ETCH Weekend Reading 1/15/23
Back and better than ever!
Welcome to the many new readers who discovered ETCH after my 2023 Year in Review essay.
Today’s newsletter is reflective of the content I normally put out - an overview of the week’s top EdTech Funding, People, and News items with brief commentary.
The goal of the newsletter is not for you to click every link - that is what (some of) you pay me for. Instead, use the sections and the keywords to zero in on the stuff that is of most interest to you.
I aim for each newsletter to take 5-10 minutes to read, though today’s will be longer to cover the holiday break.
(Welcome also to longtime readers. I am grateful for your support and excited to keep growing this newsletter with you.)
Finally, today was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, a celebration of the progress we’ve made toward equality in a country that started far from it. And a challenge to make sure we continue to send love to one another, even when the world feels divided. Do something nice for someone else this week, and make some time to think about MLK.
On to the news!
Funding / M&A
PerformYard raises $95M / US, Talent Management / Updata Partners
Backer raises $9.5M / US, Student Finance / WndrCo
Backer acquires Saving for College / US, Student Finance
Letrus raises $7.3M / Brazil, K12 Curriculum & Services / Crescera Capital, Owl Ventures
ConveGenius raises $7M / India, Chatbot / UBS Optimus Foundation, Mount Judi Ventures
Parallel Learning raises $6.13M / US, Special Education / Rethink Impact
iSchool raises $4.5M / Egypt, Content Provider / VentureWave Capital, OneStop Capital UK, Website Investment Network, Oraseya Capital
CareerFairy raises €3.5M / Switzerland, Recruiting Platform / Mediahuis, Swiss Post Ventures, Backbone Ventures
We Are Learning raises €3M / Norway, Content Provider / Dreamcraft Ventures, Sondo Capital, Skyfall Ventures
GetMee raises $2.5M / Australia, Language Learning / Access Capital Ventures
Virtuleap raises $2.5M / Portugal, VR / GED Ventures Portugal
Montamo raises €2.1M / Germany, Green Upskilling / Project A Ventures
Shimmer raises $2.2M / US, Coaching / Worklife Ventures, Seed to B
Mist raises $1.6M / Australia, Student Finance / Investible, Allectus Capital, Archangel Ventures, Seedspace
Algo Education raises €1.4M / Italy, Instructional Design / Emerge Education, Club degli Investitori, 40Jemz Ventures
Leeds Equity Partners acquires Big Blue Marble Academy / US, Early Childhood Education Centers
The Rise Fund acquires Outcomes First / UK, Special Education
UWill acquires Christie Campus Health / US, Mental Health
Riid acquires Qualson / South Korea, Language Learning
Freedom Learning Group acquires Ease Learning / US, Instructional Design
Inspirit Capital acquires Wiley Edge / US, Apprenticeships
Quacquarelli Symonds acquires 1Mentor / UK, Upskilling
Workleap acquires Pingboard / US, Talent Management
Trailant acquires Kantola Training Solutions / US, Compliance Training
Exeter Street Capital recapitalizes SmartLab Learning / US, Content Provider
Baims acquires Orcas EdTech / Egypt, Content Provider (Tutoring)
Report on EdTech venture funding: Transcend’s 2024 State of EdTech Fundraising
To be named in this newsletter, a company must raise $1M+ with verifiable institutional investors, be part of an acquisition where the combined entity has > 50 employees, or raise a VC/PE fund of $10M+
ETCH Funding Database
All of the above deals, and 1,000+ more can be found in the ETCH Funding Database, available in Beta to Founding Members. Team and Enterprise access can also be provided upon request, email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Top Hat reshuffle. CEO Joe Rohrlich and CRO Matt Schurk depart, CMO Maggie Lean takes on additional responsibilities. Curtis Tripoli joins as CFO. / via Betakit
Shawn Boom joins Labster as CEO / via Businesswire
Brandon Busteed joins Brand Ed as CEO / via PRNewswire
Jourdan Hathaway and Gretchen Jacobi join General Assembly as CMO and Head of Enterprise / via General Assembly
Andrew Lippert joins Edmentum as CTO / via Newswire
Haji Glover (re)joins Scholastic as CFO / via PRNewswire
Dan Groskreutz joins Bluum as CFO / via Businesswire
Chris Atkins joins The Muse as SVP of B2B Marketing / via HR Dive
Rachel Orston joins Instructure as Chief Customer Officer / via PRNewswire
The Artifical Intelligence Literacy Act proposed by Congress aims to “highlight the importance of AI literacy for national competitiveness, workforce preparedness and the well-being and digital safety of Americans. In addition, it would open grant eligibility for K-12 schools, colleges, nonprofits and libraries to support AI literacy.” / via Higher Ed Dive
At the risk of being called a heretic, can I ask what the definition of “AI literacy” is? Can we focus on exposure to the tool before a bunch of non-experts build courses on it? At least 2,000 schools rented(!) faraday pouchs for their students last year, let’s work on that first. / via 74Million
Paul Leblanc gets it, “Prohibiting a tool, that will actually be the tool they’re expected to use, seems nonsensical to me.” / via Inside Higher Ed
The misguided war on the SAT. It turns out that the SAT *was* actually sorta helpful in helping colleges evaluate students. Not perfect, mind you. But reasonably helpful when considered with multiple other applicant datapoints. Just like MIT told us two years ago. / via New York Times
Related, when getting good grades and working at grade level are not the same thing. 90% of parents think their child is performing at or above grade level; 50% of students actually are. / via 74Million
