K-12 Dealmaking: Blackboard Competitor Desire2Learn Raises $85M

By guest blogger Kevin Connors

Desire2Learn is a Canadian-based provider of learning management systems that didn’t raise a single dollar of venture capital from 1999-2011. 

But then, in 2012, the company took its online learning platform and international expansion plan to investors. They broke records doing so, raising $80 million in Series A funding, the largest ever venture capital investment in a Canadian software company (this record has since been broken by another operation). Now, two years later, the company has secured another $85 million in a recent Series B round, bringing its total outside investment to $165 million.


According to a statement from the company, the round was led by an unnamed “large institutional asset manager,” along with investments from Aurion Capital, Columbus Nova Technology Partners, Four Rivers Group, Graham Holdings, and existing investors New Enterprise Associates and OMERS Ventures.

This latest round comes after a year of record growth in the K-12, higher education, and corporate markets for the company, as well as office-openings in Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. Today, Desire2Learn serves 1,100 institutions and 15 million learners worldwide, increases of nearly 30 percent and 50 percent, respectively, from a year ago.

After the Series A round in 2012, the company followed an acquisition-based growth plan, buying four companies in 15 months. This time, however, Desire2Learn, which re-branded its learning platform to “BrightSpace” in July, plans to expand its workforce of 783 and place a particular emphasis on research and development and continued international growth.

Desire2Learn is not the only LMS provider in the market that is growing, though. Its chief competitor, Blackboard, has hired more than 500 employees the last 12 months, in addition to making three acquisitions this year.

For more news on mergers, acquisitions, and venture capital in education, follow Marketplace K-12’s “K-12 Dealmaking” series. 

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