K-12 Dealmaking: STEM Company SAM Labs Raises $8.9 million; China-based Bright Scholar Buys International Schools

Hands-on coding and STEM education company SAM Labs raises $8.9 million for international expansion; Chinese school operator Bright Scholar acquires British international schools network; AI English skills-building company Blue Canoe wins $500,000 from Qualcomm; Chinese company ByteDance leads investment in Minerva Project.

SAM Labs raises $8.9 million from investors. Educational coding and technology company SAM Labs has raised $8.9 million for an international expansion. The hands-on coding company announced today a Series A2 equity funding round to expand the reach of its educational content, software, and hardware.

The new funding will be used to scale operations and sales in the U.S., to add to the company’s international presence and to bring new education products to markets in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, according to a press release

“This latest investment will allow us to bring our STEAM and coding experiences to even more schools and teachers and students in the U.S., which is our largest market, as well as across the globe,” said Joachim Horn, CEO and co-founder of SAM Labs.

The new fundraising round includes social impact and education specialist investors including Partners in Equity, through investor Hans Wackwitz and Inventures Investment Partners through investor Olivier De Duve.

Sam Labs was originally launched with about $160,000, raised on Kickstarter, and has now secured a total of $19.8 million in investments.

The company helps elementary and middle school teachers with non-technical backgrounds deliver STEAM, coding and problem-solving content to students through standards-compliant, ready-to-use teaching kits, using a mix of wireless electronics and game-based apps. The company’s block-based coding products serve students in grades K-8 and include STEAM education for early grades. The company recently released Learn to Code for students in grades 4-8.

Chinese company Bright Scholar acquires British-based international schools network. One of the largest K-12 international school and bilingual school operations group in China is continuing its efforts to expand by purchasing U.K. schools. Bright Scholar announced its purchase of international school network CATS Colleges for  £150 million, or about $192 million.

CATS Colleges is an international school network primarily serving international students on campuses across the United Kingdomthe United StatesCanada and China. It includes seven campuses in CambridgeLondonCanterburyShanghai and Boston, an arts school in Cambridge as well as 10 international languages schools in the United Kingdomthe United States and Canada.

“The acquisition of CATS expands Bright Scholar’s significant presence outside of China as we continue to build a global network of premium schools,” said Jerry He, executive vice chairman of Bright Scholar.

The addition of CATS to the Bright Scholar portfolio “will also set the stage for the accelerating expansion of our overseas school portfolio,” He said.

This purchase follows the trend of continued expansion of the Guangdong-based education company, which bought two other U.K. schools last month, and a third earlier this year. In June, Bright Scholar spent £38 million to purchase St. Michael’s School in Wales and Bosworth Independent College in England.

AI company Blue Canoe wins $500,000 from Qualcomm. Blue Canoe, a Seattle-based business that uses speech recognition and AI to build English speaking skills, has won a $500,000 prize from a competition staged by Qualcomm Ventures.

The prize was awarded through Qualcomm Ventures’ Female Founders Summit, an event designed to highlight startups with at least one female founder. Blue Canoe says its technology uses mobile games and activities, enhanced by machine-learning tech and speech recognition, to help users with English pronunciation. “Clear speech in just 10 minutes a day,” the company says. It works with both businesses and learners, according to its website.

Chinese company ByteDance leads investment in Minerva Project. The Chinese tech giant, which produces the video-sharing app TikTok, has led a $57 million Series C funding round in the Minerva Project, a higher education provider. The Minerva Project says it has now raised a total of $128 million in capital.

The San Francisco-based Minerva Project, founded in 2012, provides tech support and infrastructure for the Minerva Project to the Minerva Schools at KGI, a postsecondary provider.

In addition to announcing its new fundraising, Minerva revealed a number of two new members to its board: Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America; and Zhang Yiming, the founder and CEO of Bytedance.

Minerva said it will use the infusion of capital to “accelerate access to its unparalleled learning experiences through partnerships with universities and corporations.”

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