Also related, why is it so hard to be a parent in the US? “American parents have something of a reputation in Europe. We’re known for being intense, neurotic, overprotective, obsessed with academic achievement…Some Europeans worry that American child-rearing norms will take hold there. Yet many of the parents I’ve spoken with also express some sympathy, or even pity, for American parents. They seem bewildered by how little support new parents receive in the U.S., and horrified by the prevalence of gun violence in American life.” / via The Atlantic
Related to the related, but maybe the tide is turning towards more help for US parents? States will offer bigger childcare credits in 2024. / via NPR
Sorry, we’re just all the way down the rabbit hole now (this is what happens when you smush 4 weeks of news together)…States may need to offer bigger childcare credits because parents are increasingly having to drain their savings and retirement funds to support their adult children. Nothing to see here, everything is fine! / via Bloomberg
Will chatbots teach our children? My answer is, unequivocally, yes. But I don’t think anyone knows when. Including Sal Khan, who became the (human) face of the chatbots-as-teachers discussion last summer after the New York Times’ (very similar) previous article on the topic. / via New York Times
Also related, and please make sure you are sitting down for this one. Grimes invested an undisclosed amount in Curio, designers of a voice-activated, chatbot-powered plush toy named Grok. A lot of people think of Grimes as Elon Musk’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, but she has also been at the forefront of artists leveraging AI rather than running from it / via Washington Post and the Verge
Texas teachers can earn $100,000. But there’s a catch. Merit pay for teachers is a tricky beast, which makes this an experiment worth watching. / via Wall Street Journal
“The politics have flipped on the Moms for Liberty, and they’re turning more people to vote against them than for them.” Looks like a sex scandal that broke just before the holidays may be the nail in the coffin for the Moms for Liberty. / via New York Times
Lilly Endowment donates $100M to UNCF. Adding to the $124M that Blue Meridian announced last year for both UNCF and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. This continues a run of positive news for HBCUs, who, as a cohort of institutions, have emerged from COVID looking strong. / via Associated Press
“If you could ignore them, wouldn’t that be grand?” US News makes millions selling cute little badges to the schools on its rankings list. This business model is honestly brilliant, no notes. / via New York Times
I’m considering my own spin on this concept, building a ranking of EdTech companies. My rankings differentiate themselves in their unrivaled transparency - each slot goes directly to the highest bidder.
Phil Hill’s update OPM Market Landscape for 2024. One of the best graphics in EdTech! / via On EdTech
Where does the college presidency go from here? An eloquent take from former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp on the resignations of Harvard and Penn’s presidents. Embedded in Thorp’s writing is that universities will soon pivot (have pivoted?) to hiring politicians as leaders rather than academics. / via Chronicle of Higher Education
Pay transparency injects new awkwardness into the workplace. At least 9 states have transparency laws in place; Expect more to follow this year. / via HR Dive
The Education Department (ED) has a packed slate this year. Education figures to be a hot topic in this election cycle, but it is starting to read like trying to keep too many balls in the air at once…Over the break we saw news covering:
Student loan collections: have restarted to modest success, with 60% of borrowers submitting their first payments since March 2020. It is hard to know what “good” looks like given the unique nature of the loan freeze, but 60% is higher than I expected. / via New York Times
Grand Canyon law suits: Technically this is the FTC suing Grand Canyon University (GCU) over deceptive advertising, but it reads more like an additional proxy fight in the longstanding war between GCU and ED. / via Inside Higher Ed
New proposals on accreditation: ED proposes stronger evaluations by accreditors of the institutions they work with and, in turn, stronger evaluations of accreditors by ED. / via Higher Ed Dive
New FAFSA: Good idea, bad timing. The FAFSA is a universally hated form that also happens to be a critical component of higher ed funding. It was a problem so bad former senator Lamar Alexander staked his retirement on fixing it. Launching the new FAFSA was bound to create issues, no matter who was in charge, but expect to hear about it in the campaigns. / via Inside Higher Ed
Junk Fees: Junk fees sound like a great rallying point, but the key pillars of this initiative - food and textbooks - are core to the university product. You can take away the line item, but the cost will still show up somewhere. / via USA Today
EdTech’s Lemon Problem. This piece, from Achieve’s Jakub Lubun, is worth reading in its entirety. Lubun explores why the EdTech market remains a stubbornly small percentage (5%) of overall education spending ($6T). / via Stanford Social Innovation Review
New research suggests cheating fears over chatbots were overblown. / via New York Times
Byju’s soon to fall off the unicorn chart, after Blackrock cuts valuation of private holdings from $22B to $1B. / via Techcrunch
Related, Code.org sues Byju’s-owned WhiteHat Jr. for non-payment in IP license agreement. / via Techcrunch
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Meme of the Week
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!