Edtech Insiders

Week in Edtech 10/17/22 with Guest Julia Stiglitz of CoRise

October 19, 2022 Alex Sarlin Season 3 Episode 24
Edtech Insiders
Week in Edtech 10/17/22 with Guest Julia Stiglitz of CoRise
Show Notes Transcript

Guest Julia Stiglitz, CEO of CoRise and former GSV partner

  1. The Massive Lego/Brainpop acquisition
  2.  Questioning the ROI for Higher Ed
  3. Byju's Layoffs/Edtech in India
    1. Byju’s cuts 2,500 jobs 
    2. Post-Pandemic World Poses Existential Challenge to India’s Edtech Sector
  4. Online Ed Research


Mergers and Acquisitions:

  1. KIRKBI A/S (Lego) Acquires BrainPOP (BusinessWire)
  2. Google Acquires BrightBytes (

Welcome to Season Two of edtech insiders, where we talk to the most interesting thought leaders, founders, entrepreneurs, educators and investors driving the future of education technology. I'm your host, Alex Sarlin, an edtech veteran with over 10 years of experience at the top edtech company. Hello, everyone, it is the week of October 12. Welcome back to the weekend ed tech from Ed Tech insiders. We've got a number of startling headlines for you. This week. In our episode, we also have Matt tower joining us it's going to be fun popery of ed tech news. Before we dive in though, Alex what's going on with the podcast and newsletter etc. Yeah, we had a little bit of a banner week on the podcast we have like four or five new episodes all ending which is a little bit nuts, but really excellent conversation with Mitch Resnick and Shana young of the scratch foundation just came out. We have a conversation with Jamie poskim from Teach FX was I was at a one that from the Stanford accelerator conference that you were at Ben. And then we can add tech from last week, and the postcards from the startup New York ed tech week conference. So a whole bunch of podcast episodes. And then upcoming, we have some phenomenal interviews with Monica Torres, who is the head of immersive learning at Mehta, as well as a really great series with all sorts of people around the EdTech landscape. It's a it's been a really fun time. So we're deep into Season Two and amazing stuff coming from the interview side if I say so myself, I'm really I'm really enjoying it. And welcome back to our show to you're putting out some great stuff. What's the latest that you've got coming in the pipe? Thanks, Ben. And Alex, I'm excited for all of the the interviews, I have so many questions. And I feel like particularly Monica has a lot of stuff to talk about coming out of meadows horizon conference. So that'll be Yeah, I thank you for asking. Then we just did our first guest essay, which was super fun. I've always wanted to go school, right? Yeah, you actually have a response coming this Friday, which will be which will be super fun. So two viewpoints on learning pots. And where do folks find all of that stuff? They're searching online, embarrassingly, is still an eponymous URL, Matthew tower.substack.com. I gotta get more professional about it. That's what we keep it inside hurry here so low on the professionalism and high on the enthusiasm that's, I have that in spades. Well, let's kick things off with the big and major headline. And maybe, Matt, you could kind of set the stage for us. You were texting with us yesterday morning. And I think all of us had our jaws dropped to the floor when this news came across. So what's going on? Yeah, so Lego, the world's biggest toy maker. I've heard of one. Yeah, physical toys, has acquired BrainPOP, which is a platform for building games, educational games. So there's probably seven different directions, we could go with this. I'll give just one initial thought and then kick it to the to what I find fascinating about it is Lego has kind of dabbled in the digital world, both via you know, movies, which folks are familiar with, and video games and that type of thing. But, you know, the strength of their business has always been the physical bricks. And I think it's interesting to see them spend, you know, almost a billion dollars the acquisition price in the was named by the Wall Street Journal as 875 million on a digital good that they will now own fully, and specifically, their CEO talked about how they had done, I think, five investments, venture style investments. And he was encouraged by the the family that owns the majority of Lego to buy something like no more dabbling. We want to we want to own something. And so I thought that was kind of fascinating. So that was kind of the most interesting part for me. You know, Alex, I'm curious what you were kind of intrigued by? Yeah, it's so interesting to me that you sort of honed in on the gaming business of BrainPOP. There certainly is a big a big gaming component. It might even be the majority of it, but I I think back to the old school BrainPOP and BrainPOP started as a sort of a video platform for K 12. They had original content and animation based, you know, they created their own characters. I think it's a boy and a robot. They explained everything under the sun and every different topic and basically, were selling their catalog to schools and then they had a I don't know if we call it a pivot or an expansion but a sort of growth into this game up platform where they were basically you know, combining the video section with a big gaming section where you can sort of lose both territorial and I think you know, as you say, you build your own games. You know, they're in a lot of schools, they've been around a long time, they're very, very familiar brand, for k 12 schools in edtech, that one of, I would say, you know, five, to 10 brands at most that like, pretty much every teacher in the US, at least, you know, knows