Since October 2018, EdSurge has been investigating where money has been flowing in the U.S. K-12 edtech market over the past three years, the contextual factors that are driving shifts in the market and how investment might change in the near future. This project was supported by NewSchools Venture Fund. This website reflects a synthesis of findings from both qualitative and quantitative data, and we want to acknowledge the people who generously shared their time with us.
We want to thank Taylor Smith from Tucker Capital who was instrumental in helping us understand the current U.S. edtech landscape as well as investment terminology early in the project.
We owe many thanks to the 16 investors, philanthropists and edtech experts who shared their perspectives in interviews: Aaron Walker at Camelback Ventures, Vivian Wu at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Spencer Macquarrie at Dreambox Learning (previously at TPG), Marshall Roslyn at Goldman Sachs, Peter Segall at Insight Venture Partners, Jami O’Toole at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Nancy Weinstein at Mindprint Learning, Jason Palmer at New Markets Venture Partners, Amit Patel and Tory Patterson at Owl Ventures, Stephane Come at PodPi, Jennifer Wu at Reach Capital, Matt Greenfield at ReThink Education, Frank Bonsal III at Bonsal Capital (previously at Towson University Incubator), Bobbi Kurshan at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and Tim Brady at YC/Imagine K-12.
We want to thank the NewSchools team members who supported this project, including Stacey Childress, Tonika Cheek Clayton, Debbie Veney, Jason Atwood, Justin Wedell and Cameron White.
We also want to give a special thanks to the EdSurge staff who supported this project, including Rachel Burstein, Betsy Corcoran, Seth Greenberg, Meg Hamel, Marisa Kaplan, Madison Skinner and Tony Wan.
Alex Sigillo was the lead researcher for this project.
EdSurge informs, drives conversation and builds communities to support the future of learning for all.
EdSurge is a leading education news and research organization that covers the people, ideas and technologies that shape the future of learning. Through our work, we aim to help educators, entrepreneurs, policymakers and other stakeholders engage in rich and complex conversations about evolving teaching and learning environments and the technologies and tools that support them.
We do this through three core activities:
- Publishing rich content, including news and research;
- Creating vibrant community through conferences and convenings;
- Providing useful tools to help people find technology that supports their teaching and learning needs.
About NewSchools Venture Fund
NewSchools Venture Fund supports and invests in promising teams of educators and innovators who want to reimagine learning. We help teams with powerful ideas achieve their missions, so all students—especially those in underserved communities—have a strong academic foundation, along with the other mindsets, skills and habits they need for success. We believe all young people should graduate high school prepared and inspired to achieve their most ambitious dreams and plans.
As a national nonprofit, the returns we seek are educational and social, not financial. We raise charitable funds from donors and invest them to support education innovators with funding and customized guidance to help them succeed.
From October 2018 to January 2019, EdSurge collected both qualitative and quantitative data to understand the complexities of where money has been flowing in the U.S. K-12 edtech market. We utilized data from three different sources: Ka’ching (our internal investment database), interviews and a survey. Throughout this project, we used Ka’ching as the primary data source, with supporting narrative from the survey and interviews.
EdSurge tracks and reports on equity and debt investments in edtech across multiple education sectors and in many countries. Each investment is collected in our Ka’ching database. (We do not track grants in Ka’ching.) We used the database to validate trends from the survey and interviews.
To conduct analysis for this project, we cleaned the database in the following ways:
- We added investment deals through December 2018, including multiple accelerator cohorts.
- We removed some old fields, added some new ones (e.g., company status, business model, lead investor) and made sure there was consistency within each field.
- We backfilled the information in the new fields for each investment deal.
- We then validated the dataset with a third-party; the company also identified 36 investment deals that were not in our database.
EdSurge developed a 33-question survey to understand investors’ perceptions of edtech funding trends in the U.S. K-12 market and for curriculum products in particular. The survey included consent to participate and skip logic structure. Testing indicated that the survey could be completed within eleven minutes. We offered early insights into the results as an incentive to complete the survey.
