Fastest-Growing Ed. Companies Named on Inc. 5000 List

Associate Editor

The 23 fastest-growing, privately-held education companies that touch K-12 schools or families set a record high–a combined $933.5 million in revenues last year, according to Inc. magazine’s annual 5000 list.

The businesses that applied and were selected to be on the list sell everything from instructional materials and assessments to virtual education, from tutoring to after-school programs, and school improvement consulting to professional development. The largest category of education providers offers parents out-of-school instruction in swimming, music or gymnastics. Two of the fastest-growing companies offer after-hours programs at schools.

PowerSchool, which holds the #7 spot at $361.1 million, and Curriculum Associates, #16 at $233.2 million, are the largest companies on the list. They are well-established in school districts across the U.S. Curriculum Associates celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, and PowerSchool, which Pearson sold to Vista Equity Partners in 2015, has been growing, at least in part, by acquisition.

“We have underestimated our growth every year for the past 11 years,” said Curriculum Associates’ CEO Rob Waldron. “You have to be careful with underestimating because you’ve got to make sure you can serve everybody.” Waldron said he is more interested in “how many kids we serve than that list.” Online, the company serves more than 7 million children, and recently shipped two million books, he said. [Read more about Waldron’s perspectives on growing a company quickly.]

The third-largest company on the list—Pediatric Therapy, #6 at $101.6 million—was purchased by The Stepping Stones Group, a portfolio company of private equity firm Five Arrows Capital Partners, last year. It is one of three businesses offering therapy and education solutions to children with special needs and autism in school settings. And Proximity Learning, #3 on the list at $7 million, was acquired by Education Solutions Services in July. It’s one of three virtual school or virtual course providers on the list.

The #1 company on the education list, which grew 1,047 percent over three years, is InGenius Prep, a bootstrapped startup that enlists former admissions officers from colleges and universities to help 9th and 10th graders, and their parents, understand how to best prepare for applying to higher education institutions.

“I thought that, when I started and achieved a certain level of success, that I would feel on top of the world,” said Joel Butterly, co-founder and CEO. “Fundamentally, the process has been more than anything else, humbling.”

The practice of achieving success in school doesn’t adequately prepare business founders for the failures that lie ahead in launching and growing a business, said Butterly, who is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and who also attended Yale Law School, where he served on the executive board of the Journal on Regulation, as well as the Law School’s entrepreneurship society. “I wasn’t prepared for the lifestyle where failure was the rule and success, the exception. Learning resiliency was incredibly important.”

EdWeek Market Brief previously interviewed CEOs of companies on the list to learn their perspectives on driving—and managing—fast growth. Leaders of InnovateEd, Dave Burgess Consulting, and Endeavor Schools, all appearing again on this year’s list, were featured in that story, along with the CEOs of Frontline Education and GoGuardian, which are not on the 2019 list. We also collected “lessons learned” from company leaders in 2017.

To qualify for the Inc. 5000 this year, private companies that applied to Inc. magazine for the distinction had to submit their revenues and other information to establish their percentage growth rate in the three-year period from 2015 to 2018. “Education” is one of the categories within the overall list of 5,000 companies. [See the full list of education companies focused on K-12 below. The broader “education” list, which includes companies focused on higher education, continuing education and workforce training, is available here.]

Research assistance provided by Librarian Maya Riser-Kositsky 

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