McGraw-Hill Education Area9

HEDLINE: McGraw-Hill Education acquires Area9, appoints David Levin as new CEO


McGraw-Hill Education announced the acquisition of an 80% equity stake in Danish adaptive learning startup Area9. McGraw-Hill had already purchased a 20% equity stake in January 2013. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Area9 is the company behind McGraw-Hill Education’s adaptive learning platform called LearnSmart. In 2013 the product has surpassed 3 million users since its launch in 2009, 1.5 million new users were added in 2013 alone. Since the launch of LearnSmart 2 billion questions have been answered by students using the product.

From the press release

“The new McGraw-Hill Education is passionate about reimagining learning, and we believe that delivering personalized experiences through adaptive technology is a key ingredient to teaching and learning success,” said Buzz Waterhouse, president and CEO of McGraw-Hill Education.

“Area9 has been instrumental to our success in becoming the leader in adaptive learning. This acquisition will allow us to accelerate our development of integrated teaching and learning experiences that help generate results for students and instructors – and which we see as a central element in the future of education in the U.S. and across the world.”

McGraw-Hill Education also announced the appointment of David Levin as new CEO.

From the press release

Mr. Levin, 51, is currently the chief executive of UBM, a multinational media company headquartered in London, and brings a wealth of experience in leading public and private companies in the fields of media and technology.

He will be based in New York City and succeed Lloyd G. “Buzz” Waterhouse, who joined McGraw-Hill Education as its president and CEO in June 2012 and who recently announced his retirement. Mr. Waterhouse will remain with the company until Mr. Levin begins his tenure in April 2014 and will remain on the company’s board of directors after he steps down as CEO.

Take Away

McGraw-Hill Education is spreading heavily into the personalized and adaptive learning vertical. In June 2013 the company acquired ALEKS Corporation. ALEKS uses research-based, artificial intelligence to rapidly and precisely determine each student’s knowledge state, pinpointing exactly what a student knows and doesn’t know.

Just this week McGraw-Hill Education acquired Engrade. Launched in 2003 Engrade is a developer of an open digital platform for K-12 education that unifies the data, curriculum and tools that educators use every day to drive student achievement and inform district educational strategy.

It is obvious that McGraw-Hill Education sees the future of its business not in the textbook but the SaaS vertical, especially in providing K-12 and higher education institutions with adaptive learning platforms and other products.


I had the chance to interview Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen, founder and CEO of Area9 shortly after the startup had received its first strategic investment by McGraw-Hill Education last year.

I also discussed McGraw-Hill Education’s new strategy and direction in a segment of our new EDUKWEST show “On the Ed” with Richard Taylor and Christopher Dawson today. Starts at 46 minutes into the show.

Further Reading


Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at