No. 375 | April 18, 2018

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Edtech insights for decision makers
This issue is sponsored by

It’s hard to follow up when the biggest news dropped on the Sunday evening, local time, before a major industry conference. But the show must carry on. This week, education business and institution leaders returned to a breezy San Diego for the annual ASU+GSV Summit.

This is the edtech industry’s premier financial conversation, packed with more than 4,100 people. Topics ranged from early childhood to lifelong learning. Shop talk was increasingly led by international participants from Paris to Israel—and especially from China, whose global ambitions are undisguised and undeniable.

The edtech financier’s playground is alive and well, even as U.S. investors today exercise more caution and place more financially rational bets. (Yes, you do need a business model.) The exuberance has spread overseas, and don’t be surprised if the biggest levers of the industry are being pulled from across the oceans.


THE RUNDOWN: Morning yoga, evening karaoke. No, it’s not a spa vacation. Between those bookends, the ASU+GSV Summit, now in its 8th year, is fueled by nonstop mingling and convening. From Japanese government officials to Jake Schwartz (General Assembly’s now-even-wealthier CEO), to “rural cocktails” and a “Project Unicorn,” it can be hard to make sense of it all. Here’s our crack at weaving together the highlights of the show.

PEARSON’S PLANS: It’s hard not to pick on Goliath when things unravel. But has Pearson, the world’s biggest education company, finally turned the corner on its rocky digital transformation journey? We sat down with CEO John Fallon at this week’s ASU+GSV Summit to learn about what’s in store for the near future. Here’s a teaser: Pearson’s plans do not include buying your startup.

SWISS BANK: General Assembly’s CEO, Jake Schwartz, once said going public was “probably the most logical path” for the rapidly growing company. But those plans have changed. This week kicked off with perhaps biggest consolidation that the bootcamp industry has seen to date: Adecco Group, a Swiss HR firm, has agreed to fork out $412.5 million—all cash—for his company. The details here.

Sponsored by The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education
RESHMA’S INSPIRATION: Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, was celebrated this week at the ASU+GSV Summit in San Diego, receiving the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. prize for her work in pre-K-12 education. Her inspiration? The 90,000 or so girls that the nonprofit has taught to code. As she tells EdSurge in this interview: “The future is in good hands!”


WHAT GOOGLE WANTS, GOOGLE GETS: And the search giant wants people to have the necessary skills to get a job as a mobile web or Android developer. That’s why it’s giving 5,000 people scholarships for Udacity’s Nanodegrees in Android or mobile web development.

FREEMIUM OER? To offer students a cheaper alternative to textbooks, upstart companies are offering open-educational resources. But many still charge fees. One company, Top Hat, is trying to buck the trend by opening up its marketplace of mostly OER materials to users for free. But can a for-profit, venture-backed company do so and be financially sustainable?

SLOW-MOVING STORM COMING TO HIGHER ED: College leaders paying attention to demographics might not love what they see. It turns out birth rates in the U.S. are down considerably, meaning by 2026 colleges will likely face a steep drop-off of traditional-age students. Nathan Grawe, an economics professor at Carleton College explores the trend in a new book, and he has some advice for those trying to prepare.

CHATBOT TEACHING ASSISTANTS: One professor at Georgia Tech has built robot teaching assistant—or at least, an AI chatbot to help answer student questions in an online forum. He says the software frees up time for human TAs. But it’s also raising questions about what it means to teach.

Sponsored by The MassMutual Foundation
MONEY WISE: “Financial education is key to economic opportunity,” writes MassMutual Foundation president Dennis Duquette, but many young people are unprepared to make informed financial choices in adulthood. A new report from the FutureSmart program—a gamified, web-based financial education course—explains how to introduce lessons on financial literacy, like saving money and kickstarting productive family conversations that help students in the long run.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE has emerged as a technology that can help students with the college admissions process. But a senior architect at Ellucian says it can only do so much. “Even with all the data in the world, you can’t really capture the essence of a person.” So how much can AI really help colleges and students find the best “fit”?

MICROSOFT AND AMAZON continue to make moves in education. The latest? They’ve each announced partnerships in higher ed—Microsoft with the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Amazon with the video platform Echo360—around transcription and accessibility.

