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ETCH Weekend Reading 11/12/23
Baby Shark on the blockchain, school buses on the electric grid, and Duolingo on Music and Math
3 announcements this week:
End of Year Survey: Thank you to all the folks who took the time to fill out the State-of-EdTech survey last week! I am going to collect responses for a couple more weeks. I need all the help I can get trying to understand the past year in our space, as well as think about what is to come in 2024! Survey here.
Boston Happy Hour 11/22: Hit reply to this email for details! Plan is to host this early enough for folks to get home in time for family dinner : )
End of Year Posting Schedule: Next week’s Weekend Reading will come out on Monday (11/20). There will be no Funding + M&A Update or Weekend Reading on 11/26 due to the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. There will be posts on 12/3 and 12/10 before I pivot to end-of-year posts and a holiday break in the second half of December.
With that, on to the update.
Funding / M&A
EduFi raises $6.1M / Singapore, Student Financing / Zayn VC, Palm Drive Capital, Deem Ventures, Q Business
Forum raises $5.3M / US, Mentoring / MBX Capital, Cue Ball Capital, SRB Capital, City Light Capital
LiveKid raises €3.14M / Poland, School Infrastructure / Inovo VC
Offee raises ~$600K / India, Proctoring / JIIF Investors, Bombay Industry Association, Riidl
DaySmart acquires Sawyer / US, Business Automation
FlyWire acquires StudyLink / US (Australia), School Infrastructure
Craig Chanoff joins Lightspeed Systems as Chief Revenue Officer / via EIN Presswire
Todd Brengel joins The Muse as SVP of Sales / via HR Dive
Dr. Monica Goldson joins the board of Paper / via K12 Dive
Differing state approaches to childcare funding. This article mostly focuses on Vermont (which voted for an increase in state childcare funding) and North Carolina (which did not). I do not see a “trend” to state approaches yet, but will be watching closely. / via EdNC
Let’s put Baby Shark on the Blockchain so you will not ever, ever, ever, ever forget the lyrics. (Baby Shark’s parent company partnered with TinyTap, whose parent company is a prolific blockchain investor.) / via Techbullion
Plugging electric school buses into the grid. I like reading stories like this because public good/infrastructure collaborations are hard to pull off, but make so much sense when they work. In this case, the relatively low utilization rate and high capacity of electric school buses fits well with leveraging the buses as surplus electric capacity during off-hours. / via New York Times
The news is that 2U and USC, the company and university that pioneered the OPM market, are parting ways. The story, as picked up by Phil Hill, is that 2U is re-calibrating its university relationships to align with the platform strategy the company invested heavily in last year (and picking off a number of Pearson OPM clients to do so). / via Inside Higher Ed and OnEdTech
Fixing a broken transfer system for college students. This is a story the education world should be proud of, even if it doesn’t get a whole lot of mass market coverage. Pre-COVID, the average student who transferred between two universities - something 40% of college students do - lost 40% of their earned credits.1 In the past ~3 years, a group of organizations decided this was wrong, as it frequently trapped students in debt without helping them progress towards a degree. And now we’re making progress towards fixing it all the way up to the level of the Education Department, which got rid of transcript holds a few weeks ago and is now pressuring schools to make coursework more transferable. / via Chronicle of Higher Education
Related, the Washington Post’s takeaways on the same Education Department gathering - more specifically focused on community college transfers within state systems. / via Washington Post
Forward progress from the folks at the University of Austin, who have raised $200M and received degree-granting status from the state of Texas in just over 2 years of existence. / via Texas Tribune
Fortune Magazine’s Bootcamp rankings. I am, generally, not a huge fan of rankings. Beyond broad segmentation (like selective vs. non-selective) they usually devolve into subjective arguments and reek of pay-to-play. But I highlight this here because it’s the first time I’ve seen bootcamp rankings from a generalist media company. / via Fortune
Student loan debt stress disrupting school-to-work trajectory. 58% of Boomers, 74% of Gen X, and almost 90% of Millenials/Gen Z are interested in developing new workplace skills or pursuing additional education. It makes sense that Millenials and Gen Z would have this interest, but those numbers are much higher than I would have expected for older generations. I say this not to be judge-y of old(er) people, but out of practical curiosity - how does the content and context of reskilling/upskilling change across generations? / via Businesswire
What is the best way to retrain jobless workers? Analyzing government data on Danish job seekers from 2012 to 2019, the researchers find that people randomly assigned to classroom training were working more two years later than before they lost their jobs. Those assigned to on-the-job training, in contrast, didn’t experience the same “robust employment gains.” / via University of Chicago
The new headache for bosses: employees aren’t quitting. Workforce training and benefits has boomed over the past ~10 years of high employment, with many education-specialist investors and companies deploying significant capital into the space. There may be speed bumps ahead as hiring slows and employers don’t have to compete as hard to gain and retain talent. / via Wall Street Journal
To see just how robustly the corporate learning market has developed over the past ~10 years, theput out a very timely market map. / Shoutout
Duolingo integrates Math and Music into core app. The choice to integrate rather than build a suite of discrete applications is fascinating and deserving of a deeper product strategy analysis - I will be sharing more thoughts in the Funding + M&A Update newsletter later this week. / via globenewswire
GSV’sbreaks down the Executive Order on AI in an accessible and pragmatic way. / via
I also appreciated National University’s Mark David Milliron’s take on tempering the AI hysteria. The pioneers and deepest thinkers on AI still do not have a consensus on what the tool is capable of. It makes sense that educators want guidance, but regulating from a position of inexpert fear has its own dangers. / via Newsweek
Byju’s adjusts revenue from an unaudited $1.25B to an audited $429M. Said another way, Byju’s accounting practices were so bad in 2021 that it took almost 2 years to reconcile them, and, when they finally did, the company had to adjust their annual revenues down by more than their *total revenue* for the year. Even this should be taken with a grain of salt though, given the company’s CFO resigned 2 weeks before their publication, that they were published via *press release*, and that they still have not been filed with Indian regulators. / via Techcrunch
I cannot stress this enough - if someone with a financial interest in Byju’s comes to you with a juicy piece of information, you should not trust it until a neutral third party has verified it. (To be clear, you should not trust the above link about a sale price of Epic.) / via Bloomberg
As the holiday season approaches, the 20 best STEM toys to gift coders-in-training. As a reminder (and because I am a sap), these are all the more meaningful if you sit down and play with the giftee! / via Techcrunch
This email, ETCH Weekend Reading, is ETCH’s free newsletter providing links to the week’s EdTech Funding, M&A, People moves, and a curated list of Links to relevant industry news. If you enjoyed this edition, I hope you will subscribe and/or forward to your friends!
Xeet of the Week
What I like about this Xeet is it describes one of the most human elements of education. Every one of you probably has a person, or a couple of people, that you think of while reading it. I certainly do!
It also describes a skill that AI/chatbots are already VERY good at today. Chatbots don’t miss check-ins, they (probably) don’t lower their expectations based in implicit bias, and they will never fail to find a way to encourage you if instructed to do so.
That does not make these two concepts interchangeable, just something to think about.
It was in schools’ economic interest for the system to work this way - most of those earned credits were in introductory courses and introductory courses are the most profitable for schools (of any type). The reason I am so staunchly supportive of this effort is that these introductory courses *are* basically interchangeable across schools. From Harvard to pick-your-community-college, schools are using 1 of 3 or 4 potential book and homework options for introductory courses from the major publishers. And most of the courses end up being driven by TAs, not professors. (Again, this is at the introductory level, where most credits are lost. The conversation gets more nuanced as the courses get more advanced.)