K-12 Dealmaking: Renaissance Acquires Nearpod, in Major Pairing of Classroom-Focused School Companies

Staff Writer

Renaissance has acquired Nearpod, in a pairing of companies that have a broad reach into the nation’s classrooms.

The acquisition is expected to close on or about March 10, executives of the companies told EdWeek Market Brief.

Renaissance, a largescale provider of classroom assessments and analytics headquartered in Wisconsin, has made a series of K-12-related acquisitions in recent years, including Schoolzilla, a company that creates dashboards for helping K-12 districts collect and analyze data, in October 2019.

Nearpod, which provides interactive lessons, videos, and formative assessments, had considered “strategic pathways” that both involved and did not involve acquisitions, but Renaissance met several benchmarks that Nearpod was looking for in terms of the future of its customers, team of employees, and role in the education industry, said Nearpod CEO Pep Carrera.

“We’ve got complementary and non-overlapping products,” he said in an interview.  “They’re incredibly strong on the student side with personalized learning, and we’re incredibly strong from an instructional delivery, teacher-led, teacher-first modality.”

Renaissance has estimated that its products are used in over one-third of U.S. schools and more than 100 nations. Its products include Star Assessments, a set of computer-adaptive assessments focused on reading, math and early literacy; and Accelerated Reader, which is designed to support independent reading.

Nearpod says its instructional platform merges formative assessment and dynamic media. When the Atlanta school system signed a deal with Nearpod last fall, the district said it was gaining access to over 8,500 standards-aligned lessons, including interactive video content featuring quizzes, polls, and virtual reality field trips.

Renaissance will keep Nearpod, based in the Miami area, as a separate business unit and retain all employees, said Renaissance Chief Product Officer Todd Brekhus.

Nearpod is Renaissance’s largest acquisition, and its fifth in 2 ½ years. Renaissance expects more acquisitions in the future, Brekhus said.

“We are still looking at other gaps in our portfolio, and now our collective portfolio together” with Nearpod, he said. “So, I wouldn’t call us out of the acquisition game at all, and frankly, it’s a good thing, because the industry is growing and it’s strengthening right now.”

Nearpod’s growth has been accelerating during the pandemic: Teachers created 12.5 million lessons using the platform in the last six months of 2020, after creating 7 million lessons in the first six months of last year, Carrera said. Nearpod currently is used in 163 countries, and is focusing on growing its footprint in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates, Carrera said in a Market Brief Q&A in December.

“Our numbers are continuing to accelerate nicely. Renaissance has deeper reach within the U.S., and certainly, they also have a wonderful international brand and reach,” Carrera said. “We really look forward to figuring out the magic ways of helping that fuel Nearpod.”

UK Digital Learning Company Acquires Bridge from Instructure. London-based Learning Technologies Group has acquired Bridge from Instructure, according to an announcement.

Bridge is an employee learning, performance, and skills development product, which includes a learning management system as well as performance, engagement, and skills development products, delivered to clients in a software-as-a-service platform.

The acquisition “significantly extends” LTG’s learning and talent offering in the midsize-enterprise market.

Bridge, which brings 800 new customers to LTG, is complementary to the LTG-owned PeopleFluent, which serves large enterprises, as well as BreezyHR, which serves the small and medium-sized business market, LTG said.

“The acquisition extends LTG’s current market coverage, enabling us to meet the needs of customers of all sizes and complexities,” LTG Chief Executive Jonathan Satchell said in a statement.

Labster Raises $60 Million Series C Round. Boston-based Labster, a producer of virtual laboratory simulations for students, has raised $60 million in Series C funding in a round led by Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, according to an announcement.

Existing investors participated in the round, including Owl Ventures, GGV Capital, Balderton Capital, Northzone, Swisscom Ventures, EduCapital, and David Helgason, founder of Unity Technologies.

Labster has now raised $100 million in total capital, and works in collaboration with over 2,000 colleges, universities, and high schools globally.

The company will establish operations in South America this spring “in the next stage of its plan to serve educators and students around the world with virtual lab simulations for hybrid, remote, and in-person learning modalities,” the announcement says.

Labster is also growing its core offerings to meet needs of educators and students who want to continue learning without interruption due to the pandemic, and is exploring additional ways to expand its platform to students who don’t have laptops or broadband. Some students might use mobile devices to access Labster’s virtual lab simulations in the future, the company said.

“One of the biggest questions we asked ourselves throughout 2020 was how we could help improve learning outcomes and dramatically increase the motivation of the many students forced to learn from home,” Michael Bodekaer Jensen, founder and CEO of Labster, said in a statement`. “This round of funding will allow us to accelerate our global expansion and development of new science courses so we can help millions more students.”

Indian Ed-Tech Startup Receives $4.1 Million. Eupheus Learning received $4.1 million in a Series B round led by Kuwaiti holding company United Education Company, according to an article in the publication MoneyControl.

The startup aims to bridge the gap between in-class and at-home learning by offering pedagogically differentiated, technology-led K-12 products and services, according to the article.

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