As cross-dressing sensation Conchita Wurst belted out her Eurovision Song Contest-winning tune across a room filled with Europe’s hottest tech start-ups, I knew it could only mean one thing: the Europas annual awards evening had officially begun. From Berlin came Babbel, who have become one of the world’s leading language learning platforms. Used in 190 countries, with over 25 million app downloads to date, they swept to victory in the education category in exuberant style. However Busuu, Babbel’s nearest rival both in market and geography, reached a staggering 50m users this year, proving that Europe has truly emerged as the home of social language learning.
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 second half of the day started with a keynote of Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari and now working on a new startup in education, Brainrush. His keynote stirred up some discussion on Twitter as he anticipated. At the beginning he noted that “If I don’t piss of half of the audience, I am not pushing hard enough”. Below you can find a collection of quotes from the keynote we shared via Twitter.
The keynote and product demo of Brainrush was then followed by a Q&A with Jason and the audience.
Brainrush | @NolanBushnell | brainrush.com
Brainrush takes the approach of spaced repetition in combination with playing little games to quickly learn information. The website showcases different sample lessons ranging from geography to learning animal names in Spanish. According to the founder, Nolan Bushnell, kids learn 10 times faster with Brainrush.
GradeCam | @GradeCam | gradecam.com
GradeCam was very well-received from both judges and audience. The startup allows teachers to grade assignments with any document camera or webcam, no special tools needed. GradeCam then also lets users import the data easily into the LMS they use. An iPad app is in the making. GradeCam currently offer a version for free to try it out! Gave them some probs for the simplicity of their product in my post for Edcetera this week.
Testive | @testive | testive.com
Testive does preparation for the SAT. The startup claims to be able to predict your SAT test score in about 15 questions. The other part of the product is to improve scores. Testive predicts outcomes 3x faster and automatically generates strengths and weaknesses assessments.
TestMax | @BarMax | getbarmax.com | iTunes
The team have built an app to pass the Bar exam. The startup claims that their CA pass rate is 20 higher than the state’s average pass rate. Students’ pass rate with BarMax is 7/10. Their iPad app costs $1 K which is four times cheaper than traditional preparation for the Bar exam.
Educreations | @educreations | educreations.com | iTunes
Another startup out of the imagine K12 incubator. Educreations is a whiteboard app that lets you record short video lessons Khan Academy style. We covered the startup about six months ago if you’re interested to learn more.
Motion Math | @motionmath | motionmathgames.com | iTunes
Motion Math might be a familiar name already as the startup is, compared with some of the other gamification apps we saw at Launch, already an established player. They build different fun math games for kids and are a popular choice in the App Store.
instaEDU | @instaEDU | instaEDU.com
This startup provides students with instant and personal help from top-tier students live in a video chat. That’s a concept which already works offline, so why not online. The judges were quite positive on the prospects. Twitter feedback was a mixed bag. Main points: 1) university rankings not objective, so only accepting tutors from top 25 leaves out too many good tutors. 2) being a top 25 student doesn’t automatically make you a good tutor.
ManyLabs | manylabs.com
ManyLabs is a learning platform that incorporates games, simulations, and sensors. These lessons have a foundation in math and data, and they will span a range of topics: biology, physics, energy, ecology, urban planning, economics, health, and statistics.
ManyLabs presented its phone-based data entry and acquisition tools that can be used for education and citizen science projects like measuring the quality of water in your region. ManyLabs also provide a public API for anyone who wants to create their own data entry or acquisition applications.
Voxy is another startup that has been around for a while. The startup teaches Spanish speakers how to speak English based on things they are interested in. The Voxy experience is mobile.
At LAUNCH Education & Kids Paul Gollash introduced two new features to the Voxy platform. One lets learners study English through music, a very popular and effective way of learning a new language. The second feature are live talks via Skype.
Bloomboard | @bloomboard | bloomboard.com
Bloomboard is a set of free observation and evaluation tools for districts that enables administrators to deliver individualized learning plans & personalized support recommendations for teachers. It also features an open marketplace of workshops and resources for further professional development.
Bloomboard is a winner of this year’s SXSWedu.
LearningJar | @learningjar | learningjar.com
LearningJar wants to create a platform that collects all informal learning done by life long learners. At LAUNCH Education & Kids they announced partnerships with leading platforms like Lynda.com, Adobe TV or Codeschool.
LearningJar is also a winner of SXSWedu 2012.
Welcome to College | @welcome2college | welcometocollege.com
Welcome to College was invited on stage from the Demo Pit. The platform offers students who are comparing different colleges a central place to rate their experiences on campus in order to make the selection process more personal. Welcome to College not only takes the usual data points into consideration but also things like your favorite pizza place and other more social venues. Students can also upload photos, watch peer reviews and more.
LAUNCH Education & Kids Conference Winners
Editor’s Note: first published on edcetera – straight talk on edtech.
In today’s post, let’s have a look at funding and money in education technology. I can hardly imagine a better month for that topic than April 2012. This past month has been remarkable when it comes to money talk, with more than $110 million invested in education companies.
I’m sure that I even miss some nice deals on my list, but let’s concentrate on the most recognized deals and the different segments that angel investors and VCs are investing their money in these days.
review:ed Episode #25
“Money in the Ed Game”
- Ed News Ticker #2 April 14th 2012
- There Are A Million Education Startups And No One To Acquire Them
Source: Business Insider
- We need a Dividends instead of Exits Mindset in Education
Source: Disrupt Education
- Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools–Now and in the Future
- Are Teacherpreneurs the future of education?
- EdTech Link
Source: TeachPaperless | Prezi
- Top Tier vs Low Cost in Education
Source: Disrupt Education
Fundings in April 2012 so far
- $25 million Minerva
- $26 million + $10 million 2tor
- $16 million Coursera
- $10 million StraighterLine
- $8 million Boundless Learning
- $6 million Schoology
- $4.75 million Treehouse
- $2.4 million LearnZillion
- $2.3 million Voxy
- + several smaller fundings