November Edition of the X Report
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In this month's X Report, we explore the potential for investment in EdTech through strategic evidence-informed decision-making, and we share news on the 2021 EdTechX All Stars Awards. Each month, we will share a snapshot of key trends, showcase the stars of today and tomorrow, provide some food for thought as well as mergers, acquisitions and fundraising.

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Supporting EdTech Investors in Spotting a Golden Opportunity
Professor Rose Luckin and the EDUCATE Ventures Research team

Two years ago, my colleagues and I wrote a piece about the need for evidence in EdTech. We described how, unlike medical or food products, EdTech products can go straight to market without evaluation. Moreover, if there did happen to be evidence, there was no check on its validity. This state of affairs has not only created uncertainty around the impact of EdTech tools (both individually and collectively); it has also necessarily had the knock-on effect of deprioritising efficacy in a sector where it is desperately needed.

Until now, despite the efforts of many, and much to my surprise and chagrin, the education market has largely tolerated the absence of evidence. But change is afoot. 

With lockdowns and the resulting experiments in online learning fresh in the minds of educators and parents, and a renewed sense of urgency around student outcomes, it is clear to me that things have changed. Routes to procurement no longer rely on word of mouth, schools are asking for clearer proof that a solution will work, and trust is becoming increasingly important in the buying process. In exchange for their money, and their data, school leaders and teachers want to see unambiguous evidence that products will work in the ways that they and their students need.

Both the EdTech market and the education ecosystem are growing. Holon IQ reports that $26B in venture capital has already been deployed over the last 18 months, and if projections based on last decade’s progress are any indication, that number might hit $150B by 2029. Given the colossal wealth poured into these education interventions, and the increased demand for bang for buck from parents, teachers, students and their institutions, a refocussing on evidence in the EdTech community is a priority. 

The EDUCATE Ventures Research team has been working with EdTech startups since 2017 to help them understand and use their data better – so that they can produce evidence about what works, and improve their product when they identify something that doesn’t. But what about investors? Have they kept pace with the customer in the hunt for evidence? How might a focus on evidence drive smarter investment decisions, for learners AND the bottom line? And what would it look like to have an EdTech investor ecosystem that championed evidence?  

  • Pre-investment, it might change how investors approach their pipeline. An evidence-led, or research mindset would become a highly valued attribute of startups—because attention to data and evidence from the start can help super-charge student learning and growth. 
  • During early investment, a focus on evidence would give investors a finer-grained view on the areas where a company really needs nurturing and support—helping them deliver the mentoring and acceleration that the startups in their portfolio need.
  • And later, a research-mindset will pay dividends, as a company will have been able to improve their product AND produce valid and credible evidence about how and why it works. 

Given the resources now available, and the many talented entrepreneurs ready and poised to make a real difference in education, the time to double-down on the evidence is now. There is very little to lose, and so very much to be gained.

Rose Luckin is Professor of Learner Centred Design at UCL Knowledge Lab, and Founder and CEO of EDUCATE Ventures Research, a research accelerator promoting the development of evidence-based EdTech products and services.


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SaaS & Tech-Enabled Service companies lead the 2021 EdTechX Awards

Last month, we had the pleasure of announcing the winners and finalists of the 2021 EdTechX Global All Stars Awards, showcasing the startups and scale-ups shaping the future of learning and work, globally. Across three categories  -  Startup, Scale-Up and Impact  -  applicants were evaluated on innovation, market scale, growth and impact.

This year’s finalists cover a broad geographical reach from the UK to Pakistan, Finland to Taiwan, Singapore to Spain, and provide a diverse range of products and services across the K-12, Higher Education, Corporate and Lifelong Learning sectors. Applicants offering SaaS & Tech-Enabled Services saw the highest number selected as finalists, a small majority of which operate in the K-12 market. Companies with a focus on 21st Century Skills were also well represented among the top 15, with a notable presence within the Scale-Up category.

Of the winning six, three are working in the K12 sector – Eduten (EdTechX Impact Award), Genially (EdTechX Startup Award) and Yoto (EdTechX Scale-Up Award), two in Higher Education – BibliU (EdTechX Scale-Up Award), and Enroly (EdTechX Startup Award), and one in the corporate sector – Virti (EdTechX Impact Award).