or has used at one time or another. So it is really interesting to see, the Lego jump in Lego has a little bit of a history with that tech, I mean, even outside of the bricks, coming right off this interview with the scratch foundation, you know, they have a huge relationship with the Lego Foundation. And you know, you think back to like Lego Mindstorms or some of the work, you know, Lego basically has this institute of play, and they're all about, you know, gamified playful education. And as some of that they've been, you know, they've been dabbling, as you say, for quite a while investing, and sort of partnering with a number of different folks. But this felt like it came out of nowhere, this acquisition, I, you know, it's like, one of the last things I would have, I would have seen coming. It also made me say something about this moment in edtech. About, you know, it's a time we've talked a lot about how it's a time for acquisitions, because, you know, coming out of a pandemic, you have enormous penetration, you have companies that suddenly every school is using very pop, certainly one of them, but you know, but maybe there's some sort of the big dogs can might be able to jump in and really ride that enthusiasm, instead of letting it sort of fall back down post pandemic, that's sort of my two or three cents on it, then have a Jew, I'm appreciating both of your insights, because I think that you're, you're dead on. You know, from my perspective, from the investor side, I've been following Lego ventures for a while. And paren Shaw out of the UK is kind of their lead investor. Now, they've had a big shake up over at Lego ventures, you know, probably like two or three years ago, they had a team of, you know, 11, or 12. And now looking quite different, you know, very small team. But if you look at what Perin has invested in, he's actually invested more in the gaming space than then the education space. So claim games Light Brick chan.gt, which was pipe hacker before mod.io. And of course, Epic Games, and then also in Homer and area nine lyceum. And you know, area nine is really more of a, it's like a school, like an open ended school where people teach themselves, how to code and how to do higher ed. So the venture side has been going far more into gaming. What I think is most striking about this is is k 12. Or the younger learning segment is actually a prime segment for roll ups for a couple of reasons. One, customer acquisition cost is high. But once you've got it, the LTV is very, very high. And if you think about LEGO, just the physical tools that people have, once you get your first Lego set, that LTV is going to be very, very high across those kids. And so really the way that Lego is thinking about this of being more a part of kids digital play, as well as their, you know, non digital play, I think is incredible. I also think there's two types of of m&a at this moment in time. There's the desperation, m&a, where it's like, I'm running out of runway, somebody called me up. And then there's the strategic m&a where it's like, hey, if we team up together, we can run this thing. And I think that that's what happened here. I think the BrainPOP CEO and senior team and the LADOT team had dinner and we're looking at each other saying, Wow, our powers combined, we could just go for it. Well, the one company that I'm wondering, what are they thinking? I'm thinking about who? What's kazoo thinking now, because Kahoot has totally gone in on gamified. And game based. They're a little bit less video based than BrainPOP is they bought clever, which is like a very strategic move to be more embedded in schools. But I feel like there's a BrainPOP Kahoot showdown now coming like an arms race. And I just wonder if somebody I believe Kahoot is publicly traded on a European Stock Exchange. But is there another strategic that's going to gobble them up? And are we going to have a Mega Battle? If you've been to the Kahun website recently, it is half Disney, because food has a strategic partnership with Disney. They have pre made quizzes of Star Wars of frozen of Marvel of everything. So I mean, that may be a little bit of a trial for both sides, but I would definitely put my chips on that. Yeah. And so look at me customer acquisition and you know, if you look at Disney, they really have great LTV, how can they you know add more people so there's a way in which we're starting to have some big players shakeout here, Lego privately held got family and and I think that that also gives them some advantage in the education space because I do believe that one of the hardest things for edtech companies or education companies in general is if you IPO people are all in your finances and when your stock is going up or stock is going down. There's a lot of concern about you know, are you doing right by the learners? Are you doing right by investors? I think this BrainPOP deal masterstroke. And if it comes down to Lego versus Disney, who am I going to choose? I don't get that. It's impossible choice. But the other company just to throw one more curveball in there because we'll cover them later is Vikings. You know, 5g, his plan was to be this like Master roll up. This has got to be concerning, because now you've got really well capitalized competition, who are monetizing through really traditional means that are good, good high margin businesses. And let's sell plastic to kids at like, 80% margin on top of a digital learning experience. Boy, it's gonna be a tough competitive environment. And the IP I mean, Lego and Disney both have both the best IP in the world that's not something by Jews is sort of sitting on. Well, I think the epic by