K-12 Dealmaking: PowerSchool Acquires TIENET; Speakaboos, FreshGrade Raise Funding

Contributing Writer

Last week proved to be a busy one for deals in the ed-tech marketplace. PowerSchool purchased an IEP management business while ed-tech companies including Speakaboos, FreshGrade and Nearpod received significant investments.

PowerSchool Acquires TIENET: The K-12 technology solutions provider acquired TIENET—a software package for the individualized education programs, or IEPs, that are a federal requirement for students with disabilities—from MAXIMUS. The software was developed to help educators manage instruction, intervention, and special education. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Acquiring the most sophisticated IEP software package available enables educators to have one comprehensive K-12 platform to better meet students’ specific learning and behavioral needs,” PowerSchool said in an announcement.

Reston, Va.-based MAXIMUS partners with state, federal and local governments to provide health and human service programs and solutions to a diverse array of communities, according to the company website.

FreshGrade Raises an Additional $11.6 Million: Kelowna, British Columbia-based education platform FreshGrade has finalized an $11.6 million Series A round led by Relay Ventures and including Reach Capital, Accel Partners and Emerson Collective. The Series A round brings FreshGrade’s total funding to $15.9 million. “The additional funding will help fuel the success of FreshGrade’s customers and growth for FreshGrade,” the company said in a statement.

FreshGrade was co-founded in 2011 by Lane Merrifield and Steve Wandler. Merrifield also co-founded Club Penguin, a social site for kids, which sold to Disney for $350 million in 2007. Wandler founded YourTechOnline.com, which was acquired by SupportSoft, Inc.

Speakaboos Raises $12.5 Million: The reading app for early childhood literacy recently raised $12.5 million in Series B-1 financing led by Wellington Management Company, LLP to support global marketing and customer acquisition initiatives, the company said.

The Series B-1 funding follows the Series A and B funding in 2012 and 2014 respectively, making Speakaboos’ total investment funding $25 million to date. Previous rounds of capital were leveraged to develop the company’s proprietary technology platform, produce the app’s library of licensed and original interactive stories, and recruit a management team from Amazon, Amplify, Barnes & Noble, Mattel, Nick Jr, Pearson, PBS Kids and Scholastic.

Nearpod Raises $9.2 Million: Nearpod, an ed-tech platform that aims to help K-12 teachers find, create and distribute digital learning experiences, raised $9.2 million in a Series A funding round led by Reach Capital.

Storm Ventures, Rothenberg Ventures, Marc Benioff, Deborah Quazzo (of GSV Advisors), AGP Miami, Arsenal Venture Partners, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Krillion Ventures, co-founder and chairman of Intuit Scott Cook and his wife Signe Ostby, and Stanford’s StartX fund also contributed to the round.

With the new financing, Nearpod “intends to grow its team and product pipeline in order to meet the demand of school districts and teachers alike,” the company said in a statement.

The company secured approximately $5.6 million in an undisclosed Series A round last year, sources told EdSurge in April 2015.

DigiExam Raises $3.5 Million:  DigiExam, a provider of digital tools to create and grade academic tests, today announced it raised $3.5 million in a Series A funding round led by a syndicate of tech entrepreneurs and investors from Europe and Asia including Joen Bonnier, of the Bonnier family, owner of the largest media group in Sweden.

DigiExam was originally backed with seed funding from twp Spotify executives: Gustav Söderström, the chief product officer and Sophia Bendz, former chief marketing officer, and from Sven Hagströmer, an early investor and previous chairman of Unicorn Klarna. All have made follow-on investments in DigiExam’s Series A financing.

With the new infusion, DigiExam will continue its international expansion in several new markets, including the U.S., the company said.

ZMC Acquires Majority Stake in Education Networks of America: ZMC, a media and communications private equity firm, has completed a majority stake investment in Education Networks of America, Inc. a provider of “infrastructure as a service” (IaaS) solutions to schools and libraries, according to the PE Hub Network.

The investment is being made out of ZMC II, L.P. Terms of the transaction, which closed on May 6, were not disclosed.

AT&T Aspire Accelerator Selects Six Ed-Tech Startups for 2016 Class: AT&T has selected six ed-tech startups for the 2016 AT&T Aspire Accelerator class, the company said in a statement. The selected companies are Bitsbox, Cogent Education, CommonLit, Couragion, TalkingPoints and The Grade Network.

Each organization receives a $100,000 investment and an additional $25,000 to cover program expenses. The program is in its second year and is part of AT&T’s $350 million commitment to help students succeed in school and beyond, the company said, noting that the accelerator supports for- and non-profit organizations focused on student success and career readiness.

Be sure to check back on Marketplace K-12 for updates on mergers, acquisitions, fundraising, and other dealmaking. Also see EdWeek Market Brief, a service that gives companies operating in the market insights on the needs and priorities of school officials.


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