The following is a message from our sponsor

How are edtech companies using voice technology to improve learning? Join AWS for a webinar on April 24th to learn how education customers are using Amazon Polly to support personalized learning and differentiated instruction. Amazon Polly is a service that turns text into natural sounding speech, making it easy to develop applications that leverage high-quality, text-to-speech voices that increase engagement and accessibility. Don’t miss this webinar!

Follow your EdSurgents @tonywan, @JennyAbamu, @jryoung, @sydneyfjohnson, @journoinred and @stephenoonoo for the latest news and scoops as they hit the wire. And, of course, @EdSurge!


BIG DATA ON YOUR MIND? Many higher-ed institutions today are asking how to best leverage data to help at-risk students—and avoid problematic practices. Join EdSurge’s online panel discussion, hosted by founder and CEO Betsy Corcoran, to learn more about the peaks and possible pitfalls of analytics and student success! April 25, 12 pm PT | 3pm ET. Register Today! Then check out our newest EdSurge Guide to learn about the technologies and collaborations that are fueling Innovations in Student Success.

SPRING INTO ACTION: Don’t miss out on upcoming spring jobs fairs! We’re bringing together top edtech organizations and talent for a night of informal networking, panels, and light bites. Register for Boston (4/18), DC (4/19), and NYC (4/24) today! Can’t make it? No worries. Just fill out this form and we’ll get your information over to attending companies.


THE MOST PROFITABLE WAY TO GROW “is to hang onto your existing customers,” writes John Rogers. That may seem obvious, but sometimes the simple lessons get lost among the sea of choices that edtech entrepreneurs make every day. The education sector lead for The Rise Fund (a $2 billion social impact fund) dishes other tips in this primer on scaling edtech businesses successfully.

Sponsored by DaDaABC
ONLINE AND LOVING IT: LaShundra Wigfall began teaching online to supplement her Oklahoma teacher’s salary. Now she’s all-in online, teaching ESL to students in China—from her living room. Wigfall explains how she sets her own schedule, uses ready-made lessons and maintains a work-life balance. “I make a comfortable salary and can be with my kids,” she says. “This type of teaching just better suits my family’s life.”


PEOPLE TO THE POWER: PowerSchool and PeopleAdmin, two education technology companies owned by private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, will be merging as part of an investment deal from Onex Group, a Canadian buyout firm. The combined value of the company is estimated at $3 billion.

TURN IN YOUR BADGE: It used to be that startups sought to get acquired by big publishers like Pearson. But how the tables have turned. Credly, a New York-based digital credentialing platform provider used by higher-ed and professional institutions, is acquiring Pearson’s badging business, Acclaim.

MONEY TALKS: Lingumi, a U.K.-based startup behind English language-learning apps and toys, has raised £1.2 million (approximately US $1.7 million) in a seed round led by ADV.

DOWN TO BUSINESS: Teachable, a New York City-based company that offers instructors a platform to set up online courses and build businesses around those classes, has raised $4 million in a Series A round from Accomplice Ventures and Naval Ravikant, co-founder of AngelList.

REGAINING MOMENTUM? Edmentum, a provider of online K-12 curriculum and assessments, has raised $25 million in debt financing from existing investors New Mountain Finance Corporation and Tennenbaum Capital Partners. The new funds will “allow the extension of the company’s debt maturity” and comes three years after Edmentum underwent a restructuring to reduce its debt.


McGraw-Hill Education has appointed its new king of the hill: Dr. Nana Banerjee, who will officially take over as president and chief executive of the company starting April 23. He’ll take over from Lloyd “Buzz” Waterhouse, who has been interim CEO since David Levin left the company last October.

Maia Sharpley, who spent 9 years as vice president for strategy and innovation with Kaplan, is now a full partner with Learn Capital. She is the firm’s first partner who is female and a person of color.

Sheree Speakman has been named as CEO of The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting, a non-profit organization that provides standards for how coding bootcamps measure and report student outcomes.

Kim Taylor (former CEO and co-founder of Ranku, which sold to Wiley) is back with another new company: Cluster, which aims to connects talent to manufacturing companies for senior level roles as well as apprenticeships.