Jews also has a lion into this busy. Yeah, so they have a whole line of books that are all Disney themed. And maybe this is all going to end up being one giant licensing game, where the puppet master and just licensing it all out or Lego. But I think we're seeing a convergence between gaming, Media and Learning. And this acquisition is a huge step forward in that direction. Yeah, but one caveat, I would say to that is actually the learning side. I mean, BrainPOP is a great product. But BrainPOP is one of the most entertainment focused learning products out there. It's that's part of why this is such a brilliant collaboration. I think that I would almost say it's collaboration between gaming media and school access, rather than learning just because I'm not actually sure that any of these companies are sort of have have learning as their top is their, you know, as their top line metric. I hate to be cynical there, but I think it's really about how can we get more kids access to you know, Lego Disney, you know, etc. We saw I forget which member of the Lego team it was talked about how their plan is to spend more time growing brand pops b2c channel, which, you know, I think drives with your point, Alex, that it's, it's specifically to just win mindshare. The efficacy part, is it true, I actually hadn't thought about that. I'm glad you brought it up. You know, engagement matters for learning. But you're right, it's not the whole nine yards. That's maybe the one thing that I would say that Kahoot is slightly ahead on even though it's also a place that is not sort of a pedagogy first company, in that at least it's interactive, a BrainPOP game site is I am pulling out my learning cynicism here. But I don't think that's really the time for this. I mean, I welcome this, I think it's, you know, kids have been in this split world for so long, where they have these incredible entertainment options, incredible gaming options, now they're in their hands, in their phones in their pockets, and backpacks. And then they have everything happening in school, which has been traditionally behind in tech behind an engagement forum, etc. So I think it's a good thing. You know, I've always been a fan of bringing entertainment and education together, I would just encourage, you know, all of these companies we're talking about to make sure to, you know, to keep an eye on the learning factor, like I love how Duolingo consistently does learning efficacy studies. That's an entertainment focus company, but they they really do care. I'd love to see that from BrainPOP. I'd love it. You know, it was great to see that for major learning. It's a great call out and you know, I think we need to mark this date in history. We've reached season two, I don't know, Episode 10. And finally, Alex has had a like concerns and pessimistic take. Here we are pessimism with Alex, you know, pessimistic isn't a big red flag for me. I do think that there is a theory of change, which is let's engage kids first. And then let's teach them versus let's teach them and then engage them. And so will this is something we'll have to see. I'm gonna move this on speaking of engagement. Now going from the younger learners to a little bit older College. We've had a theme I think, which is around innovation and what's new and possible in college. Now there's a big spotlight put on the What hasn't changed. And there's a couple articles out this week around the economics of college and the ROI not really paying off. Alex, do you want to set us up on this one? Sure. I mean, basically I think colleges have been under attack from a lot of different directions for quite a while and with some of the headlines and sort of innovations and things coming out right now that are maybe putting colleges on the defensive. We saw the times World University Rankings come out this week, that's one of the most prestigious university rankings. And you're seeing that the US universities continue to slide in the rankings and decrease where as Indian and Chinese universities are actually moving up. And Oxford has been on the top for, I think, seven straight years. So just that's one of the US higher education always prides itself on Bing world's best to to attract people from all over the world. But there's a little bit of a, you know, a change coming there. There's also a fascinating tool coming out of Georgetown, that from the center of education in the workforce at Georgetown, which is one of the big leaders in this space, basically ranking over 4000 different colleges by their return on investment and actually split it among, you know, 15, year, 30, year 40 year down the line, which colleges actually get people their their money back. And then some the big the biggest return and really, really interesting results, definitely, you know, we'll put the link in the show notes, there's some really interesting surprises in there. One thing that surprised me is that some of the schools with the lowest ROI are actually music colleges, which it makes sense when you think about it. But it's also like, I didn't see that coming entirely. But it makes sense. That's a very hard field to break into very low paying for many people, and still very expensive schooling but still didn't see that coming. You're also saying, you know, more than three and four Americans believe in college is difficult to afford, according to a new survey, that's maybe not a surprise, you know, and other things coming from a lot of different directions. I don't want to just name headlines like, let's talk about some of this, you know, what would you do if you were a college president right now, and you're seeing affordability