K-12 Dealmaking: Brighteye Ventures, Wonder Workshop, Kano Raise Funds

Contributing Writer

This week’s dealmaking news kicks off with European ed-tech investor Brighteye Ventures closing its $58 million inaugural funding round, while several organizations and startups devoted to promoting technology education raised funds and unveiled new partnerships.

Brighteye Ventures Closes $58 Million Fund: Brighteye Ventures, a European venture capital firm, has closed its debut fund at approximately $58 million (€50 million), according to a statement on the PE Hub Network.

The Luxembourg-based firm, which touts itself as Europe’s first and largest ed-tech venture capital firm, noted the fund will lead or participate in Series A or B rounds for ed-tech companies. It will consider acquiring companies “working across a full range of educational levels, from K-12 to university and beyond. Brighteye Ventures has a global remit, looking to lead investments in Europe and Israel and co-invest alongside smart partners in the US,” according to the statement.

The fund has already invested in two companies. Brighteye Ventures participated in the $8 million series C of Epic!, a digital content platform for children under 12, and Lightneer’s $5 million seed round, a learning games studio from Helsinki set up by ex-Rovio executives. Brighteye Ventures is looking to invest between $580,000 and $3.48 million (€500,000 and €3 million) per round in 20 companies over the next three years.

Brighteye Venture Advisers, based in Paris, is the sole advisory to the fund. Its two partners, managing partner Alex Spiro and investment partner Benoit Wirz, have previously built and invested in companies in the ed-tech space.

Spiro is co-founder of children’s publisher Flying Eye Books, leading their TV and film licensing operations, and Minilab Studios, an educational app development studio. Wirz has 20 years’ experience in developing and investing in ed-tech, media, enterprise software and other tech companies, most recently at the Knight Foundation.

Wonder Workshop Raises $41 Million: Wonder Workshop, creator of robots designed to teach kids of all ages creative problem solving, coding, and robotics, has closed a Series C funding round and associated financing of $41 million. The round included investments from technology and education investors Tencent Holdings, TAL Education Group, MindWorks Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, Softbank Korea, and VTRON Group.

Also investing in this round were current investors TCL Capital, Sinovation Ventures, Bright Success, WI Harper, and CRV.

The new funding will enable Wonder Workshop “to reach and inspire more girls, boys, educators, and parents to explore coding and robotic,” the company said, adding that it plans to expand its software platform, “while growing its presence in the consumer market and continuing to drive market leadership among schools.”

The robots are currently used in more than 12,000 classrooms worldwide and are featured in the fast-growing Wonder League Robotics Competition, the company noted.

Kano Raises $28 Million: UK-based DIY computer company Kano has raised $28 million in a Series B round led by the Thames Trust and Breyer Capital, with Index Ventures, the Stanford Engineering Venture Fund, LocalGlobe, Marc Benioff, John Makinson, Collaborative Fund, Triple Point Capital, and Barclays participating, according to a statement. The company said it is using the funds to fuel its expansion in North America.

“Kano has grown into a category leader, with hardware and software that prepares all ages for the future,” said Jim Breyer, Founder and CEO of Breyer Capital. “The financing, expansion into mass retail, and new products will expose the unique Kano experience to millions more.”

The company claims it launched the first computer anyone can make on Kickstarter in 2013, raising $1.5 million.

PandaTree Raises $1.5 Million: Palo Alto, Calif.-based language learning company PandaTree raised $1.5 million in a seed funding round led by led by Michael Dearing of Harrison Metals with Randy Ching of UP2398, according to a statement posted to The PE Hub Network.

The company has reached a total of $2 million invested with the earlier funding coming from Precursor Ventures and Nanjing Sunflower.

The company also launched its proprietary interactive foreign language-learning platform for kids. The new platform is designed to allow students to talk via live video with their PandaTree tutor, while interacting with PandaTree’s proprietary, standards-based language curriculum.

Fire Tech Raises $863,000: Fire Tech, a UK provider of extracurricular tech education for 9-17 year olds, has secured approximately $863,000 (£660,000) in funding led by the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund, with participation by Emerge Education and investment angels. The capital will be used to fund UK and international expansion.

