The total value of mergers and acquisitions in the education industry grew by more than 50 percent from the second half of 2020 to the first half of this year, as companies across the market rushed to add to their portfolios, according to a report by investment banking firm Berkery Noyes.
The overall number of individual M&A transactions also rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.
Education companies closed 240 acquisitions in the first six months of 2021, up from 222 deals in the second half of 2020, and 210 mergers in the first half of last year. There were 238 acquisitions in the education industry in the second half of 2019.
The total value of education acquisitions from January through June was $19.4 billion, largely driven by Platinum Equity’s $6.4-billion acquisition of McGraw Hill, the report noted.
Deals made during this period had nearly as much value as mergers and acquisitions for the full year of 2020, when they totaled $21.4 billion.
The investment group, which provides advice and financial consulting to middle-market companies in the technology and information sectors, tracked 1,152 education deals between 2019 and June 2021.
Private equity financed 40 percent of acquisitions during the first half of this year, 8 percent higher than the 2019-2021 overall average.
According to Berkery Noyes, 97 of the 240 deals during this time frame were financed by private equity, venture capital, or some other investment firm, the most in at least three years and a 131 percent increase over the first half of 2020.
Twelve deals in the first half of this year carried values of more than $100 million, and at least seven of those involved the K-12 sector. About one-third of the total transactions had values between $4.5 million and $54.6 million.
K-12 media and tech surpassed professional training services as the education industry’s most active market segment year-to-date.
There were about 50 acquisitions that involved professional training services and roughly 40 deals that involved K-12 media and tech in the second half of last year, while nearly 60 deals touched K-12 media and tech and about 45 deals covered professional training services in the first half of 2021.
The report showed a mixed picture for market activity in various segments for the first six months of this year compared with the second half of 2020.
The rate of deals in the childcare services and higher-ed media and tech spaces increased during this span, but the number of deals in professional training technology, higher-ed institutions, and K-20 services fell. Deals involving K-12 institutions remained stable.
Edulastic describes itself as a next-generation formative online assessment platform that helps teachers quickly identify learning gaps, give students differentiated assignments to meet individual learning needs, and monitors students’ progress on the way to standards mastery.
The acquisition will advance Los Angeles-based GoGuardian’s mission to create the “ultimate learning platform,” the announcement says.
“Gauging student understanding is a vital element of effective teaching and learning. The Edulastic team has created sophisticated, data-driven solutions that provide teachers with real-time, actionable insights that support great teaching and improved outcomes,” GoGuardian co-founder and CEO Advait Shinde said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to welcome the talented Edulastic team into the GoGuardian family.”
The companies estimate that the acquisition will allow their combined platform to reach one out of three K-12 students nationwide. GoGuardian already serves over 20 million students in more than 14 million schools, and Edulastic is used by more than 9 million students at more than 19,000 schools, according to the announcement.
“Since our founding, Edulastic has been on a mission to deliver insights that help teachers teach and help students learn,” Edulastic co-founder and CEO Madhu Narasa said in a statement. “GoGuardian is a natural fit that will accelerate our mission and expand our ability to serve educators, now and long into the future.”
The acquisition was led by GoGuardian and Sumeru Equity Partners, a technology-focused growth capital firm that first invested in GoGuardian in 2018. Edulastic is backed by early-stage venture capital firm Primera Capital.
Austrian tutoring startup announces investment, ‘unicorn’ status. After receiving a $244.4 million Series C investment led by DST Global, GoStudent announced it is Europe’s latest ed-tech unicorn and the highest-valued ed-tech company in Europe, according to an announcement.
The company is now valued at $1.7 billion, or €1.4 billion.
GoStudent, which is based in Vienna and provides one-to-one video-based online tutoring, also saw investments this round from SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Tencent, Dragoneer, Coatue, Left Lane Capital, and DN Capital.
The investment will be used to drive global expansion, according to the announcement. GoStudent is currently used in 15 countries, has expanded its team to more than 500 employees, and has opened 12 new offices, adding new locations in Athens, Istanbul, and Amsterdam.
The company aims to be present in over 20 countries by the end of 2021, planning to launch in Canada and Mexico this summer, and also intends to invest in branding, product development, and company acquisitions. GoStudent will also double its team to over 1,000 employees this year, the company said.
GoStudent grows by a rate of approximately 30 percent month-over-month, according to the announcement.
