By guest blogger Kevin Connors
The month of May has seen a waterfall of venture capital activity, but these five companies are making some of the biggest splashes. From personalized schools to do-it-yourself computers, here are your highlights:
AltSchool: San Francisco startup Altschool secured $75 million in equity financing and $25 million in venture debt financing. AltSchool wants to build a “technology-powered educational system” so that it can deliver personalized learning to every student, Founder and CEO Max Ventilla told the Wall St. Journal. The company currently operates four private, brick-and-mortar micro-schools of 80-150 students in San Francisco, but will use the funding to increase enrollment in the city, in addition to opening new schools in Palo Alto and Brooklyn for the 2015-16 school year. Each student at an AltSchool receives a personalized learning plan and an app to direct his or her learning in and out of class, among other personalized and tech-based features. Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund led the round. Emerson Collective and a slew of other investors also participated, including Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, who contributed through their donor-advised fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation. AltSchool previously raised $33 million in venture capital.
Zaption: The video learning company raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by NewSchools Venture Fund, with additional participation from Redcrest Enterprises, Scion Capital, and Telegraph Hill Capitol. This follows $1 million the company received from the U.S. Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research grants. Zaption allows instructors to add text, images, and questions to videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and private libraries. Currently, more than 200,000 users across K-12, higher education, and adult training access the platform, and Zaption expects to double its subscription-based revenue this year. The funding will be used to expand its video learning platform and its U.S. sales and marketing operations for the education and adult training markets.
Explain Everything: New York- and Poland-based Explain Everything netted $2 million in Series A funding. The company says it will use the money to meet demand within the K-12 education market for its “interactive screencasting and whiteboard mobile platform.” The platform provides students and teachers access to an array of features, such as screen recording, animation, and annotation. Over 2 million people have used the $2.99 app across the globe, for purposes ranging from instructional videos to live presentations. The company also said their app is currently installed on about 10 percent of all tablets used in U.S. K-12 schools. Credo Ventures led the round, while RTAventures and private investors also participated.
Kano: Learn-to-code startup Kano raised $15 million in a Series A round led by Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital. The London-based company makes a software platform and do-it-yourself computer kit for Raspberry Pi to help kids learn how to code. Since 2014, Kano has offered 40,000 kits and plans to use the funding to create more software content for its Kano OS, develop add-on hardware kits, and expand its not-for-profit Kano Academy. Kano is also inviting the public to invest in the round, with an additional $500,000 available through a crowdfunding campaign on Quire, according to TechCrunch.
McGraw-Hill Education: Not a venture capital deal, but big news about a major player in the education industry could be on the horizon. One of the largest education publishers in the world, New York-based McGraw-Hill Education, is reportedly planning an initial public offering (IPO) at a potential value of $5 billion. According to Reuters, the company may look to go public near the end of this year, after the back-to-school season, which traditionally nets the publisher the bulk of its revenues through textbook sales. The company’s owner, private equity firm Apollo Global Management, acquired McGraw-Hill Companies for $2.4 billion in 2013 and has since increased the company’s profits and cut costs. A similar report surfaced last year, but did not materialize.
CLARIFICATION: This post originally misstated that Silicon Valley Community Foundation is the donor-advised fund of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. Rather, Zuckerberg and Chan invested in AltSchool through their donor-advised fund at the foundation. SVCF is a community foundation of more than 1,700 advised funds.
For more news on mergers, acquisitions, and venture capital in education, follow Marketplace K-12’s “K-12 Dealmaking” series.