K-12 Dealmaking: ACT Acquires Personalized Learning Platform; Duolingo Raises $10 Million

Staff Writer

Even as the economic effects of coronavirus persist into a third month, investments continue to flow to education companies as a new learning environment is taking shape.

In recent news, for example, ACT acquired ScootPad, a personalized adaptive learning platform, and Beyond 12, a college completion organization, acquired GradGuru, a mobile app that helps community college students stay aware of assignments and deadlines.

Further, a popular language-learning platform received $10 million from a private equity firm, months after raising $30 million in December.

ACT acquires ScootPad for an undisclosed amount. The nonprofit learning, management and navigation organization ACT has acquired ScootPad, a learning platform that aims to fill students’ knowledge gaps and is assisting hundreds of thousands of K-8 students, according to a press release about the acquisition.

In a statement to EdWeek Market Brief, ACT officials described the acquisition as a “milestone” for the organization that represents a “strategic step forward to transform ACT into a leading learning and learning analytics company with a proven adaptive learning platform.”

“Online and home-based education will remain a permanent part of the learning process even after this crisis is over,” ACT officials said. “With ScootPad, ACT is well-positioned to respond to current and future demand.”

ACT CEO Marten Roorda added that students will “an online platform that fully enables and personalizes the learning process to adapt to their own needs, and that’s what ScootPad provides.”

ScootPad was founded in 2012 and is based in San Jose, Calif. In addition to ScootPad’s main platform, ACT will take ownership of ScootPad’s SimplyAdaptive program, an adaptive at-home solution for K-5 math and English language arts, and will absorb ScootPad’s edNexus program, an adaptive learning platform that powers ScootPad and SimplyAdaptive with components including learning and measurement content, data and insights.

To help schools cope with the COVID-19 crisis, ScootPad is offering free access to new customers, and free subscription expansions to current clients.

ScootPad joins an ACT Learning Division portfolio that includes nearly 360,000 standards-aligned learning resources, according to ACT. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Duolingo raises $10 million. Pittsburgh-based Duolingo raised $10 million in venture capital from New York City-based private equity fund General Atlantic, according to TechCrunch.

In December, the popular language-learning platform received $30 million in Series F funding from CapitalG, Alphabet’s growth equity investment fund, which was an existing investor in CapitalG.

That investment put Duolingo’s valuation at $1.5 billion.

Duolingo said General Atlantic’s global platform and experience with online education in Asia would help guide its own growth, and pointed to plans to scale up the Duolingo English test, according to TechCrunch.

General Atlantic is the first outside investor Duolingo has accepted in three years.

“Because our business has been growing very fast and we have more than enough capital, there was limited need for us to raise more primary capital,” Duolingo said in a statement to TechCrunch. “However, over the last year, we developed a relationship with General Atlantic.”

College completion organization acquires community college student support company. College completion company Beyond 12 announced the acquisition of GradGuru, which hosts a mobile app that helps community college students stay aware of assignments and deadlines.

The acquisition will help accelerate the expansion of Beyond 12’s coaching platform, and to double its current reach to meet the needs of 1 million students yearly by 2025, Beyond 12 said.

“Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has isolated students from essential guidance and support, their years of hard work are in jeopardy,” Beyond 12 founder and CEO Alexandra Bernadotte said in a statement. “The stories we hear from our students every day solidified our decision to take this extraordinary opportunity to serve more students faster by leveraging GradGuru’s platform and their founder’s remarkable insights about serving community college students.”

This is Beyond 12’s first technology acquisition and reflects a desire of both companies to use resources more effectively and to scale faster to reach more students, according to a press release by Beyond 12.

Women of color founded both organizations, with Bernadotte being one in a small group of female CEOs to raise $20 million in outside capital.

Boston-based private equity firm announces “significant” investment in Baltimore startup. Boston-based BV Investment Partners has announced a significant investment in Baltimore-based StraighterLine, which connects students to courses to earn college credit, according to a press release.

StraighterLine was founded in 2009 to reduce the price of higher education.

“We are excited to partner with BV and believe our partnership will position us for significant growth whether students find the learning pathways we support on their own, through their college or through their employer,” StraighterLine CEO Burck Smith said in a statement. “We continue to invest in technology, such as our new Academy platform, that can be tightly integrated into our partner colleges’ broader online platform to support their offering of new affordable learning pathways to help attract, enroll and retain students.”

South African ed-tech startup relaunches with More Student-Focused Features. GraduIn, which had started in January 2019 as a course finder for prospective students, has relaunched and moved into the student housing space.

The company allows high school students to apply to more than one higher education institution with one application and one payment.

After its relaunch in February, GraduIn has introduced student and young professional housing accommodations on its website, helping property owners in South Africa find reliable tenants, according to Disrupt Africa.

“Finding accommodation can be a terrifying process for a young teen starting a new journey in a new and bigger city, and most of the time not knowing anyone in that new city,” Judith Shabalala, the startup’s founder and CEO told Disrupt Africa. “So GraduIn saw this as another opportunity to bridge a gap. With many learners visiting our platform to apply for universities, we are the perfect people to help property owners find tenants.”

GraduIn, which has a small amount of angel funding, plans to expand to other parts of Africa, including Nigeria, Namibia, and Botswana.

Kuwaiti startup raises undisclosed amount of seed funding. Kuwaiti ed-tech startup Baims raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding in an investment round led by AlWazzan Education, a service provider of K-12 American, British, and Arabic education in the Middle East, AlWazzan announced on its website. The investment round also saw participation by London-based Seed Partners, which provides investment, growth strategy, and partnership advice for aspiring mid-market businesses.

Launched in 2017, Baims is an e-learning platform for Kuwaiti students that digitizes the offline tutoring experience and makes content accessible online.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Baims offered all of its high school courses for free, generating 130,000 course subscriptions, according to an article in Entrepreneur Middle East.

Yousef AlHusaini in a statement to the publication said now is a good time for investors to leverage opportunities amid a huge digital transformation in the education sector.

“Before COVID-19, [people] thought that edtech startup solutions are a secondary option, but today, it’s a need and a must!” he said in a statement to Entrepreneur Middle East.

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