K-12 Dealmaking: Chinese Tutoring Platforms, Area9 Lyceum, and Ellevation Raise Funds

Contributing Writer

Several ed-tech companies based around the world have recently had success raising funding, including two Chinese online tutoring providers, a Danish technology and learning company, and U.S.-based startups including Ellevation and BoomWriter.

Chinese Tutoring Platforms Raise Additional Funding: A pair of Chinese online tutoring platforms raised additional funding from Chinese and American investors.

U.S. investment firm Tiger Global Management and New York Exchange-listed education and technology firm TAL Education have invested in a $100 million Series C round in DadaABC, a Chinese online one-on-one English education platform, according to China Money Network.

Also, Beijing-based online tutoring company Zhangmen has raised $120 million in a Series D round financing of $120 million funded by an affiliate of global private equity firm Warburg Pincus, and Genesis Capital, a Chinese capital fund focused on growth-stage Internet companies, according to a statement.

This is the sixth round of financing by the company and the largest financing by a Chinese K-12 personalized online tutoring company in China, the statement noted.

Area9 Lyceum Raises $30 Million: Danish technology and learning company Area9 Lyceum has raised $30 million from The Danish Growth Fund, a state investment fund that invests equity and provides loans and guarantees for small and medium-sized enterprises in collaboration with private partners and Danish financial institutions, according to a statement.

Area9 develops personalized, adaptive online learning modules for schoolchildren, students, and professionals. McGraw-Hill Education has a minority stake in Area9 Learning, an adaptive learning company for the business segnment, after Area9 sold a part of the Group to McGraw-Hill Education in 2014.

Area9 Lyceum, a recently launched adaptive learning technology company, brings together all of the Area9’s learning activities and IP rights including Area9’s majority shareholding in Area9 Learning.

“We’re investing this much in Area9 because we wish to support Area9 in becoming an international beacon in the field of learning technology; in addition, we expect education and learning to be facing a revolution in how we all must learn through the aid of artificial intelligence and other robotics, as well as adaptive and personalized learning algorithms,” says Christian Motzfeldt, CEO of The Danish Growth Fund.

Ellevation Raises $10 Million: English language learning software provider Ellevation has raised over $10 million in a Series B funding round led by Reach Capital with participation from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Omidyar Network, and other existing investors.

The Boston-based company said the new funding will enable Ellevation to invest in additional product development focused on instruction and differentiation.

“The way in which Ellevation has methodically grown their footprint and innovated on product, while staying close to their customers, is the right approach for becoming an iconic education company,” says Jennifer Carolan, founder of Reach Capital said in a statement.

In 2016, the company raised $6.4 million from investors including Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

BoomWriter Media Raises $4.1 Million: BoomWriter Media Inc., a collaboration tool for crowdsourcing writing content in schools and colleges, has closed a new round of funding worth $4.1 million, according to a statement from the company. The total includes a $2.6 million mezzanine round from the company’s existing investor base plus a $1.5 million convertible note.

Avila Capital and two smaller family funds, Miami-based Precorp and Zurich-based Suinvex, were the primary investors, according to a company spokesperson.

BoomWriter is using the latest investment to make its first acquisition, expand its commercial team, and fuel growth, company founder and CEO Chris Twyman noted in the statement, adding that it plans to acquire a mobile application called LookUp. The app was developed Loli Lopez-Montenegro, a native Spanish speaker who, as an MBA student, “faced the challenge of learning a vast amount of new vocabulary terms and testing herself periodically,” BoomWriter said.

“This app fills a gap in our product strategy in 2018 and brings us Loli, who will be joining our management team to initially focus on marketing and then strategic operations,” said Twyman.

BoomWriter is an educational technology product of BoomWriter Media, Inc., a leading provider of online collaborative writing solutions and a Google for Education Partner. The collaborative writing site allows students to develop and enhance their writing, reading, vocabulary, and peer-assessment skills on any device.

“We have significant plans in the next 24 months, not least to be the ‘go-to’ supplier of collaborative writing technology to anyone in education,” said Bendicht Hugli, a board member and investor. “This investment round brings together all the pieces needed for cementing that position that we have already established in more than 40,000 classrooms.”

Thinkful Raises $9.6 Million: Thinkful a provider of one-on-one web development and data science courses, has raised $9.6 million in a Series A round led by Owl Ventures with participation from Tribeca Venture Partners, according to a blog posting on the company’s website, which noted Thinkful also appointed new board members.

