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The EdTech Episode #11

Dear readers,

Over the last month:

- Peter Sahui
Market News
Huron, the American Council of Education, and Georgia Tech have released a report about how universities perceive, and respond to, their competitive threats. The report is based on surveying 495 leaders at US higher educational institutions. Notable findings include:
  • Leaders generally perceive existing competitors as the main threat;
  • Leaders are fairly confident in their ability to increase their non-traditional student population but less confident about external forces such as public confidence in HE and the effect of geopolitical uncertainty on international students; and
  • Popular ways to respond to increased competition include revamping program portfolios, expanding online offerings, and improving student services and technology. By contrast, cutting costs to lower/maintain tuition was at the bottom.

The National Council of Vocational Education Research (NCVER) in Australia has released a research report on online delivery in the vocational sector. The report found that while completion rates are lower for courses delivered wholly online, employment outcomes were at least as good when compared to other delivery modes.

Inside Higher Ed and Gallup released the results of a
survey of US faculty attitudes of technology. Opinions on online education remain divided - those who have taught online are more positive on the medium than those who haven't.
Company/Institution News
Eduspaze, an accelerator for EdTech startups, has launched in Singapore with the backing of Enterprise Singapore. Participating early-stage companies will take part in a 100-day programme and receive up to S$500K (about US$368K) in seed funding. Applications for its inaugural cohort close 20 December 2019.

Udacity has announced 100K scholarships for low-income Americans to take introductory courses on its platform between 2020 - 2024.  The top 10K students will earn a scholarship to one of Udacity's Nanodegree programs.

Youdao, the education arm of Chinese tech company Netease, has raised US$220M in a US IPO and private placement.

Kenzie Academy, a US coding bootcamp, has raised US$100M in debt to be used to finance student tuition. This follows a recent equity raise by the company.

Grammarly has
raised a US$90M round, valuing the company at over US$1B. General Catalyst led.

Codemao, a China-based provider of online programming education for children, has raised a US$57M Series C round. The Russia-China Investment Fund led.

Docebo, a provider of corporate LMS software,
has raised C$75M (about US$56M) in an IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Hetao 101, a China-based provider of online programming education for children,
has raised a US$50M Series B round. Hillhouse Capital and China Renaissance led.

Crimson Education, a New Zealand-based admissions consulting business,
has raised a US$20M round (paywall). Chow Tai Fook Education Group and Solborn Investment took part. 

Mathpresso, the Korea-based developer of a maths Q&A app,
has raised a US$14.5M Series B round. Legend Capital, InterVest, NP Investments, and Mirae Asset Venture Investment led.

Winnie, a childcare and preschool discovery platform, has
raised a US$9M Series A round. Rethink Impact led.

GradeUp, an India-based provider of live online test prep courses,
has raised a US$7M Series A round from Times Internet.

Verto Education, a US provider of "gap year" programs for credit,
has raised US$6.1M, according to an SEC filing.

OpenLearning, the Australia-based MOOC platform, is
reportedly planning (paywall) to raise A$6M (about US$4M) in an IPO.

SHL, an HR tech provider, has agreed to acquire Aspiring Minds, which provides assessment and interview software. The deal was reported to be US$80M-US$100M.

Powerschool, a K-12 EdTech company,
has agreed to acquire Schoology, a K-12 LMS provider.

Renaissance Learning, a preK-12 EdTech company, has acquired
Schoolzilla, which provides tools to integrate student data.

Nazara Technologies, a mobile game publisher,
has acquired Paper Boat Apps, the Mumbai-based developer of a pre-K edutainment app.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a non-profit,
has acquired EdSurge, a US publisher of EdTech news.
New Funds

No new EdTech funds have been raised since our last newsletter.
Final Thoughts

Literature is beginning to emerge on how organisations can take advantage of AI technology - see, for instance, Andrew Ng's AI Transformation Playbook and this recent report from the MIT Sloan Management Review and BCG. What lessons can we draw?

Several themes stood out for me: AI initiatives should be aligned to strategy and broader digital initiatives. It's important to build internal AI capability - and to train executives and managers in what can be accomplished using AI. Depth (from the C-suite down) and breadth (across BUs) of buy-in matter. The process is often iterative, as domain experts provide feedback to fine-tune the AI.

Running through these is another theme - taking advantage of technology requires human and organisational investment as well. It's a message, I think, that is particularly relevant for our sector - both when we implement EdTech, and when we provide the skills that society needs.
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