K-12 Dealmaking: Varsity Tutors Acquires First Tutors; RYB Education Goes Public

Contributing Writer

In this week’s dealmaking news, St. Louis-based Varsity Tutors acquired UK-based First Tutors. In addition, RYB Education, a Chinese early child education provider, announced its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

Varsity Tutors Acquires First Tutors: Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform for private instructors in the United States, has acquired U.K.-based First Tutors. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The new partnership will enable learners in the U.K. and internationally to take advantage of Varsity Tutors’ market-leading technology infrastructure, which includes on-demand online and mobile instruction,” St. Louis-based Varsity said in a statement.

The company noted that the acquisition, effective immediately, marks Varsity Tutors’ first entrance into the international market, “and reinforces the company’s commitment to providing access to expertise in any subject, anywhere, at any time.”

“Expanding our platform globally has always been a priority for us. This partnership is a strategic move as we enter Europe by teaming up with the largest tutoring platform in the market,” said Chuck Cohn, founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors. “With First Tutors, we continue to expand our reach and scale our technology so more students can connect with expert instructors.”

With the acquisition, Varsity Tutors said it plans to operate First Tutors under its current business model for the near term.

“First Tutors is excited to bring premier on-demand online instruction to Europe and beyond,” said Anita Lee, co-founder of First Tutors. “With Varsity Tutors, we will be able to accelerate our efforts to connect students with tutors regardless of location or subject.”

RYB Education Announces IPO: RYB Education, an early childhood education service provider based in Beijing, held its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange last week. It raised $144 million on the 7.8 million American Depository Shares it sold at $18.50 each, according to 24/7 Wall St, and the stock closed the week up 54 percent.

Shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “RYB,” and terms of the offering were detailed in the company’s announcement.

In an email to EdWeek Market Brief, the company called itself the largest early childhood education service provider in China with over 1,000 company-owned and franchised kindergartens and “play-and-learn” centers in the country.

“With the stocks of Chinese education leaders, such as EDU (New Oriental Education & Technology Group) and TAL (TAL Education Group), at record highs, China’s education industry, especially pre-k and k-12 segments, are growing rapidly,” a company spokesperson said. “RYB’s IPO is important because it gives investors an opportunity to participate in the growth created by core government policies and, more importantly, the future of China.”

Workbench Raises $1.7 Million: Baltimore-based ed-tech startup Workbench has raised $1.7 million, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The report noted that investment is part of a $2 million funding round led by Brown Advisory that the company expects to close soon; the new money will bring Workbench’s total funding to $5 million.

Workbench touts itself as “the only online hub where schools and districts deploy project-based learning across all schools, all classes, all students.”

Biba Raises $1.3 Million: Biba, a Vancouver-based developer of playground technology, has raised $1.3 million in funding in a pre-series A round led by Leonite Capital LLC with participation from Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of game company BioWare, and Jason Kapalka, co-founder of PopCap Games.

Biba provides a suite of augmented reality-enhanced mobile games designed to encourage physical activity on the playground, according to the company, which noted, “any playground can be brought to life with a collection of Biba’s augmented reality markers that attach to playground equipment in less than fifteen minutes.” The markers unlock new content within the app that brings the playground to life when scanned on the parent’s smartphone, the company explained.

“The funding will be used to fuel R&D, create more games, and install more Biba playgrounds across the world,” said Matt Toner, CEO of Biba.

Sanako Partners With Eupheus Learning: Sanako, a provider of language labs and language teaching solutions headquartered in Finland, has formed a partnership with New Delhi, India-based Eupheus Learning, according to a statement.

“With Eupheus Learning as our partner, we aim to reach out to as many kids at an early age of learning and provide them with language learning solutions that will help them not only build clear diction and pronunciation but also improve vocabulary, build grammar, and confidence in themselves,” said Vivek Gupta, head of Sanako India.

Remind Appoints Quazzo to Board of Directors: K-12 communications platform Remind has appointed Deborah Quazzo to the company’s Board of Directors, the San Francisco-based company said in a statement.

Quazzo is a managing partner at venture capital firm GSVAcceleration and brings more than 20 years of experience in the education sector to Remind, including a term on the Chicago Board of Education, the company noted.

“We’re excited for Deborah to bring a ground-up perspective along with a thoughtful, high-level view of the sector,” said Remind CEO Brian Grey. “Her background as an investor and adviser in education will be invaluable as Remind continues to gain traction in schools and districts.”

Remind, which is currently used in over 90 percent of public school districts in the United States, introduced a paid product for schools and districts earlier this year. “I’ve been very impressed by how Remind has leveraged the network effects of K-12 penetration into a district sales model,” Quazzo said. “But I was also delighted to see the passion that educators have for the product. It’s an offering that makes a teacher’s day more efficient, streamlines their communication, and provides more instructional time—that’s an important impact.”

Be sure to check back on Marketplace K-12 for updates on mergers, acquisitions, fundraising, and other dealmaking.

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