“At the heart of GoStudent is our mission to build the No. 1 Global School,” GoStudent co-founder and CEO Felix Ohswald said in a statement. “The new investment and the resulting opportunities for continued international growth bring us one step closer to fulfilling our mission.”
The announcement doesn’t give a specific figure, but refers to the infusion as a “growth investment” that will allow Revolution Prep to expand its offering and increase access to world-class online tutoring.
The investment will enable Revolution Prep to make professional tutors available to more students in the U.S. and beyond, the announcement says. Over 1 million families have used the service.
“The pandemic has accelerated the shift from traditional to online learning and we’re continuing to see strong demand even as society is re-opening,” Revolution Prep CEO Matt Kirchner said in a statement. Apax Digital’s “investment will support an acceleration of our key growth priorities, including scaling up the more affordable small group tutoring format and the strategic expansion into the middle school tutoring segment, supporting families earlier in their academic journeys.”
Apax Digital Fund was attracted by Revolution Prep’s “cutting-edge” technology platform, longstanding partnerships with schools, and breadth and expertise of its tutors, Marcelo Gigliani, managing partner of Apax Digital said in a statement.
Lincoln International was the exclusive financial adviser to Revolution Prep in connection with the transaction.
ETS Strategic Capital and GSV Ventures invest in Degreed. Princeton, N.J.-based ETS Strategic Capital, the venture capital arm of research and assessment organization ETS, is joining GSV Ventures to invest in Degreed, a workforce upskilling company used by about one in three Fortune 50 companies, according to an announcement.
The investment is aimed to continue to advance and grow ETS’s educational business and mission through high-growth dealmaking, the announcement says.
“Our investment in Degreed will help us to continue to leverage high-growth companies who are aligned to the business and mission of ETS and grow globally as an organization,” Ralph Taylor-Smith, managing director of ETS Strategic Capital, said in a statement. “The corporate learning, workforce development and reskilling/upskilling sector is a key new business growth area for ETS.”
The announcement cites a study by Statistia showing that $82.5 billion was invested in workplace training in the U.S. in 2020.
Investors are betting big on K-12 education companies after the global pivot to remote learning last year, and now ed-tech firms are looking toward the public markets in potentially greater numbers than ever before.
Ed-tech companies traded on the U.S. public market are rare, and even more so in the K-12 space.
The Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 education program director is resigning from his role to start an independent K-12-focused investment fund.
With the assistance of a $200 million contribution from the Walton family, Marc Sternberg today is launching A-Street Ventures, an investment fund that will seed and scale innovative K-12 student learning and achievement solutions for students, families, and schools, according to a letter Sternberg wrote announcing his departure and the initiation of the fund.
“As the future of work shifts toward artificial intelligence, automation, and outsourcing to foreign countries, the financial security of, and accessibility to, America’s middle class has never been more in doubt,” the letter says. “In this new world, opportunity and stability will belong to young people who can adapt, think critically, continue learning new skills, thrive in collaborative environments, and lead teams.”
The announcement comes as the education space has seen a recent surge of venture capital investment. Investors put more than $16 billion into ed tech in 2020, roughly double the amount that VCs put forward in 2018, according to a report by HolonIQ.
A-Street, which will be based in Bentonville, Ark., plans to invest in a mix of early-, growth- and late-stage ventures. At the outset, it will focus on digital-first instructional materials and “new paradigms” for student assessment, the letter says.
In terms of assessment platforms, the firm will direct its attention toward curriculum-embedded products that can be used for both summative and formative purposes, to shape instruction and support students and their families, Sternberg told EdWeek Market Brief in an interview.
In addition to its focus on assessments, A-Street will attempt to distinguish itself from other investment funds by focusing on uplifting the teaching profession and supporting high-quality, digital-forward content, he said.
In contrast with most education investment funds, which have a seven- or 10-year outlook, A-Street will look to bolster target companies for at least 15 years before exiting, he said.
The fund plans to primarily focus on companies operating in the U.S. K-12 market, but may also invest outside the K-12 sphere when potential breakthroughs could benefit primary or secondary schools, Sternberg’s letter says.
A-Street will redirect profits toward charitable causes or future investment, though the firm intends to operate with “all the rigor and ambition of a traditional closed-end investment fund,” according to Sternberg.