issues, ROI issues, slides in the ranking attacks on you're not being relevant enough? How do you tackle all this stuff? First of all, I feel obligated to call out that the times World Education is a British publication. So the fact that Oxford has been there seven years in a row, just a little stressful, but I think the point you're making about Georgetown study is super important in that, you know, I think, a lot of the debate about like, who should go to college, there's like one side who's like you can make $100,000, after, you know, nine month boot camp, there's another side is like, well, your career earnings are a million dollars higher if you get college degree. And it's like, easy to kind of rest on those assumptions. But the reality is much more nuanced. Right? That, you know, it really depends on where you go to college and what you study in terms of your economic outcome. And I think that's the best part about the Georgetown study, is they're really trying to say, like, even on different time horizons, what the difference is, you know, and it makes me a little bit sad that music colleges are just like, clearly a bad investment. From a purely economic standpoint. You know, and the Chronicle this week talked a little bit about like, Should education be a common good? And I think that that is kind of the philosophical question that I wrestle with constantly. And I think they did a pretty good job, kind of teasing out the nuance there of, you know, just because it's a bad economic investment probably means that like an individual shouldn't pay for it still might be good for society to pay for it on some levels. That's what I find myself really wrestling with, with all this kind of ranking stuff and all the turmoil that we see in the changing college market. Yeah, I think that era of the university, which has the kind of full liberal arts, full spectrum of everything, when to learn the buffet University, is really under assault, because the sheer cost to provide that buffet is very, very hard. The wastage of that buffet. And the fact that many elements of the buffet you could get through far lower and less costly means, ultimately leads most schools which I think there's a group on the very top that probably don't go that way. They're probably have price insensitive customers, as well as incredible endowments. And this is their chance to kind of create their permanent lead. But I think for a lot of schools, finding areas where they can specialize and create meaningful programs that meet the needs of their niche user. I think that that is probably what we are going to see more and more, which I think it ironically, I think there's a bunch of folks in Europe who've been like, why haven't you been doing this the whole time. There's a Europe that there are a number of pathways to a college degree, many of which include apprenticeships or embedded learning. Some degrees are six years, some are four, some are two, and there is a sense instead of a university system as a nationwide thing, where there are universities that serve different purposes, and then therefore, reduces redundancy. So in an odd way, our like market model might actually lead us towards something that looks much more European in that there's specialized programs where people, one of the articles that came out from the New York Times was talking about at Albion College, a small college in Michigan, which basically introduced a supply chain and logistics class. And that class in and of itself, enrolled 20 new students to the university, because it was a differentiator versus Michigan State, or other private schools around. So if you think about that, you know, 20 kids and what they're like total tuition bill would be, that's a great move for that school. Meanwhile, you know, Intro to English one on one, that's a, like a universal thing that almost anyone could get almost anywhere for almost any cause. I think that that's, that's where we're headed i on the music school. And the last thing too, is like, what is University? What Is college worth? Is it the ROI? I think that there are specialized schools that also can deliver an ROI on a different spectrum than like earnings. And I think that that's also, you know, part of this, move away from the global, you know, buffeting University to more specialized, these are great insights. And I really think that's, you're giving a really good set of options and ideas for the university sectors and sort of think about how to move forward, I think, you know, there was an article in the Hechinger Report this week about how liberal arts colleges are adding work focused courses, and I think it dovetails exactly with what you're saying, Ben about this supply chain course. And, you know, in my time at trilogy, one of the things that struck me as really an interesting set of partnerships, potential partnerships on some existing partnerships, is, you know, that when colleges want to start adding, you know, high demand high ROI, potentially majors or adding high potential, you know, high high demand classes, or, you know, or different types of learning, you know, they have an option whether to build a completely in house or to partner with a tech companies. And that can look like a lot of different things. And we've seen, you know, the whole OPN world come around, you know, open up around that. But what I think is really interesting right now is that, in an era where you are under attack for your ROI, and that sort of old, that old chestnut about, you know, there's other reasons to go to school other than your, you know, future revenue or future earnings. It's certainly true, but because it's so hard to quantify, and