A peek at Pluralsight’s IPO filing shows the company generated $166.8 million in revenue in 2017 against $96.5 million in net loss. (SEC)

Researchers raise concerns over the appropriateness of “growth mindset” messages that Pearson is embedding into some of its learning software. (Education Week)

“Based on our automated analysis of 5,855 of the most popular free children’s apps, we found that a majority are potentially in violation of COPPA.” (Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies)

Sponsored by University of North Carolina - MEITE
OPPORTUNITY OF THE WEEK: Launch your next venture or career with UNC Chapel Hill! We're seeking innovators to invent the future of learning. Our one-of-a-kind program, the M.A. in Educational Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship leverages our innovation network and new design center to prepare you for roles as learning innovation designers, leaders and edupreneurs. Campus-based, complete in 1 year. Start in fall or spring. Learn more.

Looking for a job in edtech? You’ve come to the right place. EdSurge has the leading edtech jobs board with over 400 openings from schools, nonprofits and companies.
VP of Product Hire Education
​Product pros assemble! Our client is an industry leader poised to explode (in a good way!). They're in need of a VP of Product to manage the fireworks as they scale. Is it you?
Product management • Startup • San Francisco, CA

District Partnerships, Northeast Goalbook 
Goalbook is hiring for a District Partnerships role in the Northeast to fuel our growth! You’ll lead efforts to bring Goalbook into school districts across the region and will work closely with instructional leaders.
Sales • Startup • New York, NY

Sales Development Representative CodeHS 
Work with teachers and administrators to help bring computer science to more schools. You'll be the first point of contact for schools interested in CodeHS.
Sales • Startup • New York, NY

Education Partnerships Manager CodeHS 
CodeHS is hiring for an Education Partnerships Manager to help manage relationships with different educational organizations, and ensure the success of various partnerships.
Customer Implementation / Customer Success • Startup • New York, NY

District Success Manager Flocabulary
Flocabulary is seeking a District Success Manager to help customers get the most out of the program, ensuring that learning objectives and usage targets are met, building relationships with teachers and administrators to strengthen implementation.
Customer implementation / customer success • Startup • NY

Marketing and Traction Lead 3DBear
Start-up from the best educational system in the world, Finland, is looking for Marketing and Traction Lead in New York! 3DBear wants you to lead the international marketing efforts of the hottest augmented reality educational technology startup!
Marketing • Startup • New York, NY

Senior Marketing Manager, Product Solutions The Ounce of Prevention Fund
The Ounce is looking for a Senior Marketing Manager, Product Solutions to join our organization! Our goal is to improve the life chances for low-income children through our programs, advocacy, training, and research.
Marketing • Non Profit • Chicago, IL

Partnership Manager, GitHub Education GitHub
We're looking for someone experienced in the education industry who gets GitHub and wants to help faculty and administration realize the benefits of GitHub in the classroom.
Marketing • Startup • Remote

EdSurge webinar sponsored by
How are analytics being used to improve student success? Register today and join EdSurge’s panel discussion hosted by founder and CEO Betsy Corcoran to learn more!
Apr 25 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm • Online • Free

EdSurge DC Edtech Jobs Fair Spring 2018
EdSurge is hosting a jobs fair in Washington DC to help you find your next role at the hottest edtech companies!
Apr 19 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm • Arlington, VA • Free

EdSurge, NYEdtech Meetup, and Teachers College present: NY Edtech Jobs Fair
EdSurge, NYEdtech Meetup and Teachers College, Columbia University are hosting a jobs fair in New York to help you find your next role at the hottest edtech companies!
Apr 24 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm • New York, NY • $1 to $50

Techstars Startup Weekend Education San Jose
Do you have an idea you'd like to pursue or a problem in education you'd like to solve but don't know where to start or who to start with? In 54 hours, participants share ideas, form teams, and turn ideas into realities.
Apr 27 6:30 pm to Apr 29 7:00 pm • San Jose, CA • $51 to $250

General Assembly DC Web Developer Talent Spotlight
You’re invited to GA’s exclusive private hiring event to meet our latest cohort of web developers, who have honed their skills in GA’s Web Development Immersive Program. Hiring managers, recruiters, and anyone hiring web developers are welcome.
May 2 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm • Washington DC • Free

2018 SET Lab Exhibition
The SET Lab Exhibition is an annual educational innovation exhibition for edtech industry leaders, educators, education leaders, and students.
Jun 1 9:30 am to 1:30 pm • Washington, DC • Free

EdSurge Fusion
Join us as we bring together the ideas, practices, research, technology and evidence for making education relevant for the whole learner.
Oct 2 10:00 am to Oct 4 12:00 pm • South San Francisco, CA • more than $250

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