The fund will be financed solely by the Walton family, he said during the interview. Instead of going back to the investors, funds will be recycled into the current fund and for future accounts. The new firm has not yet communicated with any education companies about investment possibilities, he said.
Sternberg previously worked as the senior deputy chancellor at the New York City Department of Education, after serving as a principal and teacher. He will continue as a senior adviser for the Walton Family Foundation, he said in his letter.
“To the entrepreneurs and the idea-makers: we look forward to supporting your vision,” Sternberg wrote. “Now is the moment for your big thinking, new approaches, and finding common ground that advances progress.”
Global spending on artificial and virtual reality in education is expected to soar from $1.8 billion to $12.6 billion annually over the next four years, a new analysis projects.
Spending on artificial intelligence in education, meanwhile, will jump from $800 million to $6.1 billion yearly over that same period, according to the report released recently by HolonIQ, a global research and intelligence firm.
The report made several projections for global ed-tech expenditures in K-12, higher education, and corporate training through 2025. Those include forecasts of total education spending, upskilling, spending on digital technologies as a proportion of total education spending, and venture capital investment.
“AR/VR is coming down the stack from workforce into higher ed, and is slowly making its way into K-12,” Patrick Brothers, the co-CEO and co-founder of HolonIQ, said in an interview.
Augmented and virtual reality has seen only modest uptake yet in K-12 because there’s a big learning curve for students and teachers to become familiar with the technologies, and because their use will take some time to catch on, he said.
Other areas of advanced technology figure to see significant growth in expenditures through 2025, include robotics and blockchain, according to the report. It projects that the total spent on robotics will rise from $1.3 billion in 2018 to $3.1 billion in 2025, and that the total spent on blockchain will rise from $100 million in 2018 to $600 million in 2025.
The biggest driver for the use of blockchain in education is a desire for secure and scalable credentialing, while the biggest spark behind the use of robotics in education is schools looking for different ways to engage learners in STEM fields, Brothers said.
HolonIQ forecasts overall global spending on ed-tech to rise from $227 billion in 2020 to $404 billion in 2025.
Currently, spending on digital technologies makes up just 3.6 percent of total expenditures in the areas of K-12, higher ed, and corporate training. In 2025, that percentage is expected to rise to a higher but still small level of 5.2 percent of overall spending.
“While the longer term impact of COVID-19 on education models is yet to play out, over the next few years we expect an upswing of spending on digital infrastructure in education and greater spending over the long term in new digital models,” the report states.
HolonIQ defines spending in the report as governments, companies, and consumers devoting money to a learning product or service. That distinguishes it from education investments, which are characterized by the supplying of capital in exchange for a stake in a company, Brothers said.
The report also notes that global ed-tech venture capital funding has risen from its previous record of $8.2 billion in 2018 to $16.1 billion in 2020, with Chinese companies occupying the largest share of funding compared with other countries.
Investment in education “will continue to grow, but is not evenly spread across the globe and weighted heavily towards late-stage mega-rounds,” the report says.
Chinese ed-tech companies saw $26.8 billion in venture capital investment between 2010 and 2020, while U.S. companies saw $13 billion invested in the same period.
Overall, HolonIQ projects that total global education spending will rise from an estimated total of $5.4 trillion in 2020 to a total of $7.3 trillion in 2025, noting that education composes over 6 percent of global GDP.
Weld North Education, a major provider of digital curriculum, has acquired BookheadEd Learning, the developer of a digital-first core curriculum, at a time when K-12 districts and companies are more pressed than ever to find innovative ways to deliver academic resources.
The flagship product of BookheadEd Learning is StudySync, a online curriculum that combines fiction and nonfiction texts with video and multimedia.
“It is a media-first product, and engagement is crucial to its success,” said Jonathan Grayer, founder and CEO of Weld North. “The folks that built StudySync are very focused on engagement and know how to do that.”
Weld North purchased BookheadEd for two main reasons, Grayer said.
First, BookheadEd’s recent success and increased market share relative to textbook providers raised Weld North’s confidence in the company, especially as the education marketplace moves further and further into digitally driven classroom materials.
The second reason stems from the high quality of BookheadEd’s resources, according to Grayer.
“We’re going to use their development shop to make all kinds of instructional material to broaden our product set,” he said.