Our target population was the average number of lead edtech investors in a given year. Using Ka’ching, we calculated that there are, on average, 136 lead investors who invest in at least one edtech company in a given year. Based on our target population size, we calculated a sample size of 101 survey respondents using a 95% confidence level and ±5 margin of error.
EdSurge used multiple outreach strategies to recruit edtech investors for the survey. We constructed an email recipient list using a subset of recent investment organizations listed in our Ka’ching database. For each organization, we collected “firmographic” information. In other words, we identified the investor type (e.g., venture capital, private equity, accelerator), headquarters location (i.e., country; city and state if applicable), primary round (e.g., seed, Series A, debt financing) and primary stage (e.g., early vs. late stage) for each organization.
Simultaneously, we collected contact information for people at each organization listed. We were intentional about whom we recruited to represent each organization, focusing on those most intimately familiar with edtech investments. We targeted the roles of founder, CEO, managing director, partner and principal. Roles might have diverged from this convention; for example, we targeted program officers for philanthropic organizations. We then scraped the web to find the names and email addresses of individuals in these roles at the organizations included in our recipient list. We were able to collect contact information for 554 listed organizations, with one or two contacts per organization. Altogether, we had a recipient list that included 630 individuals with email addresses and firmographic data.
We conducted a three-week email campaign and had a four percent response rate. To augment these initial responses, we recruited additional edtech investors through EdSurge channels, including our Innovate and Next e-newsletters, targeted Facebook and LinkedIn social media campaigns and personal emails. We also partnered with GSV and Whiteboard Advisors to recruit survey participants by posting in their e-newsletters, GSV TalentED and Whiteboard Notes, respectively.
Altogether, we had a convenience sample of 81 survey respondents, 70 of which were valid. (Eleven respondents were disqualified because they did not invest in K-12 edtech companies.)
Respondents represented a range of investor types, including:
- Venture capital (27 percent)
- Venture philanthropy (6 percent)
- Private equity (9 percent)
- Government (1 percent)
- Foundations (4 percent)
- Banks (1 percent)
- Accelerators (11 percent)
- Angel investors (9 percent)
- and Other (30 percent) which included 12 edtech companies who were interested or have been involved in a merger and acquisition.
Most respondents (56 percent) reported that at least half of their investment portfolio focuses on U.S. K-12 edtech—this stat is consistent regardless of the number of deals or the total amount of money invested in deals.
About one-third of respondents (32 percent) indicated that their average deal size for U.S. K-12 investments is $449K or below; 29 percent indicated that their average deal size ranged from $500K to $1.99M.
Most respondents (56 percent) reported that their current U.S. K-12 edtech portfolio consists primarily of companies that sell directly to schools and districts; almost one-third of respondents (32 percent) indicated that they sell their products through multiple business models.
And 42 percent of respondents consistently invest in follow-on rounds for existing companies in their U.S. K-12 edtech portfolio; 20 percent do follow-on funding on occasion.
EdSurge reports survey results with a 95% confidence level and ±8 margin of error.
EdSurge conducted interviews to dive deep into the trends that emerged from the survey. We developed a standard interview protocol and used it to conduct one-hour phone interviews with each individual.
We interviewed 16 people who are involved in edtech investment decision-making from a diverse set of organizations:
- six venture capital firms
- three accelerators
- two private equity firms
- two bootstrapped companies
- one venture philanthropy firm
- one foundation
- one investment bank
Their years of investment experience ranged from 3-29 years, with an average of 10.3 years and a median of 9.5 years.
The EdSurge Research project is made publicly available with support from NewSchools Venture Fund. EdSurge retains sole editorial control and responsibility for all content. This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Some of the sources cited in the project are investors in EdSurge. These include: Imagine K-12, Jason Palmer, NewSchools Venture Fund and Reach Capital. EdSurge has also received grant support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.