K-12 Dealmaking: Wonderschool, Frank, eSafe Raise Funds

Contributing Writer

Companies focused on pre-K to college education raised new funding recently, including a provider of early childhood programs, a startup that helps students secure college loans, and a UK-based company that helps schools monitor online activity.

Also this month, technology investor Silver Lake purchased a majority stake in Weld North, an ed-tech company focused on developing digital curriculum and tools for pre-K-12, from prior majority owner KKR & Co. Read more about the acquisition in EdWeek Market Brief.

Wonderschool Raises $2.1 Million: Wonderschool, a network of boutique early childhood programs, has raised $2.1 million in new funding from Omidyar Network, Be Curious Partners, Rethink Education, Edelweiss Partners, and Learn Capital.

The funding allows Wonderschool to expand in New York and continue to grow in the greater Bay and Los Angeles areas, the company said in a statement on The PE Hub Network.

Wonderschool’s platform aims to help experienced educators and child care providers start and run their own in-home businesses “while providing a much-needed and more affordable service to families in their communities,” the company said.

“By using Wonderschool’s technology platform, early learning educators get to focus on what they are best at, which is caring for and teaching young children,” said Isabelle Hau, U.S. education lead at Omidyar Network.

Last year, the company raised $2 million in a seed round of financing led by First Round Capital. Currently, Wonderschool has partnered with 16 programs in Greater New York City and plans to expand to 150 partner programs by the end of 2018.

Student Loan Startup Frank Raises $10 Million: New York City-based Frank, a startup that aims to assist students with securing financial aid for college, has raised a $10 million Series A round from RWN, Reach Capital, and Aleph, according to Crunchbase News.

The company has raised a total of $15.5 million in funding after initially raising $5.5 million in a seed-stage round last March, Crunchbase noted.

“By creating an online platform designed to fix FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, we have eliminated layers of bureaucracy, opportunity for mistakes, and hours of headache and heartache,” according to the company website.

eSafe Global Raises $2.6 Million: eSafe, a UK-based company that monitors online user behavior and cyberbullying within schools and colleges, has raised $2.6 million from private equity and alternative asset manager Maven Capital Partners, also based in the UK, according to an announcement on Maven’s website.

“The funding will enable eSafe to take advantage of wider market opportunities which have arisen as a result of increased legislative, regulatory and political pressures to incorporate improved safeguarding monitoring systems within the education sector,” Maven noted in the statement. “The new investment will also support the expansion of eSafe’s sales, marketing and operational teams at its Salford headquarters, along with further development of its innovative service and technology platforms.”

“With the continued support from Maven, we aim to build upon the market’s acceptance and appreciation of eSafe’s unique approach to behavior monitoring and to reinforce eSafe as the leading service provider in this field,” said Mark Donkersley, CEO of eSafe.

Knowledge First Financial Acquires Heritage Education Funds: Knowledge First Financial, a Canadian provider of education savings plans, has acquired Toronto-based Heritage Education Funds, according to a statement. The two companies will create the largest Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) provider in Canada with approximately $6.2 billion in assets under management.

Knowledge First, which administers $3.72 billion in assets, is owned by a not-for-profit foundation, while Heritage, which has $2.5 billion in assets under management, is privately held.

“We believe the combined size and scale of these two organizations will enable us to meet a growing need for RESP specialists who are dedicated to helping families maximize their education savings,” said George Hopkinson, president and CEO, of Mississauga, Ontario-based Knowledge First.

The Heritage Plans will continue to be distributed and managed as they are today, the companies noted. The combined business will operate under the name Knowledge First Financial Inc., which will continue to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Knowledge First Foundation.

Blending Education Partners With OpenStax: Blending Education, a provider of microlearning libraries and content-driven digital education services, has formed a partnership with OpenStax, a Rice University-based nonprofit organization that aims to make education more accessible for students and provide greater access to quality, cost-effective course materials and advanced digital solutions.

The new partnership “will open up opportunities for all schools, colleges, and universities to benefit from the microlearning and blended learning services we provide,” said Ian F Simpson, co-founder of Blending Education, in a statement.

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

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