because it's explicitly not what students are saying, people disagree on this, but that's how I feel about it, I think most students are saying, if I'm going to pay this much, I'm parents, you know, I need some assurance that I'm gonna get some kind of, you know, at least decent lifestyle after this life after this and potential to work, you know, I think you're getting to a place where some of the edtech companies that can offer this type of hybrid learning this type of, you know, do a year with this, you know, online with this company, and then go to college or transfer credits this way, or even if you're a liberal arts major, you can do this boot camp or this coding, you know, minor online at the same time. I mean, it's such a ripe moment for that. And I really encourage companies to think about, you know, that predicament that higher ed is in where they've relied for many years on a certain way of, of marketing themselves. And suddenly, it's, it's pretty different how they have to talk about it. I mean, they're partnering with each other they're making, they're trying to acquire each other, they're merging, they're laying off staff, you know, they're sharing content across across universities, like people are being more creative than I think I've ever seen in the higher ed space. And it's an amazing moment for edtech companies to actually go in and give them give them options that will actually work for them. So I'm bullish about that side of it, even if you know, I think higher ed is a slow moving ship. Yes. And on that note, we'll move to one of the biggest shifts in ad tech today by Jews as well as the Indian ad tech scene. I think we've all been watching this in the last couple of years. And so let's start with by Jews and what's going on with buy juice and then let's talk about Indian Ed Tech in general. So first by Jews cut 2500 jobs this is coming from TechCrunch and there's a quote says unfortunately they by Jews are at the wrong side of everything. Their product is not great. Parents are complaining. Their marketing strategy in the team is under fire. Their finance seems to be in shambles investors not investing their accounts seem cooked up otters not signing, being a poor poster boy comes with its own responsibilities. And when that is not adhered to, and understood well enough, it is the beginning of the end. That is probably one of the most scathing paragraphs I've read in an article in a long, long time. And this is from international banker.com and Sofia Pramod, so of course Haters gonna hate. What is your take on all of this with my views and the Indian ad tech scene? More general? I gotta kick that to that met things a lot about badgers? What are your thoughts about? Yeah, I mean, I think this is the hard part about being, you know, the kind of poster child for an industry, right? I mean, I think like, at the end of the day by Jesus is a multi 100 million dollar business, like, they're not going anywhere, like just, they're not going to close up shop, they're not will their business shrink? Maybe probably, let's push back on that though. Like, there is a way in which you build a multi million, you know, 100 million dollar business, and then you conserve your cash, and you grow at a 20% clip, and you create a solid business profile, there is a way when you kind of shoot the moon and like go for it, that that stuff actually comes back to undermine that core. And when I hear that parents are complaining about the bio Jews like Tor flywheel, which is their Indian tutoring company, that makes me feel like maybe the senior leadership is focused elsewhere, when they should be doubling down on their core, that growth trajectory on that core has slowed, the m&a isn't playing out as well. And you actually are creating existential risk. By having all of these debts and all of these places, I actually think that it's probably more likely that by juice doesn't exist, then many other companies with that same revenue line, just because the amount of debt and risks that they've taken on Yeah, I mean, I think I could stick with you that, like, bite us as we know it today may not exist. And I think, frankly, this announcement that they cut 2500 Jobs was more of a positive indicator to me than anything else, because it's like, Okay, we are going to, you know, just chop, just take the loss or whatever you want to call it, and say, like, look, we got to do this for the business, it's going to suck in the press, it's just really going to be uncomfortable here to announce this, but it's the right thing to do for the business. And I enlike, they're going to have to do the same thing on valuation, there was an article last week, that was I think, they tried to do it in like a kind of a dead period, where they raise, they took another 50 million bucks from the family office of Baijiu. So like, they're making the hard decisions to re shore up the business, it looks terrible in the press. But I think like they're gonna have to keep making these decisions to survive, and get back to the business that got them, you know, to where they were before that kind of stratospheric heights. So I'm curious to hear what you're thinking, Alex, I will say they cut hundreds of jobs in June. Now they're doing 2500 Now, and having been a startup founder before who's had to make tough cuts, the mantra is, like, cut one's cut the, but when you're doing multiple cuts over time, and this was just 5% of their workforce, great, too. So they're a huge company. And when we think in the US 2500 jobs, the financial, you know, let's say on average and employee is $100,000. That's like a big financial shift. In India, the average, you