real, the quadrangles are a joke!
This is not a perfect representation of student performance at these schools. These tests were linked to public funding, which some, but not all of these schools apply for/receive