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Who's Investing in Ed-Tech?: Tech Investors and Their Education Portfolios

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The more likely exit for ed-tech startups once that investment clock starts ticking is acquisition. But as Business Insider noted with slight exaggeration this year, there are problems there too. “There are a million education startups and no one to acquire them.” BI points to Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Apollo Group (owners of the University of Phoenix), Apple, Texas Instruments, Devry, and The Washington Post (a.k.a. Kaplan), News Corp, and Google as possible buyers for the latest crop of new ed-tech startups.

One interesting thing to note with the list of investors above: many of the most prominent venture capital firms do not currently have a deep education portfolio. Indeed, if you visit their websites, you’ll find that they have special pages dedicated to other sectors, such as biotech or cleantech, but no mention of the education vertical. I think that’s a reflection of how recent their (renewed) interest is in ed-tech as a potentially profitable investment.

The lack of depth and expertise among some of these VC firms also means that those with more of an education focus are likely to be the leaders in the early rounds of funding, with other firms then following on in later rounds. That gives enormous power and influence to Pearson-backed Learn Capital and to charter-school focused NewSchools Venture Fund in particular in establishing who gets out of the gate with strong seed funding.

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