This Friday Kirsten and Chris welcomed Katrina Stevens on the show. Katrina is an educator with of 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator. She has worked in the district offices of Baltimore County Public Schools and is also a consultant and EdSurge’s summit coordinator.
Capture Education has raised a $1.2 million Angel Round for the company’s ScheduleSmart software. The round was led by North Coast Angel Fund and Ohio Business Angels with participation of Dublin-based Fast Switch Ltd and individual investors.
The funding will be used to hire programmers, and relocate into new offices.
Vancouver-based MediaCore announced that it has partnered with Pearson to expand the use of video in online courses.
Founded in 2010, MediaCore raised over $1 million in Seed Funding and works together with universities, Fortune 500 companies and smaller organisations reaching millions of learners worldwide.
During the annual Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, the company announced some interesting partnerships alongside a keynote by Anthony Salcito, vice president, Worldwide Education at Microsoft that emphasized the value of student privacy.
“Privacy concerns are holding educators back from making the most of modern technology and preparing students to succeed in today’s workplace. At the same time, many solutions being used in the classroom are unintentionally putting student data at risk.
This week’s episode of On the Ed started twice as we had some trouble (as so often) with the Google Hangout on Air. But hey, that’s why we are still in alpha. So this time you don’t get one hour of edtech punditry but a more condensed version with the two Kirsten’s of edtech in Europe, as Kirsten Campbell-Howes put it.
— KirstenCampbellHowes (@campbellhowes) February 14, 2014
Chris could not join us this week as he is busy with the launch of a new startup. I am sure he will share some updates on that next week. Below you find the stories Kirsten and I talked about in the show plus some extra news items we did not have the time to cover.
Grockit brand and technology sold to Kaplan, team rebrands to Learnist
The writing was somewhat on the wall for a while as Farbood Nivi, founder and CEO of Grockit made clear that the focus of the team had shifted from the test prep platform towards their new product Learnist. Farb and I talked about this in January during our EDUKWEST interview.
Back then he stated that though Grockit was still a very good business he felt that he and the team had achieved pretty much achieved they could do with the startup and that Learnist was far more exciting and had a big potential as a key player in the lifelong learning space. I also imagine it to be pretty difficult to have two totally different products under one roof, as Learnist up to the deal with Kaplan was basically just a product within Grockit, not a startup of its own.
The acquisition of the Grockit brand and technology by Kaplan and the rebranding of the team to Learnist once again shows that Farb is one of the smartest founders in edtech today. It’s a win-win for all sides involved. Kaplan gets a great brand, product and potentially nice group of customers, Farb and the team can now go all in with Learnist with some extra cash in the warchest. Though the details of the deal have not been made public, Farb told AllThingsD that
“Selling Grockit gives us considerable runway without any dilution of shares.”
The interesting part now is whether Kaplan will be able to integrate Grockit into its business and build on the brand. I don’t know how much about the strategy is out there already, but I can say that the “product owner” of Grockit is going to be a familiar face to the EDUKWEST audience. As soon as he has settled into the new role, we are going to have him back for a talk.
Voxy raises $8.5 million from Pearson and Rethink Education
If people ask me about interesting companies in the mobile education space, Voxy is definitely among the names I mention. Paul Gollash and his team have built one of the best mobile experiences in the language learning space, leveraging technology and content in a way that actually make sense.
If you want to know how it all started, I did an interview with Paul just after his first appearance at TechCrunch50.
The latest Series B round led by Pearson brings the total funding to $16.5 million according to CrunchBase. Pearson is planning to integrate Voxy’s technology into its own products for English learners across the globe.
Which leaves us with two questions.
1. Are mobile learning startups FNACs (feature, not a company)?
2. When is Pearson going to acquire Voxy?
To the first question, right now there are not many examples of startups in the mobile space that have managed to create a huge company compared to classic web based companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google etc. Sure, the future is mobile, no doubt about it, but if you take a look at Instagram which built up a huge audience you also see that it ended up as being a part (feature) of Facebook. Vine and Twitter is another example and Rovio is probably the only startup at the moment that made an impact comparable to web startups.
So there is the question if Voxy (or any other mobile first learning startup) is going to be big enough to stand on their own or whether they all end up being part of an established player that has a larger footprint throughout different verticals like publishing, physical schools etc.
Which takes us to the second question. Investing in a startup to later acquire it is a strategy we have seen quite often with Pearson. I would say depending on the acceptance of Voxy among the Pearson audience and the general performance I give Voxy a maximum of three years as an independent startup.
Hoot.Me joins Civitas Learning
I learned about this “acquihire” through a LinkedIn update by Hoot.me founder Michael Koetting who now is product manager at Civitas Learning. There are no terms disclosed but Michael told me via email that
Hoot.Me is now part of Civitas Learning and will continue to be fully supported.
Michael and his co-founders created Hoot.Me after they were not able to get answers to difficult questions in their massive college seminar classes. Over the years more than a million interactions took place on the platform and as more and more colleges and universities jump on the MOOC bandwagon, real interactions with real people could be a key success factor for many students.