We took this funding only after Thinkful reached profitability and fast growth,” Darrell Silver, CEO and foundrer of Thinkful said in the posting. “We did it because there’s a unique opportunity in the next few years to take what we discovered in Atlanta across the US and the world.”

Last month, Thinkful acquired Viking Code School, a provider of online training to developers and software engineers, and The Odin Project, a open-source platform with over 80,000 community members worldwide.

Centre Lane Partners Acquires Infobase: Centre Lane Partners has acquired Infobase Holdings, Inc., a cloud-based provider of digital educational content solutions to colleges and universities, K-12 schools, public libraries and enterprises from VSS, a private investment firm focused on the information, tech-enabled business services, healthcare services, and education industries, according to a statement.

Infobase, which was acquired by VSS in 2005, provides solutions for customers through its product portfolio of streaming video platforms, databases, eLearning modules, eBook collections, and other products. Key brands include: Facts on File, Films on Demand, Blooms, The World Almanac, Learn360, Chelsea House, Ferguson’s, and Vault.com.

“Our team has worked incredibly hard to get the company to this important point and we will work collectively with Centre Lane to develop and implement a strategic plan that will build upon our current successes and further accelerate growth,” said Mark D. McDonnell, CEO of Infobase.

“We are proud of the progress Infobase has made transitioning the business from a transactional print publisher to a digital subscription business and believe Centre Lane is the perfect partner for the next phase of its growth,” added David Bainbridge, managing director of VSS.

CBA Capital Commits $15.6 Million to Education Catalyst Fund: India-based venture capital fund CBA Capital said it will invest$ 15.6 million in its Education Catalyst Fund (ECF), an early-stage education fund committed to targeting 15 pre-series A, Series A and Series B rounds in ed-tech companies, according to press reports.

As part of the first close, ECF announced investments in three companies: Simulanis, Kopykitab, and Buddy4Study.

Last September, CBA Capital completed the first close of Education Catalyst Fund, a $20 Million onshore fund, focused on supporting ed-tech companies that offer solutions to low income families in the education, and jobs & livelihoods areas, according to a statement from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

ECF is an onshore fund established under the Alternate Investment Fund Category II scheme of the Securities & Exchange Board of India. It is also the first multi-investor fund to focus exclusively on affordable education and jobs & livelihoods opportunities in the country. The investors include Gray Matters Capital (GMC), Michael & Susan Dell Foundation India and a few private investors in India.

ECF is structured as an 8-year close-ended fund aimed at supporting companies in the early part of their lifecycle with seed and series A stage investments. ECF aims to support around 15 companies during the eight-year period and these companies are expected to touch over one million low income households over their lifetime, according to the statement.

Renaissance Appoints New Chief Strategy Officer: Renaissance, a pre-K-12 analytics and assessment company, has appointed John Roselli as the organization’s chief strategy officer, effective immediately.

He joins Renaissance from Adtalem Global Education. In that role, he held several leadership positions, including senior vice president of corporate development and strategy. He was most recently president of Adtalem’s Becker Professional Education division. During his 14 years at Adtalem, he initially oversaw strategy and business development, leading the process of diversifying the organization through multiple acquisitions.

As chief strategy officer, Roselli is responsible for leading strategic planning, new market business development, and mergers and acquisitions for the organization. He will oversee Renaissance’s strategy and business development team, and will help grow the organization’s footprint domestically and internationally to continue to support educators and students worldwide.

K12 Elects Robert E. Knowling Jr. to Board of Directors: K12 Inc., a provider of proprietary curriculum and online school programs for students in pre-K through high school, has elected Robert E. Knowling Jr. to the company’s Board of Directors, the company said in a statement.

Knowling is chairman of Eagles Landing Partners, which aims to help senior management formulate strategy, lead organizational transformations, and re-engineer businesses. Earlier in his career he served as CEO of the NYC Leadership Academy. Knowling has also held roles as CEO of Telwares, chairman and CEO of SimDesk Technologies, Inc. and chairman, president and CEOof Covad Communications.

“Bob’s work in developing school leaders for the NYC Public School System was both groundbreaking and continues to be highly impactful to this day,” said Nate Davis, executive chairman of the K12 Inc. Board of Directors.

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

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