K-12 Dealmaking: Ed-Tech Platforms Coursera, FutureLearn Get Major Funding Infusions

Associate Editor

In recent dealmaking news, The SEEK Group has made major investments in two online learning platforms over the past week. The firm led a $103 million Series E round for Coursera, and provided nearly $65 million for a 50-percent stake in The Open University’s ownership of FutureLearn, a London-based company. The fundraising for the U.K. transaction is believed to be the largest private ed-tech funding in Europe, according to IBIS Capital’s proprietary database.

The SEEK Group is a creator and manager of online education and employment businesses, with investments across Australia, New Zealand, China, South East Asia, Brazil, and Mexico.

Coursera raises $103 Million in Series E round of financing

Coursera, the Mountain View, Calif.-based online education company that partners with 160 universities and industry leaders to offer courses, recently received $103 million in Series E funding. The round was led by the SEEK Group, a firm that invests in, scales and operates online employment and education businesses, according to a blog post from Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda. Existing investors Future Fund, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, and New Enterprise Associates also joined the round.

TechCrunch puts Coursera’s current valuation at over $1 billion.

“The additional funding gives us the resources and flexibility to further expand internationally and to accelerate the development of [our] learning platform,” wrote Maggioncalda in his announcement, which noted that the company currently serves 40 million learners and 1,800 businesses.

Founded in 2012, registered learners can choose from 2,600 courses and 236 specializations.

The Open University’s FutureLearn gets $65 million infusion in return for equity

The SEEK Group became a 50 percent co-owner with The Open University of FutureLearn when SEEK invested nearly $65 million in FutureLearn today.

Based in London, FutureLearn was launched in December 2012 by The Open University with a dozen U.K. university partners to test opportunities offered by digital learning and massive open online courses (known as MOOCs).

According to the company, FutureLearn now has over nine million learners for its social learning platform, which allows users to learn from and with one another via collaboration and sharing on the technology.

The platform offers short online courses through to postgraduate diplomas and certificates, as well as full online degrees. Among the offerings are professional development courses for teachers.

FutureLearn partners with major universities, as well as organizations such as Accenture. Among U.S.-based organizations partnering with FutureLearn to offer courses are Colorado State University, Johns Hopkins University, Pennsylvania State University, and Purdue University.

The Open University, which has its 50th anniversary in 2019, offers flexible, innovative teaching and research in the United Kingdom and in 157 countries worldwide. Its credentials for distance teaching have resulted in more than 2 million students receiving an education.

The new partnership with SEEK will include contractual protections for the university’s academic independence, teaching methods, and curriculum, the announcement indicated.

“This investment allows us to focus on developing more great courses and qualifications that both learners and employers will value,” said Simon Nelson, FutureLearn CEO, in the announcement. “This includes building a portfolio of micro-credentials and broadening our range of flexible, fully online degrees and being able to enhance support for our growing number of international partners to empower them to build credible digital strategies, and in doing so, transform access to education.”

“Technology is increasing the accessibility of quality education and can help millions of people up-skill and re-skill to adapt to rapidly changing labor markets. We see FutureLearn as a key enabler for education at scale,” said Andrew Bassat, SEEK’s co-founder and CEO.

IBIS Capital, a specialist investment and corporate finance advisory group focused on the global media, education and health sectors, was an advisor to FutureLearn in the deal, and the source of the estimation that this is the largest private ed-tech funding in Europe to date.

The Open University said FutureLearn’s valuation has increased to more than $129 million as a result of the transaction.

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