K-12 Dealmaking: Investor Weld North, Learn Launch Make Big Moves

Contributing Writer

By Alexa J. Henry

The latest round of deals in the school marketplace underscores investors’ and ed-tech providers’ burgeoning interest in data analytics and instructional technologies.

Startups focused on those and other K-12 priorities are also receiving support through accelerator programs backed by big corporate players, two of which recently announced big plans on that front.

Here’s a roundup of recent news in the world of K-12 dealmaking:

Weld North Acquires Intellify Learning: Ed tech investor Weld North Holdings LLC has acquired a controlling interest in Intellify Learning, a cloud-based provider of learning analytics and data management services to collect, measure, store, access, distribute and visualize learning metrics.

Jonathan Grayer, chairman and CEO of Weld North and a former chief of Kaplan, said in a statement that his firm is “confident that backing the team at Intellify will have a major impact on how educators design courses of study, track and gauge standardized test results, evaluate learning progress vs. time against task, improve persistence in higher education, and much more.” Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Frontline Acquires Teachscape: K-12 software provider Frontline Technologies has acquired Teachscape, a professional growth solutions provider for K-12 and higher education. In a recent statement, Malvern, Pa.-based Frontline said the acquisition incorporates Teachscape’s instructional practice development solutions into Frontline’s professional growth offering. The announcement follows Frontline’s acquisition of online training provider EDTRAININGCENTER earlier this month.

Meanwhile, McGraw-Hill Education and AT&T unveiled plans to offer new resources and opportunities for ed-tech start-ups:

McGraw-Hill Education Partners with LearnLaunch: McGraw-Hill Education and Boston-based LearnLaunch are partnering to promote innovation in education through the development of learning technology. Through the collaboration, McGraw-Hill Education will build relationships with ed-tech startups in the United States by providing mentoring and strategic counsel from its leaders and extensive network of in-house developers.

Liam Pisano, managing director of LearnLaunch, an organization that supports the ed-tech community and offers an accelerator program, said in a statement that the partnership would enable his organization to offer “more expertise to the ed-tech startup community to help grow their businesses and transform learning.”

The partnership represents McGraw-Hill Education’s latest investment in digital research and development; the company estimates that it invested $175 million in digital development and operations in 2015.

AT&T Opens Application for Ed-Tech Accelerator: AT&T is inviting ed-tech ventures to apply for the AT&T Aspire Accelerator. The program is part of AT&T’s $350 million “commitment to empower students to reach their full potential,” the company said in a statement.

For- and non-profit organizations chosen to participate in the program will get financial investment, access to expert services and mentorship. The Aspire Accelerator application is open thru Feb. 5. The program will begin with selected ventures in May 2016. Selected organizations will receive a $100,000 investment and an additional $25,000 to cover program expenses.

Among other recent moves, a Chinese education company announced plans to invest in a prominent U.S.-based school provider.

TAL Invests in Knewton: TAL Education Group (NYSE: XRS), a K-12 after-school tutoring services provider in China, announced a strategic investment in New York-based Knewton, a global provider of adaptive learning products.

In addition, TAL and Knewton have signed a letter of intent to incorporate Knewton’s adaptive platform in TAL’s online learning environment; the letter of intent also forms the basis of a commercial agreement with Knewton that will enable TAL to build digital course materials that dynamically adapt to each individual student’s needs on its online courses platform.  TAL joins Knewton’s latest round of funding, which is led by Sofina, a Belgian investment group.

Knewton has an established international footprint. Last year it announced new business partnerships with companies in China and Japan. The company told Marketplace K-12 last year that it has partnerships with businesses that will use or already implementing its technology in 20 countreies.

Be sure to check back on Marketplace K-12 for updates on mergers, acquisitions, fundraising, and other deals in the market.

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