K-12 Dealmaking: Follett, Chegg, Golden Gate Capital Make Acquisitions

Contributing Writer

In this week’s dealmaking news, three education companies changed hands, including Follett’s purchase of adaptive learning platform Fishtree and Chegg’s acquisition of online studying platform StudyBlue. On the preschool front, private equity firm Golden Gate Capital acquired The Learning Experience, an early childhood education company.

Follett Purchases Fishtree: Education materials and technology provider Follett has acquired Fishtree, an adaptive learning platform that aims to streamline both the technical integration and educational adoption of personalized learning in school classrooms, Follett said in an announcement. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Follett said it will integrate the machine-based learning tools of Fishtree within Follett’s Destiny content and resource management platform used by more than 70,000 schools and school districts across North America.

“Fishtree’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform offers a powerful solution to our customers looking to scale personalized, adaptive learning in classrooms across their districts, while demonstrating real outcomes and return on investment,” said Nader Qaimari, president of Follett School Solutions in the announcement. “Integrating Fishtree’s adaptive learning tools within Destiny will extend the use of Destiny into the classroom and home, giving educators the ability to easily create a unique pathway for every student in ways that drive learning success.” He also credited the Fishtree team with building what he called “some of the most advanced technology to date built for the education market.”  

Terry Nealon, Fishtree’s former CEO who will lead the Follett initiative, noted that his company built Fishtree to help educators engage students using machine learning and the latest technologies to do it in the most scalable way possible.

“Follett offers the opportunity to deliver this solution to thousands of customers globally with world-class implementation,” he said. “This acquisition helps advance our original vision of making it easier for teachers to create compelling, individualized experiences for each and every student.”

Chegg Acquires StudyBlue: Santa Clara, Calif.-based learning platform Chegg has acquired online studying platform StudyBlue for approximately $20.8 million in an all-cash transaction, according to an announcement.

As a result, StudyBlue will become a Chegg Service; users may continue to use the StudyBlue platform without any interruption. Chegg expects to remove the existing paywall in time for the 2018 back-to-school period to increase the availability of Chegg Services to more students.

“With this acquisition, Chegg expands its content offering, to provide greater value to students, and can utilize StudyBlue’s insights from 10 years of data on student learning,” Chegg said in the statement.

“StudyBlue adds a substantial number of subject categories to our existing offering, with half a billion pieces of content,” said Nathan Schultz, chief learning officer of Chegg. “By combining StudyBlue’s assets with Chegg’s, we believe we will significantly expand the number of students to whom we are relevant as well as provide a better experience across the board.”

Added Chris Klündt, co-founder of StudyBlue: “Combining with Chegg will help us rapidly accelerate our roadmap, leverage our data, and offer our tools more affordably, enabling us to reach, and help, even more students.”

Last May, Chegg acquired WriteLab, an artificial-intelligence-enhanced writing platform, for approximately $15 million in anoall-cash cash transaction.

Golden Gate Capital Acquires The Learning Experience: Private equity investment firm Golden Gate Capital has acquired The Learning Experience, a provider of early childhood education, for an undisclosed sum, according to a statement.

“Golden Gate Capital is fully committed to our curriculum and vision, with an excellent track record of accelerating the growth of multi-unit consumer companies,” said Richard Weissman, co-founder, chairman and CEO of The Learning Experience. “This is a transformational moment for The Learning Experience and the children and families we support, and we are thrilled to partner with Golden Gate as we work together to build on our momentum and provide a foundation for even more children to learn, play, and grow.”

Founded 20 years ago, The Learning Experience has 300 company-owned and franchise centers operating or under development across 22 states, with plans to open its first international location in late 2019 in the United Kingdom.

Josh Cohen, managing director at Golden Gate Capital, added: “The Learning Experience has created a proprietary educational platform that enables its franchisees to provide the highest caliber of academic, physical, and social education to children at their most critical stages of development. We are excited to partner with Richard, his leadership team, and the company’s franchisees to accelerate their growth plans domestically and internationally in the growing early childhood education market.”

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