Eduten is a gamified maths learning platform that brings a scientifically proven improvement to learning results, student motivation and teacher happiness. Used by teachers in Finland and in 65 countries worldwide, the service is reaching students in remote areas who would not ordinarily have access to Finnish pedagogy.

Genially is a no-code freemium tool that teachers use to create interactive learning resources for any subject of study and grade level. With a community of over 12 million users worldwide, the company aims to make high-quality interactive content something that any teacher can make for their classes and not a resource limited to schools in high-income districts.

Yoto is an audio platform built for children. Their flagship product, the Yoto Player, is a smart speaker that children control using physical cards that they insert to play their favourite audio titles. The heart of Yoto’s product range is their Card Store with over 300 audio titles, curated for children from birth to 12+.

BibliU is a learning enablement platform used by over 150 higher ed institutions to drive better student engagement and outcomes by leveraging digital content management, workflow automation, and analytics. With a range of first-of-their kind business models, BibliU ensures institutions can meet their students’ content needs within budget, while increasing and simplifying access.

Enroly is standardising and modernising international student recruitment and regulatory compliance for universities with the first education post-sales automation platform. Since launching in 2018, Enroly is now on track to achieve a 30% higher education market share in 2022 (UK). During the academic year 2020/21 the Enroly platform facilitated the CAS, Visa and Arrival process for thousands of students, university staff users and international recruitment agents in 126 countries.

Virti (UK) uses virtual and augmented reality coupled with AI to transport users into difficult to access environments and safely assesses them under pressure to improve their performance. The system is used for training and patient education by medical schools, nursing schools, sim centres, residency training programmes, hospitals and corporates.

Congratulations to all winners and runner up companies for the 2021 EdTechX Global All Stars Awards - read more about the 2021 awards winners and finalists here >


market round up header
Market Roundup Logos1-1
Education market round up
FT - pandemic promise
EdSurge - Upstart Online Providers
Forbes India - Byju
Work market round up
World Economic Forum - FOW
Forbes - Micro-Credentials-1
CNBC - WeWork
investment market round up
Education Technology - Language Tech
Business Leader - UK EdTech
EdSurge - VIPKid
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M&A Highlights
M&A Activity >
M&A Accurium M&A Spayee
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(1) Source: S&P Capital IQ


Significant Fundraising Activity >
360Learning Fundraising Outschool Fundraising
Entity Academy Fundraising


Valuation Benchmarks

Industry Analysis – Q3 2021 Mergers, Acquisitions and Fundraising

Key Points

Graph 1 - Nov 21

Global education deal making remained consistent in Q3-21, total deal value in Q3-21 was $9.1bn, an increase of 8% from the $8.4bn in Q2-21. This quarter saw the arrival of 6 new EdTech unicorns, highlighting the large influx of funding within the sector. The majority of the $9.1bn that changed hands can be attributed to Clearlake Capital Group’s $4.7bn acquisition of Cornerstone OnDemand in August. Fundraising has had a large amount of activity, with $12.1bn raised in Q3-21, more than double the amount raised in the same period a year ago.

Graph 2 - Nov 21

Strategic buyers continue to be responsible for the majority of M&A transactions, and accounted for 83% of deal volume. French media conglomerate Vivendi SA was a notable strategic acquirer this quarter, acquiring the French international media group Legardère SA for over $700 million. North America continues to be the dominant player in terms of geography, accounting for just under half of transactions. Asia Pacific was not too far behind, however, and was responsible for 26% of deals this quarter, up from around 15% in the second quarter of this year.

Graph 3 - Nov 21

In terms of deal size1, small deals (defined as transactions with size less than $30m) accounted for half of the number of transactions. Unsurprisingly, large deals (defined as transactions with size in excess of $150m) accounted for the vast majority of deal value, contributing a total of $8.3bn. Aside from the Cornerstone OnDemand and Legardère deals mentioned above, another notable large deal was BYJU’s $600m acquisition of Great Learning, an India-based online upskilling platform for professional and higher education. On the fundraising side, a notable transaction was the $1.5 bn investment by General Atlantic, Blackstone, LionTree Advisors and ICONIQ Growth into US developer of SaaS online training tools and e-learning authoring apps, Articulate Global.

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1 Relates only to deals with disclosed transaction amounts
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