K-12 Dealmaking: BetterLesson Raises Funds, and Instructure Makes Acquisition

Contributing Writer

One of the the biggest pieces of recent dealmaking news was Pearson’s sale of Wall Street English, a major program for teaching English to adults, to a consortium of buyers. But that was not all. Professional development platform BetterLesson and China-based English language learning company ALO7 raised funds. In addition, VitalSource and Instructure announced acquisitions.

BetterLesson Raises $10 Million: BetterLesson, a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of a personalized professional development platform, has raised $10 million in a Series B funding round led by Owl Ventures.

This funding “will allow the company to scale its flagship virtual coaching program for K-12 teachers at a critical time, as classrooms are adapting to an evolving educational and economic landscape,” the company said in a statement.

Other funders investing in this round include existing investors Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, New Markets Venture Partners and Reach Capital, an education focused venture capital fund, whose General Partner Jennifer Carolan will retain her seat on the BetterLesson Board of Directors.

In February 2016, BetterLesson raised $6 million from Reach Capital, New Markets Venture Partners, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Intuit co-founder Scott Cook and his wife, Signe Ostby, and other individuals, according to press reports.

The company has also received a $3.5 million in grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a $780,000 grant from The Learning Accelerator.

ALO7 Raises $37.5 Million: ALO7, a Shanghai-based English language learning product and services provider, raised $37.5 million in a Series D round financing round led by Legend Capital with GuoHe Capital and UG Investment joining as co-investors.

C-round investors Qualcomm, New Oriental, and Vickers Venture Partners also contributed again.

Formerly known as Saybot, ALO7 was founded in the United States in 2004 by MIT PhD Pengkai Pan and his mentor, digital-media guru Nicholas Negroponte. In 2010, ALO7 joined the K12 English education market, focused on providing high-quality teaching products and services to schools.

The company is the latest China-based English language learning patform to gain funding.

VitalSource Acquires Intrepid Learning: VitalSource, a platform for creating and deliver educational and training content, has acquired the assets of Seattle-based corporate learning-technology provider Intrepid Learning, according to a statement.

Intrepid Learning’s and VitalSource’s corporate and professional business platforms will launch under the brand Intrepid by VitalSource, Raleigh, N.C.-basd VitalSource said.

“Intrepid has been a transformational leader in the corporate learning space, having worked with and delivered tangible business results with some of the most recognizable names across numerous sectors, including Microsoft, Korn Ferry Hay Group, and INSEAD,” said VitalSource Chief Operations Officer Pep Carrera. “The combined group has the experience and technology to help companies and professional development organizations enhance the scale and effectiveness of their learning programs.”

Intrepid Learning CEO Sam Herring. “Joining forces with VitalSource accelerates our ability to realize our mission, which is to create the world’s most engaging and impactful learning technology and see it used by the world’s best companies. Said Intrepid Learning CEO Sam Herring, who will lead Intrepid by VitalSource as general manager.

Instructure Acquires Practice: Salt Lake City-based Instructure, a software-as-a-service technology company in education and learning and performance management, has acquired Practice, an applied video microlearning solution, Instructure said in a statement. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“This acquisition reflects our ongoing commitment to provide our customers with experiences that make it easy to learn and improve,” said Mitch Benson, SVP of product at Instructure. “When people are engaged and have a way to receive actionable, open feedback and coaching, their competency and confidence levels increase. Studies show that Practice works, and we’re happy to welcome the team to Instructure.”

Instructure offers Canvas, a learning management system (LMS) for the higher education and K-12 markets. The company said the acquisition “will leverage Practice’s mobile and web video technology to enhance its talent management and learning solutions, helping people maximize their potential.”

Instructure said it will leverage Practice’s mobile and web video technology “to enhance its talent management and learning solutions, helping people maximize their potential.”

TAL Education Group Collaborates With ETS: TAL Education Group, a K-12 after-school tutoring services provider in China, has formed a strategic collaboration with educational testing and assessment organization ETS.

TAL and ETS will begin to collaborate on online test prep content, assessment technologies and promotion for the TOEFL series, according to a statement.

Rong Luo, CFO and president of global and lifelong education group at TAL said this collaboration “will open up new possibilities for both sides in the field of international education to better serve increasingly younger learners in China who desire to develop competences that are aligned with global educational standards.”

“With the great brand influence and operational capabilities of TAL, and the deep assessment and educational research expertise of ETS, there will be more opportunities for cooperation in the Chinese international education market,” Luo added.

David Hunt, executive vice president and COO of ETS, said by working with TAL, ETS expects to “bring customized assessments and learning tools to Chinese students.”

“ETS and TAL have a shared goal in advancing education through scientific and technological innovations,” Hunt continued. 

Barnes & Noble Education, The Princeton Review Form Partnership: Barnes & Noble Education, a provider of educational products and services solutions for higher education and K-12 institutions, has entered into a strategic partnership with The Princeton Review, according to a statement.

The agreement will allow Barnes & Noble Education to “further expand its end-to-end offerings and fulfill the full breadth of student education needs by offering The Princeton Review’s products and services to its network of more than six million students and through its more than 780 physical bookstores throughout the United States,” Barnes & Noble Education said.

In August, Barnes & Noble Education acquired Student Brands, a direct-to-student subscription-based writing skills services business.

“Our acquisition of Student Brands was a pivotal addition to that ecosystem, and now, through our partnership with The Princeton Review, we are further expanding our direct-to-student offerings to include access to a trusted provider of quality educational services,” said Kanuj Malhotra, COO of BNED Digital Education.
Be sure to check back on Marketplace K-12 for updates on mergers, acquisitions, fundraising, and other dealmaking.


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