know, employees is going to be more around 15 to 20k. So in terms of actual financial savings, this feels to me like too small, like small paper cuts. And then the challenge that they have with their business is its consumer. And as much as I like I hear people when they say education, b2b is just so tough. What you have in education, b2b is retention, that like first grader gets replaced with a new first grader in the next year, when your consumer and you churn through customers that aren't happy, you get an accelerated churn. And because people are aging out on top of people are are able to just quit, whereas enterprise customers, it's a stickier value prop. So I think that there, I would feel like this is a snowball moment. And I think in you know, Alex, we were covering this in like, January, February, and we're like, there's a lot of smoke here. What's going on? You have got a great article about like, Where there's smoke, there might be fire. I think this actually turned out to be worst case scenario. They should have been In cutting these jobs months ago, yeah, many, many months ago. And by the way, I say that knowing how hard it is on real people to have one's job cut, having been on both sides of that equation before, but man by twos has been really, really hurt by the new economic environment. And, you know, I think they were taking big risks that are now getting exposed. What do you think now? It's, yeah, I think I'm somewhere between the two of your takes in that I think that the story that I just keep hearing about by Jews, when you sort of put together these headlines, Matt, you had a terrific article months ago about, you know, all the different weird headlines we are hearing sort of week over week about this company, is that they they're obviously incredibly ambitious to just to grow, right, they've been sponsoring these soccer teams and buying every company in the world cup, right sponsoring a World Cup, not just a soccer team, right? They've been like going out of their way to sort of do these victory laps and these fireworks and draw attention to themselves at the same time, as they're having really awful PR and press. And that point about the b2c term is really important. I mean, we noted on the podcast how there was a headline at one point about Baidu sort of opening up its US strategy, and the sort of cynical read on it, which I think is validated by some of this is their opening us strategy, because they're sort of blowing it in India, you know, after being the biggest, not only a tech startup, but one of the biggest stars, I think the biggest startup of almost any kind in India, their reputation is just falling apart you're having things with, and I've seen comments on LinkedIn, from some of the bad news, you know, founders or some of the senior leaders talking about things, and then they're 500 comments from parents saying how annoyed they are at the product, and you're like, Oh, my goodness, I've just never seen anything like that in ad tech. They're doing everything on this enormous scale. And when it looks bad, it's looks very, very bad. So I don't know what the future is gonna look like. I do agree that 5g is is not going to disappear. But I think that it might be a lot smaller a lot humbler? I wouldn't be surprised if there's leadership turnover, and just maybe needs a real rethink about what their strategy has been. Because I just worry, you know, as I think we all do that, when you have the biggest company in the world, in a certain sector start to look like a bad actor, it looks bad for everybody, it's bad for every other Indian Ed Tech, trying to raise money right now becomes bad for every other tutoring company. And you know, don't want that negative reputation spillover to happen. And I think that's the kind of important thing here is, maybe counter intuitively, I almost want to see more examples of them, making the tough, but ultimately mature decisions that like a big company has to make. I think Ben makes a very important point about cutting deep and quick versus spacing it out. And you know, I don't know what the right number is. But I think that's definitely salient. And I hope that we see more just examples of them maturing, you know, your point about leadership turnover is something that hasn't been written about yet that I've seen, but it certainly would seem to be floating out there. And yeah, just more signs of them trying to mature as an organization, I think would be a positive long term for them. Yeah, I think there's some lessons learned for every ad tech founder from this journey. A couple things that I take away is one, you know, in most business, like, any press is good press, right? It's actually the total opposite. And education I find is like, no press is good press. What you want is your users and customers buzzing. But you if you're in the New York Times where you're in Forbes or you're in some other thing, odds are it's going to backfire. So my view is going after these headline moves, has actually, you know, made it an easier target to bring it down. It also consolidates anybody who has a complaint, it creates a bigger target. And I think that that's going to be challenging. I think the second one is that an investment is an obligation. So when they're raising 400 million $500 million, they have to pay that back. It creates like a weird mindset, where you have good business decisions, and then you have decisions that are the only way you're going to pay your investors back. So if you've raised like $4 billion, and you've got a decision that will make like a good 100 million dollar business, you say, No, we can't do that. That'll never pay back the 