Civitas Learning just raised $8.5 million in June for its data driven platform that aims to reduce dropout rates through predictive technology.
The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund and Village Capital are currently looking for up to 16 Indian edupreneurs who would like to participate in a 12 week incubator program from September to November 2013.
The aim of the incubator program is to help those education entrepreneurs build their business and to improve their investability.
As in every incubator program the teams will get access to in-person and remote training by experts and mentors. Each month there is going to be a 3-4 days conference style workshop supplemented with webinars and other online communication. The first two workshops focus on the team and business model, the final workshop is going to deal with the financial aspects around fund raising.
The twist is that after each workshop the teams have to pitch and rate each others performance after six criteria:
- Customer discovery/development
- Product refinement
- Scaling and impact
- Exit strategy
After the final ranking on the Investors’ Demo Day, the top two startups are going to receive up to $75k each. Pearson Affordable Learning Fund provides $100k, Village Capital $50k.
Of course, the projects pitched should fit the general theme of providing children of low-income families with good education opportunities.
“We are thrilled to bring this programme to entrepreneurs striving to develop businesses that enhance outcomes and access for low-income learners in India. We’ve seen a lack of early support and risk capital in the low-cost education space and we are pleased to take the lead in creating a robust ecosystem for impact-oriented edupreneurs and incubate innovative models of education to dramatically improve learning at scale.”
says Katelyn Donnelly, Executive Director at Pearson Affordable Learning Fund.
Unfortunately, this program has some barriers that might single out promising edupreneurs from the start. First of all, applicants need to cover the travel expenses for at least one team member as every workshop is going to take place in another Indian city, namely Hyderabad, Delhi and Bangalore. On top of that they also need to pay a $250 nominal program fee.
Other points include that non-funded startups are preferred (more equity for Pearson and Village Capital), plans to raise at least $500k in the next two years and only for-profit concepts are eligible for seed funding.
Applications to the incubator program are open until mid-August. The selected startups and winners are going to be announced end of November.
In this episode of review:ed Chris and Kirsten talk about the big stories in 2012 and give their predictions on how the edtech space might evolve in 2013.
Of course they talk about MOOCs and anti-MOOCs, Pearson, funding, the edtech bubble, textbooks, the flipped classroom, Khan, crowdfunding and much more.
Course Hero acquires Cardinal Scholars from InstaEDU
After pivoting into an online tutoring service, InstaEDU sold its offline branch Cardinal Scholars to another startup in the education space, Course Hero. This way InstaEDU will be able to entirely focus on the growth of its online services whereas Course Hero can integrate a trusted and apparently working business into its offerings.
Wallstreet Institute launches Facebook Game
Pearson owned Wallstreet Institute launched AppGrade, a Facebook game that aims to teach English through adapted articles of the Financial Times. The game is part of WSIs product suite ForToday which includes learning material based on Financial Times articles, classes that are based on these articles and a free access to FT.com.
UK plans free access to scientific research by 2014
The government plans to give free access to publicly funded research via the Internet. This access will be granted to universities, companies and individuals no matter where they are located. Though academics are open to this new model, they are concerned that no money will be given to finance the transition. The cost is estimated at £50m per year which need to come out of the existing science budget, eventually leading to less research and hence less valuable papers.
via The Guardian
Coursera raises $6m and adds new universities
The new funding round brings the total raised to $22m. Among the new universities is the first non-US partners with the University of Edinburgh, University of Toronto and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. In an interview with GigaOm Andrew Ng gave some hints on how the startup is planning to monetize its platform. According to the article possible revenue could be earned by matching students with potential employers or charging students for certificates from partner universities.
German Papagei.TV enters the language learning space
A new startup in the edutainment sector enters the market with a undisclosed “two-digit” million funding by Carsten Maschmeyer, one of Germany’s richest people. From the start Papagei.TV is offering desktop, tablet and mobile learning solutions based on movie and entertainment clips from Warner Bros., Reuters and the BBC. The platform is also the official language learning tool of Germany’s Olympic team.
Similar to startups like English Attack! or English Central, learners watch movie clips or other videos and then interact with the content by taking quizzes, checking pronunciation etc.
President Obama proposes $1b for elite STEM teacher corps
The program plans to reward high performing teachers in math and science with salary stipends and is part of a long term plan to encourage education in high-demand areas.
Teachers who take part in the Master Teacher Corps will earn an extra $20k per year but must also agree to participate for multiple years. The hope is that those master teachers will eventually share their skills with other teachers around them, raising the overall quality education in the schools.
Edmodo raises another $25m
The new round brings the total funding to $47.5m and the funding will be used to enhance Edmodo’s products and to support its users. In the past year Edmodo’s userbase more than doubled from 3 to 8 million users and the platform is now being used in 85 of the 100 top US school districts.
WizIQ launches iPad App
WizIQ announced last week the launch of its iPad app for its virtual classroom. The app enables students to attend live classes and asynchronous content like presentations and videos from their iPad. An Android application will follow, soon.