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Last week, we wrote about the incredible growth of private investment in US EdTech and the exciting startups that are paving the way for the future. 2018 was a record-breaking year for the industry, in which we saw the highest amount of funds raised since 2015 and a higher concentration of capital, mirroring overall trends in the VC & PE market as a whole. In the K-12 sector, the largest EdTech deal of $130M went to Dreambox Learning, while the largest deals in Postsecondary education went to Phoenix-based CampusLogic and Commonbound ($55M and $50M, respectively).
Nonetheless, the majority of the attention tends to be placed on EdTech startups but not EdTech investors. Credit must be given where it is due. Rather than solely focus on the companies that are shaking up the industry, let’s take a moment to look at the most active EdTech investors in the US and what they’re doing to change the way we learn.
One of the most ambitious EdTech investors in recent years, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, was started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. When the power couple first released the news that they would found the initiative in 2015, Zuckerberg and Chan announced an endowment of 99% of their Facebook shares, which is currently valued at around $45B.
According to the official website, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s mission is, “to find new ways to leverage technology, community-driven solutions, and collaboration to accelerate progress in Science, Education, and within our Justice & Opportunity work.”
In regards to education, CZI states, “Every child should enter adulthood with the knowledge, skills, habits, and agency they need to realize their full potential. We believe that applying what we know from the fields of learning science and human development to education is the most promising way to achieve this vision.” And, in service of this vision, CZI “collaborate[s] with students, educators, and families to create educational tools and experiences that effectively meet the holistic needs of every child.”
Although the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative does not disclose official statistics on investment, the fund has been increasingly active over the last few years. CZI has invested in innovative EdTech companies around the world like Byju’s and Andela.
Since 2012, ReThink Education has invested in more than 60 EdTech companies and boasts a rich portfolio of EdTech success stories like 2U and Pluralsight, as well as General Assembly and Trilogy Education. ReThink Education’s aggressive investment strategy is driven by their mission to, “find entrepreneurs creating new ways of teaching, of supporting students, of providing access and meaning to crucial data.”
In 2018 alone, ReThink Education invested a total of $30.2M across 28 deals, making them one of the largest and most active EdTech investors in the United States. In April of this year, ReThink also announced their plans to raise their third EdTech investment fund of $150M.
On their website, Edtech investor ReThink bluntly states, “Education is one of the last sectors to be remade by technology. That is changing.”
Last, and definitely not least, Learn Capital is a top-tier VC firm that invests exclusively in educational startups. As an organization, Learn Capital believes, “the future is shaped by the way we teach and learn in the present, and that we’re in the middle of one of the great revolutions in the history of education. New technology platforms, applications, and services are not only amplifying and augmenting classroom learning but creating a world in which any Internet-enabled device can become a classroom on demand.”
Learn Capital is behind some of the largest EdTech companies on the market, including Coursera, Udemy, and VIPKID. They’re also the most active VC in US EdTech by far, with a massive deal count of 42 in 2018 alone. Like CZI, Learn Capital doesn’t disclose their deal amounts, but it’s safe to say that Learn Capital is one of the biggest players in the industry.
US Investment in EdTech is being led by a number of VC & PE firms and initiatives that are passionate about leveraging technology to revolutionize education, improve learning outcomes, and prepare students for success beyond the classroom. EdTech’s mission of bringing education into the modern era and promoting equality is resonating with millions of people across the globe, with some of the most influential minds of our time calling for action.
In line with Steve Wozniak’s goal of putting technology into the hands of young learners, Woz U seeks to “reprogram education” and equip the next generation with the skills for a successful career in tech. We do this by starting at the earliest stages of education and helping learners grow, throughout their whole career. As a result, learners are able to pursue their passions and obtain their ideal job, while tech companies can find the new talent they need and train current team members to accomplish their goals.