Venture Capital Roundup: Three Ed-Tech Deals and a $1.5B Acquisition

By guest blogger Kevin Connors

Uber-prospect Kris Bryant is making his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs today, so this sad Cubs fan finally has something to celebrate. And five ed-tech companies have reason to celebrate today, too. From 12-week coding courses to LinkedIn’s entrance into the education market, here are your recent venture capital highlights:

Flatiron: The demand for a computer science education has never been higher, and the Flatiron School hopes to become the leader in training future coders. The company offers a 12-week course designed to teach anybody, young or old, how to code well enough so that they can actually work as programmers upon completion of the program.

In fact, Flatiron says that 99 percent of its students are hired into technology roles at major companies like Google, Intel, and The New York Times upon graduation. The company is also working with K-12 schools to offer afterschool programs, license out the curriculum, and train teachers so that they can teach coding classes in their own schools. The company raised $9 million in a Series B round led by Thrive Capital. Last year the company also raised $5.5 million in Series A funding, according to CrunchBase.

Nearpod: The company raised $5.6 million in an undisclosed Series A round led by Rothenberg Ventures and Reach Capital, the for-profit arm of NewSchools Venture Fund. Founded in 2012, Nearpod offers a tool that allows teachers to create digital lesson plans and presentations, as well as other tools like quizzes, polls, and assignments. This content can then be shared with other teachers and students. The app is free to use, but a premium version is available that allows more detailed tracking and reporting.

The company says that nearly 2 million students use the app every month and that over 1,000 schools have already contracted with the company. Nearpod was also one of the tools piloted and studied in San Francisco Unified School District after donated 1,500 iPads and $2.7 million to the system in 2013.

RefME: Creating a list of citations after completing a long research paper, whether the author is a high schooler or a PhD candidate, can be tedious, time-consuming, and can lead to potential inaccuracies. That’s where RefME comes in, a barcode scanning app that accelerates the process of creating citations, reference lists, and bibliographies.

The company just announced a $5 million seed round led by GEMS Global. The London-based startup, which is focused on providing both a user-friendly and accurate citation tool, says it will invest the funds in its engineering and data teams and scale its services across the globe. Since it launched its free service in January, the company says it has added 10,000 new users each day, bringing its current total to 800,000 registered users. Check out TechCrunch’s story on RefME for a more detailed look at the company.

LinkedIn & This agreement doesn’t involve venture capital, and it’s not even focused primarily on K-12, but I figured it’s worth a mention because it’s a mega-deal between two big names. Last week, the social networking site LinkedIn announced that it purchased, the online learning company, for $1.5 billion. 52 percent of the deal will be a cash payout and 48 percent will be in stock. According to a statement from the companies, most employees will join LinkedIn.

Though LinkedIn hasn’t publicly said how it will incorporate’s expansive library of video and training content, head of content product Ryan Rolansky wrote in a blog post, “Imagine being a job seeker and being able to instantly know what skills are needed for the available jobs in a desired city, like Denver, and then to be prompted to take the relevant and accredited course to help you acquire this skill.” So maybe that gives us some clues for how this will play out. 

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

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