EdTech News Roundup - Week of 8/23
"Precision Upskilling", just-in-time-manufacturing for the knowledge age
Fun announcement this week - I am an angel investor! I was delighted to have the opportunity to invest in Nectir and Argos Education this summer. Both companies are finishing out their rounds now and I plan to post a deep dive on each company over the next two Fridays.
I don’t expect either angel investing or Friday posts to be a regular thing, but I do want you all to meet the (amazing) founding teams and to experiment with other types of updates.
Feedback is welcome on this and any other things you’d like to see here. If you’re new/had this email forwarded to you, I hope you’ll subscribe.
On to the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Multiverse raises $65M: Having just completed their $44M Series B in January, Multiverse is back on the fundraising trail for their apprenticeships platform. I wish this coverage provided more statistics on Multiverse’s growth in the US (the focus of their Series B) and less on how much the co-founder’s (highly illiquid) shares are worth. Perhaps there is a more formal announcement forthcoming.
NoRedInk raises $50M: Students have completed 10 billion writing assignments via NoRedInk. That is wild! They also have “a presence” in 88% of US K12 schools.
Workera raises $16M: Workera delivers “precision upskilling” to large enterprises. Following Pluralsight’s success in technology departments, a generalized assessment of workforce competencies has become something of a white whale in EdTech - much-ballyhooed, but without a clear winner. This space is receiving a lot of attention, with KKR-backed Burning Glass joining Workera, Skyhive, ProSky, and Astrum U in receiving funding in the past 2 years.1
Yellowbrick receives investment from Sony, acquires Animation Mentor: Yellowbrick teaches digital skills and helps students find careers in industries they love (think: a course on the business of Streetwear in partnership with Complex). They don’t make a ton of headlines, but the addition of one of the top Animation educators and Sony’s imprimatur suggest they are growing rapidly.
TopHat acquires Morton Publishing: I haven’t seen much writing on this, but TopHat is quietly making a bid to be a 4th big HED publisher - alongside Pearson, McGraw, and Cengage. TopHat bought 3 other publishers in 2020 and then raised $130M in February, arming themselves for Morton and, perhaps, more.
SEI (my employer) is mentioned/featured in two stories this week. Please remember that I am pundit (lol), not a reporter - I write about stuff that’s already been reported on (the links) and nothing I write should ever be used to evaluate SEI.
Perficient, a publicly-traded digital consulting firm, runs a program with Hackbright Academy, a coding bootcamp designed for women and owned by SEI, where qualified graduates get something of a “first look” for hiring by Perficient.
The only other similar-ish deal I can think of here is Make School’s partnership with Shopify in Shopify’s “Dev Degree” program.2 My hope is that these two deals are a sign of the tide turning in terms of employers considering non-traditional education pathways for tuition assistance.
Acadeum, a Kayak-like platform for students enrolling in courses not offered by their home institutions, partnered with Stride, one of the largest private K12 providers in the US, to offer Stride’s students the ability to enroll in college courses as part of their high school course load.
For the past few years, we’ve been reading about the coming enrollment cliff among traditional-age Higher Ed students. Many schools’ mitigation plan has been to re-focus efforts on attracting adult learners - although last week we learned that this strategy may have some holes in it.
For some schools the answer may actually come in the form of dual enrollment, where high school students simultaneously enroll in college courses, often in lieu of AP classes. In many ways, it already is - in Texas, dual enrollment grew 753% between 2000 and 2017 and over 7,000 high schoolers in the state graduated with Associate’s degrees. A community college in Vermont grew 34% during the pandemic by focusing on dual enrollment.
For Stride, this is a no-brainer to lean in to, reinforcing the value in attending their schools. Why go to a non-Stride high school when you could get a high school and college diploma via Stride?
Cengage launches a TOEFL / Duolingo Test competitor: Duolingo’s IPO appears to have woken up a previously sleepy space. Cengage’s global distribution almost immediately makes them a player in language learning
On for-profit < > non-profit partnerships in HED: thoughtful piece by John Clark at WGU on how universities should think about partnerships. In short, there are more rigorous ways to consider partners than tax-status
Jenzebar toots its own horn: friends, a little braggadocio is OK from time to time. However, if you’re going to do it, please include some statistics! (Note: “More than anyone else” is not a statistic)
Thing(s) I’m thinking about
Like many people, one of the pandemic habits I developed was looking up random houses on Redfin. Could I buy that chalet in Aspen? (No.) What about that ranch in Idaho? (Also no.)
My daydreaming aside, the pandemic does appear to be driving folks to move, with these 9 cities in the Mountain West among the hottest destinations in the US.
I’m curious to see how communities develop around this migration. Will it prove to be a boon/burden for local school systems? For folks splitting time between 2 or more locations, how will schooling work? Will it provide further wind in the sails of the homeschooling/podschooling community?
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I work hard to stay neutral here, but it’s important to me that you all know my potential biases!
These examples do have slightly different products and go-to-market strategies, but I would argue have very similar customers and are likely to mature into similar product suites.
While Make School uses a bootcamp delivery model, the program is accredited as a BA and takes 2 years to complete. Hackbright’s program is accepted for PLA at SEI universities, but is a more traditional 12-16 week bootcamp.