On the Ed - Alpha

On the Ed – Alpha – 007 Around the EdTech World in 75 Minutes

This week Chris and I talk edtech news and investment with Dublin-based investor Alan Maguire from Versari Partners.

As always we start the show with our newsflash and give you an overview of this week’s funding stories and other news we think are of interest to have a closer look at. You find all the links to the stories at the end of this post.

Our first story then is the news announced by the European Union to push forward and make Europe a skill-based society with the help of its Startup Europe MOOC initiative. Also happening in Europe for the second this june is EdTech Europe, a conference for education investors. EdTech Europe announced their partnership sxswedu this week, and as both Alan and I attended the conference last year we discuss where the positive implications for the European edtech startup ecosystem might be.

As Versari launched the Versari Hub just two weeks ago, we discuss a bit what the Griffin Accelerator in Canberra wants to help their startups achieve.

We had important announcements this week from big MOOC providers Coursera and edX, both adding senior executives to their board. As Chris points out, it is interesting that they take two very different directions: Richard C. Levin comes from Academia and was the president of Harvard for 20 years whereas Wendy Cebula has a background in sales and was the COO of Vistaprint.

Interestingly, another MOOC platform and LMS (or VLE for our European viewers) from the US makes its entry in the European market. Instructure Canvas, Chris has long been a fan, opened an office in London and, of course, I have to ask Alan whether this is good news for the ecosystem or does it mean more competition, also for his portfolio companies.

Alan thinks HourlyNerd might have the potential to become a very profitable business and explains why he thinks so. Related to this story is also Codementor that raised Angel investment for their micro-consulting services platform.

Chris loves Pley’s idea that let’s you rent Lego sets (and soon toys in general). I have a feeling what their recent funding round and idea to come to Europe could mean for their European competitors.

The discussion moves on to the Indian education startup ecosystem. Chris has some first-hand impressions as he worked for Indian edtech startup WizIQ for some 18 months. As we have an investor as our guest, I want to know from Alan how would enter the Indian scene and if Versari Partners are interested in investing there at all.

We finish up by talking more in detail about the growing vertical of health and patient education.


Pley raises $6.75 million Venture Round

PleyPley, a rental service for LEGO sets raised a $6.75 million venture round led by Allegro Venture Partners, valuing the startup at $20 million.

Since launching in May 2013 Pley has shipped over 75.000 sets to 15.000 families who return the sets in days on average.

Codementor raises $600k Seed Round

CodementorCodementor, a platform that connects developers or people who learn to code with experts, raised a $600k Seed Round from a group of angel investors.

In an interview with TechCrunch founder Weiting Liu states that micro-consulting services and on-demand help is going to be a billion dollar industry, taking Google Helpouts and Amazon’s Mayday feature in the Kindle Fire tablet as examples for big players having entered the space early on.

Skyfi Labs raises Venture Round

Skyfi LabsSkyfi Labs, a Bangalore-based edtech startup targeting engineering students with products and services, raised an undisclosed amount from Spark Capital and Chennai Angels.

Skyfi Labs aims to turn “textbook geniuses” into employable engineers by giving them access to practical, hands-on training on- and offline. According to The Hindu BusinessLine over one million engineers graduate in India every year, yet according to Mckinsey only 25% of those graduates are employable.

Clever confirms $10.3 million Series A

CleverClever, a startup that provides schools with an API to connect existing LMSs with new edtech products, raised a $10.3 million Series A led by Sequoia Capital.

Through Clever, administrators can automate time consuming tasks like creating student accounts, therefore making it easy to integrate new learning products into the school’s existing learning management system.

WelVU raises $1.25 million Seed Round

WelVUWelVU, a startup that creates personalized presentations for patient education, announced that it raised a $1.25 million Seed Round.

WelVU’s platform that launched earlier this month combines medical illustrations, spoken explanations from a healthcare provider and the patient’s personal clinical data. Based on this WelVU creates a multimedia educational experience for the patient to reference after they have left the exam room or hospital.

