The giant education company Pearson is launching a new investment fund that will focus on lifelong learning, as well as emerging technology in assessment, artificial intelligence, and other areas.
Pearson says the new fund, called Pearson Ventures, will focus primarily on backing early-stage startups through Series A and B funding rounds, in partnership with venture capital firms and accelerator programs.
The company’s role in the K-12 space is a state of major flux. Pearson recently announced the sale of its instructional materials division in the United States, though it remains active in other areas of the market, including school assessment, the operation of virtual schools, and career-and-technical education.
K-12 is not the focus of the new fund, Owen Henkel, the investment director of Pearson Ventures, told EdWeek Market Brief in an e-mail. Pearson will instead be putting money into three main areas:
- Technology capability, including AI, augmented virtual reality, and remote proctoring;
- “Strategic alignment,” including lifelong learning, employability, and next-generation assessment; and
- Social impact, in the form of higher education access, upskilling, and emerging markets.
Initially, Pearson will devote $50 million over three years to the fund.
“Whether it is a student seeking help with math homework, or an adult seeking a master’s degree, we know learners need education that is convenient, flexible and life changing,” Jonathan Chocqueel-Mangan, the chief strategy officer at Pearson, said in a statement. “We also know education will look different in the future, so finding new business models, incorporating emerging technologies into our products and seeking new partners for collaboration is becoming more important than ever.”
It’s not the first time Pearson has overseen an investment vehicle. The company had previously launched the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund in 2012. That fund was focused on supporting education companies in emerging markets. Pearson ended up putting $20 million into that fund, distributed across 10 different investments.
Responsibility for managing the affordable learning fund will now be transferred to Pearson Ventures, the company said.
Henkel said that Pearson’s sale of its courseware business was part of a broader effort to become a “simpler and more efficient company” and focus on high-growth areas and the company’s digital transformation. The company remains interested in the broader U.S. market, in assessment, career-focused study, and other areas. The creation of Pearson Ventures, he said, supports that new focus.
In addition to the financial backing it will offer fledgling companies, Pearson will also connect them with the company’s personnel and resources. It will connect its investment companies will experts in content, product design, and business development, and advice them on geographic strategy. In many cases, the investment companies will have a Pearson advocate as a “touch point” and have other opportunities to connect with Pearson’s team.
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