4 billion that we raised. All of this happens on the micro scale in ad tech all the time. I see people who've raised $10 million, and instead of being a good business that's, you know, gets 10,000,008 your revenue, they have to be $100 million business. And they make short sighted or poor decisions or low probability decisions, knowing that that's the only way that they could ever get a return on that investment. And then I think the third one is, you know, the people that you have around you matter. And I think there's just a hype machine, that by juice got itself into it, let's do more m&a, let's roll things up. And I think those of us from the industry sitting on the sideline were like, Wait, this acquisition doesn't make sense, that piece doesn't make sense. And when you get on the phone with some of the people at the lower levels, you know, I have no access to senior folks there. They don't even know why they're buying the company they're buying, it's just growth for growth's sake. And many times, it's like negative margin growth. So I just think having the right people around you advising you is really, really critical. So lots to learn from by Jews, we're going to move on to Topic number four, which is, you know, more generally, around online education. We've been doing this pretty incredible experiment, in the last few years with online hybrid and multimodal learning. And we're starting to also see the learning outcomes, but also the feedback from users, you know, with the Hechinger, report, what stood out for you around online higher education during the pandemic, Alex, you want to take this one? Sure all set it up. And this is from Hechinger Report. And I believe it's the John Marcus who's one of the real, you know, and education journalist extraordinaire in the space. And he's basically looking at a whole bunch of different studies that have happened in this era, as you say, Ben, where everybody was suddenly thrust into online learning. So the numbers of learners was higher than ever, and it's the self selection bias went away, instead of it being you know that online learners tend to be those who are sometimes on the periphery of regular schooling for a variety of reasons or went online because they are traveling or because you know, all sorts of reasons, suddenly, everybody's online, and you can actually get really interesting results. Some of the findings they're seeing are that, you know, online instruction seems to be really effective in large introductory classes. Because you know, in those classes in person, you can't really get much feedback from people, you can't really ask questions. So it actually is more personal and more accessible than impersonal, you know, lecture halls, whereas for small elective classes, students are finding it less satisfying, because it's less interactive than, you know, a six person or a 12 person, maybe even a 20 person, small class, they're finding that putting required courses online is beneficial in helping students graduate because students, I don't know if you've seen some of the stats on this, but often you have in university level, students can't get into the required introductory classes that they need to graduate semester after semester, because everybody's enrolling in them, and the college doesn't provide enough seats. So it's a great way to scale that which makes sense. But it's also great to sort of prove that out, and that you're seeing, you know, a real polarization in people and whether people students are actually preferring online learning, there are some really good signals like almost 60% is 57% of students are more optimistic about online classes than they were before COVID. And they're more interested in learning online. But for about three and 10 students in a separate study, they said that their ability to learn was much worse online. So some people are finding it really positive, the access the ability to have more interaction than large classes, others are saying, hey, just doesn't quite work for me, in only about a third of Americans are probably or definitely confident about the quality. So it's polarizing. You know, there are still definitely a lot of skeptics saying, Oh, I learned good work for them, or they don't think it's going to work. But on the other hand, a lot of faculty and students are saying, hey, work better than I thought. And you know, this is probably here to stay, at least in some capacity. I think that's pretty exciting. You know, I'm a little biased, maybe more than a little because I love online learning and edtech. But I think these studies are, even though there's, you know, they go both ways. They're mostly positive, it doesn't look as bad as you might hear from anecdotally, in terms of people's preferences for online learning in K 12, maybe not quite as, as good. But that's what I took away from this article. I think the next kind of logical progression from this is that we will see a bigger, stronger, something effort to reduce the variability between online courses, and I think that's like, I think that the three and 10 is a good stat that shows this that like, for many schools right now, the experience online is a function of the teacher and the resources that the school puts into a given class. And I think we are now collecting the data to recognize that and the open question is okay, how are we going to reduce the variability we saw, there was an article from between, I think, jointly posted by Hechinger. And the New York Times about cost sharing. And I think that is one way we might see it where it's like, and I wrote about this a little bit that like, you have 3500 different ways to teach introductory