TakeLessons raises $7 million Venture Round

TakeLessonsTakeLessons, a San Diego-based online marketplace for private lessons, raised a $7 million Venture Round led by Lightbank.

The new funding will be used to further develop the cloud based solutions TakeLessons is offering to tutors as well as to expand into new verticals like language instruction.

Everest Edusys raises $924k Series A

Everest EdusysEverest Edusys, a Chennai-based edtech startup that provides schools with interactive learning centers for science education, raised a $942k Series A led by Lok Capital with participation of Chennai Angels.

Everest Edusys’ flagship product Quest Explore Discover (QED) is a mobile interactive exhibit center that teaches students in K-12 science principles in a hands-on way through experiments and other activities.

HourlyNerd raises $4 million Series A

HourlyNerdHourlyNerd, an online marketplace that connects MBA alumni and students with small businesses for consulting work, raised a $4 million Series A from Highland Capital Partners and Greylock Partners.

Since its launch in 2013 at Harvard Business School, HourlyNerd has connected more than 4000 MBAs with more than 2500 companies.

GradeStack receives Seed Funding

GradeStackIndian mobile education startup GradeStack has received an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Times Internet Limited.

GradeStack is a marketplace for mobile friendly courses. Launched in 2013, the startup currently offers more than 30 courses via its Android app and the web, adding about 8-10 new courses per month. An iOS application is planned for release in April.

Mergers & Acquisitions

XanEdu and SharedBook to Merge

XanEdu, a full-service provider of custom course materials and SharedBook, creator of self-service platform AcademicPub, agreed to merge the two companies.

The new company will operate under the XanEdu brand, DeBoer will remain CEO. SharedBook CEO Caroline Vanderlip will join the board of directors.

Other News

Former Yale president joins Coursera as CEO

Coursera blocks StudentsCoursera announced today that former Yale president Richard C. Levin will join the MOOC provider as CEO in mid-April.

Current CEO and Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller will become president, while co-founder Andrew Ng will assume the roles of chairman of the board and Chief Evangelist.

edX hires former Vistaprint executive as President and COO

edXedX announced today that Wendy Cebula, formerly COO at Vistaprint, will join the MOOC provider as president and COO. Founder and current president Anant Agarwal will become CEO of edX.

Cebula will assume the day-to-day operation of edX while Agarwal will focus on the strategic direction, growth and partnerships.

Instructure Canvas enters Europe and Harvard

Instructure Canvas VLEInstructure announced that it opened an office in London, bringing the Canvas LMS to the UK. The local team is already working together with the University of Birmingham, Henley Business School, Condè Nast College of Fashion & Design and Wolsey Hall Oxford.

Earlier this week Harvard announced that it will replace its in-house developed LMS iSites with Canvas by the 2016-17 academic year.

GRIFFIN Accelerator launches in Canberra

GRIFFIN Accelerator CanberraThe accelerator is focused on startups who create scalable products and services for the government, particularly in the verticals of government software, government services, defence, education and health.

GRIFFIN Accelerator is being run in collaboration with Ignition Labs, an accelerator program in ATP Innovations Sydney and the product of collaboration between several of Canberra’s innovation-led institutions.

EdTech Europe and SXSWedu partner

EdTech EuropeEdTech Europe that will host their second conference on June 12th in London, announced a partnership with SXSWedu. Selected participants from this year’s SXSWedu which took place in Austin earlier this month will be invited to present their products and services at EdTech Europe.

In return participants in this year’s EdTech 20 will be considered for application to future SXSW LAUNCHedu competitions. Ron Reed, SXSWedu Executive Producer also joins the panel which selects this year’s EdTech 20 competitors.

Startup Europe: EU Commission wants to foster Web Talent through MOOCs

Startup EuropeAs part of its Startup Europe initiative, the European Commission announced the launch of a network of MOOC providers to foster regional web and app skills.

The network aims to map the demand for web-related skills across Europe and to promote the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for capacity-building in those fields.

Kay Alexander is the co-founder and creative director of EDUKWEST. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+