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I’m trying to keep better track of who’s investing in education technology startups this year – if nothing else, it’ll make it easier to write my year-in-review series, come December. Lots of other publications do the same, but their reports often cost money; and I want the data to not only be openly available, but also fully crunchable. (My battle against the PDF continues.)

Hey, it's April, so I’ve updated my spreadsheet with investment and acquisition data from the first quarter of 2015. This is also available in JSON. (If you find any errors or omissions, please submit a pull request or file an issue on the GitHub repo).

(Some of the) Biggest Investments Q1:

  1. Social Finance ($200,000,000)
  2. Lynda.com ($186,000,000)
  3. 17zuoye ($100,000,000)
  4. NetDragon Education ($52,500,000)
  5. Genshuixue ($50,000,000)

(Some of the) Biggest Acquisitions Q1:

  1. Rakuten’s acquisition of Overdrive ($410,000,000)
  2. Pluralsight’s acquisition of Code School ($36,000,000)
  3. Terms for almost all the acquisitions were “undisclosed”

(Some of the) Most Active Investors Q1:

  1. Kapor Capital
  2. 500 Startups
  3. Great Oaks Ventures
  4. NewSchools Venture Fund

A couple of other observations:

  • It’s tricky to decide “what counts” as an education technology startup. Social Finance, for example, which offers private student loans, doesn’t make Ambient Insight’s list of ed-tech investments this quarter. SoFi raised $200,000,000, which makes it the biggest investment according to my figures; Lynda.com is the biggest of Q1, according to Ambient Insight. I’m not sure if FiftyThree made Ambient Insight’s list either. The company raised $30,000,000 this quarter so that it could enter the education market. This blurring of ed-tech categories is something to watch, particularly as we see companies like Instructure (which raised $40,000,000 this quarter) move into corporate training.
  • According to the data tracked by Ambient Insight, “in the first quarter of 2015, $451.7 million went to learning technology companies operating in China; this was 40% of the total investment that went to companies around the globe.” I need to track more closely on this, as I missed tracking on most of these big funding rounds. (Once I find out investment details, I’ll add them to my spreadsheet.) But on my list too, 3 of the top 5 funding rounds went to Chinese education technology companies.
  • Roughly half the investment rounds (34) this quarter fell between $1,000,000 and $9,000,000. 11 were between $500,000 and $999,999. 6 fell between $10,000,000 and $19,000,000.
  • It’s interesting to see who’s not investing in education (or at least, which of the big name venture funds didn’t make any ed-tech investments this past quarter).
  • Some of the most popular areas for ed-tech investment this quarter: (corporate) skills training, career planning, language learning.

Download the data, and devise your own analysis.

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Audrey Watters


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