K-12 Dealmaking: Math Tutoring Firm Acquires AI Ed-Tech Startup; Former U.S. Ed- Sec. Joins Media Literacy Company’s Board

Staff Writer

Even as the coronavirus shut down schools and pushed learning online, deals are still getting done and investments are still being made in education companies. In recent news, an AI-driven math tutoring company acquired an AI-based ed-tech startup.

Two Indian ed-tech startups secure a combined $7.6 million in new investments. And an Irish company that provides speech recognition technology secures $6.5 million in a Series A round.

Thinkster Math acquires SelectQ Corp., an artificial intelligence-guided ed-tech startup. Kendall Park, New Jersey-based Thinkster Math has acquired Silicon Valley-based AI-driven ed-tech startup SelectQ Corp., Thinkster announced in a press release.

“With the acquisition, Thinkster will transform from a tutoring company to a hyper-personalized knowledge acceleration platform company that caters to any educational content,” the statement said.

Thinkster provides real-time, data-driven learning, and digital benefits for students, tutors, and parents, according to the company.

With the acquisition, Thinkster will add content across grade levels, including honors and Advanced Placement-level STEM subjects, as well as competitive test preparations such as SAT and ACT courses.

The company will also expand services to additional English-speaking regions such as the United Kingdom, India, Australia, as well as countries where the use of English is growing, like Brazil.

Ramesh Panuganty, founder of SelectQ, will join Thinkster’s board of directors.

The companies “aim to displace” traditional brick-and-mortar tutoring companies, and become the world’s largest content aggregator, they said.

“Combining AI with the human intelligence of tutors, our offering brings the best tutors, data-driven insights and content to students to improve their learning, to enhance their analytical skills and to build a strong foundation—all at affordable price points,” Thinkster CEO Raj Valli said in a statement.

Dublin-based SoapBox Labs gets $6.5 million in Series A funding from several investors. SoapBox Labs, a developer of speech recognition technology for kids, on April 21 announced a $6.5 million Series A investment by Dublin-based venture capital firm Elkstone Capital, San Francisco-based venture capital firm Astia, and several private investors.

“We’ve invested deeply over the last seven years in our people and our technology,” SoapBox founder Patricia Scanlon said in a statement. “With this funding we’re poised to capitalize on our strengths and the global market opportunities opening up to us in literacy, language learning and toys.”

Wired UK named SoapBox one of Europe’s hottest startups in 2019. The company’s voice technology powers third-party digital games, literacy, and English language learning offerings for children.

In 2019, SoapBox was chosen for Reach Every Reader, a partnership between the Harvard Graduate School of Education, MIT Integrated Learning Initiative, Florida State University, and practitioners, students and families. That partnership, which is supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is geared toward developing solutions for readers.

“Astia has been an investor in SoapBox Labs since 2017,” Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek said in a statement. “We’re pleased to participate in this new funding round that positions the company for international growth.”

Enterprise technology skills platform provides $1 million in grant money to nonprofits to provide financial flexibility amid COVID-19. Enterprise technology skills platform Pluralsight, Inc., is providing its strategic nonprofit partners with $1 million in immediate cash grants so they have flexible financial capital to respond to the global COVID-19 crisis, the company announced.

Strategic partners receiving assistance include the Norweigan Refugee Council; Year Up, an organization that works to close the educational opportunity gap by ensuring young adults gain skills, experience, and support to empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education; the Malala Fund, an international nonprofit that fights for girls’ education; and the Computer Science Teachers Association.

“We are deeply grateful for all our partners around the world whose teams are responding to the COVID-19 crisis to ensure they meet the evolving needs of the communities they support and flatten the curve for the world’s most vulnerable,” Pluralsight co-founder and CEO Aaron Skonnard said in a statement. “From NRC who are launching digital solutions to protect displaced individuals to Malala Fund champions who are advancing tech-enabled solutions for education, they need our support now more than ever. I hope the donor community will continue to act fast and provide nimble capital to power their community partners’ response.”

In addition to cash grants to its strategic partners, Pluralsight is providing $50,000 grants to the Utah COVID Fund, Boston COVID Fund, Ireland Community Foundation’s COVID Fund, and the UN/World Health Organization COVID Fund.

Former U.S. Education Secretary joins advisory board of media literacy company. Arne Duncan, who served as U.S. education secretary from January 2009 to December 2015, has joined the global advisory board of NewsGuard, a company that hosts a media literacy platform used by libraries and educators from middle school to the university level.

Duncan currently works as a managing partner at social impact firm Emerson Collective, where he co-founded Chicago CRED—Creating Real Economic Diversity—an anti-gun violence organization that aims to transform Chicago’s south and west side communities.

Before he was U.S. education secretary, Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

“It’s wonderful to participate in this timely initiative to equip youth with critical research and source evaluation skills,” Duncan said in a statement. “NewsGuard offers an effective approach to tackling the lack of media literacy skills among young people globally, and I’m delighted to help move its efforts forward.”

Advisory board members provide strategic advice to NewsGuard.

India-based startup Vedantu raises $6.8 million from a South Korean investor. Bangalore, India-based ed-tech startup Vedantu raised $6.8 million from Seoul-based KB Global Platform Fund in a Series C funding round, Inc42 reported.

Founded in 2014, Vedantu is an online tutoring company that offers live instruction, including individual and group sessions, to students in grades 6-12.

Earlier this month, Vedantu raised $12.5 million in a funding round led by Beijing-based Legend Capital.

Vendantu saw 10 times the average number of people sign up for the service in the first week after it opened up its platform for free to students on March 12, as remote learning was being implemented in many countries’ K-12 school systems amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Vedantu CEO and co-founder Vamsi Krishna told Inc42.

India-based startup GUVI raises $789,600. Chennai, India-based GUVI has raised over $789,000 in a pre-Series A round of funding from Education Catalyst Fund, an education-focused venture capital fund based in India, Economic Times reported.

GUVI provides pedagogical tools to help its users learn computer programming.

GUVI CEO SP Balamurugan told Economic Times in a statement that the company will use raised capital to scale up operations, introduce newer courses in vernacular languages and expand the geographical presence for its blended learning program.

The company is experiencing a surge of online users during the COVID-19 crisis, and expects that trend to continue, Balamurugan told Economic Times.

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