Oliver Finch, who led the investment on behalf of the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund, said the team at Fire Tech designs and delivers “world-class programs in technology education for young people… We are delighted to support Fire Tech’s next phase of growth, as it furthers its UK and global expansion to capitalize upon this in-demand area of youth education and experience.”

There were two deals of note China’s ed-tech market:

Changingedu Raises $55 Million: Changingedu, a Shanghai-based online-to-offline education service, raised $55 million in a Series D funding round led by ClearVue Partners and TAL Education Group, an education and technology enterprise based in China, according to DealStreetAsia. Other investors who participated in the round included IDG Capital, Sequoia Capital, Trustbridge Partners and FreeS Fund.

Acadsoc Raises $15 Million: Shenzhen-based education company Acadsoc has raised a $15 million Series B+ led by Shenzhen Capital Group, a venture capital firm with interests in IT and biomedicine, according to DealStreetAsia; IDG Capital also participated in the round.

Acadoc offers online tutoring, a study abroad consultancy, and video learning services.

Nonprofits Mouse, Code/Interactive Merge: New York City-based technology education nonprofits Mouse and Code/Interactive announced plans to merge, both companies announced in a statement.

Mouse provides original learning content with a focus on design thinking, STEM, and technology with purpose.

Code/Interactive trains educators and builds inclusive computer science programs. They partner with nationally recognized professional development and curriculum providers to introduce students to computer science in grades K-12.

“By bringing together learning content and educator training, Mouse and Code/Interactive will open opportunities for all youth to engage with creative technology and computer science to make meaningful change in our world,” the companies said.

After the merger, the combined organization will operate under the Mouse banner, with Code/Interactive as a sub-brand, the organizations said.

A handful of companies and organizations forged new partnerships:

PowerSchool Partners With Level Data: Folsom, Calif.-based PowerSchool has formed a partnership with data management solutions provider Level Data to offer its State Data Validation Suite as an integrated data validation tool for PowerSchool’s Student Information System (SIS).

PowerSchool noted in a statement that “as data collected by schools and districts come from many different sources, this partnership with Level Data will improve the ecosystem for providing information for school officials.”

Level Data, based in Kalamazoo, Mich., aims to help users correct multiple records concurrently that are in violation of any particular state validation rule.

“Our collaboration with Level Data brings valuable tools such as the State Data Validation Service to PowerSchool SIS customers,” said Chris Porter, PowerSchool’s president and COO. “With this partnership, school administrators are able to focus more on efficiently running office operations to receive maximum state funding by significantly reducing time and resources spent managing student data from external sources.”

BrightBytes, ISTE Collaborate: The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and BrightBytes, a K-12 learning analytics platform, are collaborating to equip state, district, and school leaders with actionable insights to improve teaching and learning with technology.

As a result, a new ISTE Standards Lens will be integrated into BrightBytes’ analytics platform, allowing schools, districts, and states to view their data through the framework set forth in the ISTE Standards.

“As conversations around education technology shift from a focus on access to efficacy, the ISTE Standards provide a valuable guide for districts,” said BrightBytes CEO Traci Burgess. “We’re excited to team up with ISTE to help schools leverage the Clarity platform to use data to help identify and spread effective practices, target professional learning opportunities, and implement initiatives that have the highest instructional impact.”

ISTE chief learning officer Joseph South added: “This collaboration will help educators identify best practices and make informed decisions about professional learning and innovative approaches that positively impact students.”

Cricket Media and IEEE Partner to Launch Mentor Program: Cricket Media and technical professional organization IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) announced a partnership to create TryEngineering Together, an eMentorship platform aimed at “giving companies a resource to mobilize their employees as volunteers to inspire and educate the next generation of engineers, scientists and technical professionals.”

The platform is modeled on the CricketTogether eMentoring platform, giving companies and their employees meaningful volunteer opportunities to engage online with students and teachers in grades 3-5, particularly with those in economically underserved communities.

Launching in January 2018, IEEE and Cricket Media are partnering with STEM focused companies to lead the launch of TryEngineering Together.

Be sure to check back on Marketplace K-12 for updates on mergers, acquisitions, fundraising, and other dealmaking.


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