Weld North, founded in 2010, has made several acquisitions over the years, and its portfolio has grown to include online courseware and intervention company Edgenuity; and supplemental curriculum provider Imagine Learning; core curriculum company LearnZillion.
In a press release announcing the acquisition, Weld North noted that StudySync’s curriculum has been adopted in California and Texas, and is under consideration in the Florida English/language arts instructional materials adoption process.
If Florida ultimately adopts the product, that would notch StudySync a place on the adoption lists of three dominant K-12 state markets, in terms of public school enrollment. The foothold the company has established in those locations factored into Weld North’s acquisition decision, Grayer said.
“You can’t be a major player in core curriculum without being a major player in Texas, California, and Florida,” he said.
The deal comes as many districts have been forced to make a massive shift to online learning, in response to the the health crisis imposed by COVID-19. Many districts are deeply concerned about their ability to engage students in remote and hybrid learning environment.
The acquisition is Weld North’s second in the core curriculum space, after LearnZillion, a deal that was completed in January 2020. StudySync will help to round out Weld North’s core offerings, Grayer said.
Weld North expects to remain very active in the acquisition space.
“We’re looking to add digital curriculum of all kinds, and we’re talking to lots of owners of assets that are not duplicative of what we have,” Grayer said.
A New Investment From Onex Corp. The acquisition comes the same week it was announced that Onex Corp. has agreed to make a “significant investment” in Weld North, alongside existing investors, including global tech investment firm Silver Lake, according to a Monday press release.
“Onex shares our passion for education technology and has an impressive track record investing behind industries undergoing transformation,” Silver Lake Managing Director Jonathan Durham said in a statement. “Since the time we first invested three years ago, we have never been more enthusiastic about Weld North Education’s future and we look forward to working closely with Onex and Jonathan for years to come.”
Onex coming into Weld North’s investment picture gives Weld North added stability for the long haul, which should help foster confidence among teachers and students in Weld North’s products, Grayer said.
The company plans to use the investment to focus on new product development and expansion, and to support a fully distributed workforce.
Brightwheel provides an all-in-one SaaS platform serving preschools, childcare providers, camps, and afterschool programs. It also seeks to help teachers manage their day and communicate with parents, gives parents deeper insight into curricula, and automates administrative processes.
Since COVID started, Brightwheel has focused on pandemic-specific needs like at-home learning, safety and health checks, digital communications, and no-touch sign-in systems.
A Pass Educational Group Acquires Content Development House. A Pass Educational Group, a major custom education content provider, has acquired Victory Productions, another major content development house for learning companies and organizations, A Pass announced.
The acquisition adds educational language translation services in Spanish and other languages to A Pass’ portfolio of K-12 and higher education offerings, according to the announcement.
A Pass partners with educational publishers and higher ed institutions in creating content that seeks to engage learners at all levels.
“A Pass and Victory Productions share so much, from expertise to values to a proven record of success,” said A Pass founder and CEO Andrew Pass. “We look forward to bringing them seamlessly together with complementary services to ensure that same kind of success for our customers and the educators and students they work with.”
Victory Production’s name will dissolve, but the announcement says the company’s customers can “expect to enjoy the same customer service experience and satisfaction they’ve come to expect,” as well as access to new services such as e-learning development.
Cialfo Receives $15 Million Investment. Cialfo, a company focused on international student mobility, this week announced it received $15 million in Series A funding.
In addition to a range of offerings in the higher ed space, Cialfo provides several web and mobile solutions, including AI-powered college search, application management tools, a communications suite, and the ability to directly apply to thousands of formal and informal higher learning opportunities around the world, the company said in a press release.
Cialfo is “accelerating discussions” around acquiring similar firms that operate in K-12 education, with an aim to establish a stronger position and greater market share, the company said in a statement.
“A standstill on global travel has upended education entirely – forcing high schools and universities to engage current and potential students virtually,” Cialfo CEO and co-founder Rohan Pasari said in a statement. “The adoption of technology-driven education solutions is rising at an unprecedented rate and we have a key role to play in accelerating the student recruitment process from physical to virtual channels.”
India’s ed-tech sector is rapidly accelerating, riding a wave of momentum driven by increased investments and acquisitions, while its constellation of home-grown startups are adding new users to their platforms by the millions.
So far in 2020, funding is smashing previous levels for India-based education startups, outpacing even investments made in U.S. ed-tech companies…