K-12 Dealmaking: Lego Parent Company Acquires BrainPOP; Vulcan Invests in Vietnamese Startup

Staff Writer
K-12 dealmaking, edweek market brief

The Lego brand’s parent company has made its first acquisition in the digital learning space, but it may not be their last.

Kirkbi, holding and investment company, says it has acquired BrainPOP, which offers short, animated movies aimed at boosting curiosity, building knowledge, and explaining complicated ideas to children in simple ways, alongside learning activities.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The companies said the deal will help fuel BrainPOP’s growth into new product lines, such as the recently released BrainPOP Science, the company’s first foray into subject-specific supplemental offerings.

The acquisition is also part of Kirkbi’s “ambitious vision to become a global force for learning through play, be it physically or digitally,” in the next 10 years, its announcement stated.

As part of that effort, Kirkbi said it intends to invest in high-grown companies in the digital play and learning space that complement its existing Lego brand.

Under the deal, Kirkbi acquired 100% of BrainPOP, which employs about 300 people. BrainPOP will remain operationally independent of Kirkbi.

“With BrainPOP’s digital-first learning approach in the growing ed-tech market, Kirkbi’s strategic acquisition of the company complements the Lego branded entities, which all help kids learn through play, digitally and physically,” Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, chair of the Lego brand group, said in a statement.

BrainPOP was founded in 1999 by pediatrician and immunologist Dr. Avraham Kadar, who was inspired by his own children to create the company.

“I cannot imagine a more authentically mission-aligned partner than Kirkbi, who will ensure that BrainPOP continues to reach, delight, and educate countless kids for many years to come,” Kadar said in a statement.

Vulcan Capital invests in Vietnamese ed-tech company. Vulcan Capital, the private equity company founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, joined in a Vietnamese ed-tech startup’s new funding round, according to reports.

DealStreetAsia reported Vulcan joined an existing backer, Singapore-based Forge Ventures, in investing in Marathon Education’s most recent investment round. DSG Consumer Partners and Goodwater Capital also participated, according to the business news outlet.

Marathon, which was founded by former TPG Capital executive Pham Duc and entrepreneur Tran Viet Tung, previously raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed round led by Forge Ventures. The company aims to connect K-12 students with tutors both virtually and in person.

With the new funding, Marathon reportedly plans to expand its offline offerings to provide live classroom experiences to students in Vietnam.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, e27, a news outlet that focuses on tech in Southeast Asia, reported the total amount of the funding round was in the seven figures in U.S. dollars.

ISTE, ACSD set to merge. Two major organizations in the education world are set to join forces, as the International Society for Technology in Education (better known as ISTE) and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) recently announced plans to merge.

While the merger was approved by both organization’s boards, it must still be approved by the members of ASCD, one of the oldest and largest K-12 professional development associations. They will vote to approve the plan on Nov. 14, the organizations leaders told Education Week.

The new combined organization would allow both ASCD and ISTE to retain their separate identities and brands, but would share a governing board. ISTE CEO Richard Culatta, a former director of the office of ed-tech in the Obama administration, would lead the combined organization.

ISTE is well-known in the school community for staging an annual ed-tech conference, which draws thousands of educators, as well as tech advocates, and company officials. It’s most recent show was held in New Orleans.

No staff reductions are expected as a result of the merger, and there are no immediate plans to combine ISTE and ASCD’s large annual conferences.

It is “very clear that the future of education needs to combine really solid leadership on the instructional side, and effective use of technology and new approaches” on the other, Culatta said. “When you can bring those two together, that’s where magic starts to happen. That’s where the solutions for the future are going to come from.”

Image by Getty

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