calculus. Well, on some level, that's like pretty silly, like calculus hasn't changed. Like it's fundamentally the same. Like, yeah, there's probably a couple of different ways you could teach it that some are more effective than others. But I struggle to believe that there are 3500 different, good ways to teach calculus. So I think that'll be kind of the next wave, as more and more of this data gets collected. And I expect as we turn the page into 2023, and moving forward, we'll see more, it'll come up as like, faculty autonomy, discussion of like, how much automation a faculty member how over their course? And what does that mean for particularly higher ed, where it's so decentralized, but I think that's a topic we'll see a lot more in the news conversation. Yeah, I don't have a lot to add, other than, you know, online is merely a mode of delivery. And so we often talk about is this good tech or bad tech, when really, it's the content and quality of it going through the pipes and the interactivity of it. So I just think that, and I also think we often think of binary online or not online, when actually what we really need to think about is what's the right dosage of like, typing in a lecture or some, you know, async experience for synchronous, and then interactive. And I think the people that are doing this best are really thinking from the learners perspective, what are all the inputs, the learner needs to make meaning and ultimately grow rather than thinking, Okay, this modality is better or not, I will say a lot of this relates to our fifth and final topic, which is really around k 12. Issues and teachers coming to EdTech. On the K 12. issues, there's nothing really like breaking news here, around, you know, kids not coming back to school, and around the kind of challenges with K 12, ed tech tools and data. But I think the nuance that came out this week is really around chronic absenteeism. The folks that are, you know, you know, making up a big, big portion of that absenteeism, they're missing months at a time, not a few days here and there. And so there is this bifurcated experience, which is school is back to normal for one group of kids. And then for a very small number of students who, generally speaking are more at risk, tend to have learning differences tend to be in poverty, or of color, and all of the kind of associated economic components. There's a crisis, and kids are literally not accounted for. People don't even know where to look. And so there's some nuance and innovation around outreach. You know, there's a Harvard professor that actually has a ton of research and Emily Baylor has kind of, she's the CEO of a company that basically, you know, ensures that chronic absenteeism goes down. And what you find is, it's, it's not just sending a letter home, you've got to really use every channel and avenue to meet the needs of the students. The other big thing here is really around the the teacher staffing crisis. And now teachers more and more are seeing edtech as a career move. And so I think that that's the other surfacing element. And it's going to come to the head, because February is really when everyone makes their call, am I going to come back for the school year? Or am I not, we have a number of edtech companies that are also, you know, in hard times, and finding out of the classroom teacher is a very affordable option to get a customer success person who has real, you know, lived experiences. And speaking as a former teacher, myself, they're also incredibly good at balancing multiple tasks and meeting multiple customer needs and deliverables and managing teams. So there is a world in which we're actually creating a new pipeline out of the classroom, towards edtech, which creates like a real tension. And so looking at this data, you know, the question is, is Ed Tech solving K 12 education problems? Well, it's a yes or no, yes, we are. But we're also accelerating some of their challenges. That's kind of the roundup of K 12. News. Any highlights in there that have piqued your interest? Matt And Alex, the only thing I would add is I thought it was an interesting finding about school superintendents, basically using very disaggregated data and being quite desperate for visualizations and clear charts and reports that actually pull together the data and give them more of a sense of what to do. And I think that that includes the data you know, the absenteeism data, the data on what types of interventions are working or not working, including the type of you know, home visit, and high touch interventions that you're just talking about Ben, so that feels like an opportunity for the tech sector to really add value is just make that data as accessible and useful and actionable as possible. Not news, but it's always true. Yeah, I totally agree. You know, and I think, how we deal with the data, but the collection and storage thereof is kind of an ongoing topic. We talked a little bit about the data hack in LA last week. And you know, one of the other mergers this week was Google Brain bytes, which is, you know, a data dashboard for K 12 schools. So even the biggest companies in the world are thinking about how to solve that problem specifically, and I don't know, it's kind of, you know, gut wrenching to read about this stuff. But it's important. So I'm glad we're shining a light on it, even if it does make me kind of sad. Yeah. And there's the human component of that tech, which is, you know, the ed side of the tech, and I often call it ed plus tech. And so we really need our schools and school systems to be in a healthy place in order to leverage the tools we build for their maximum impact. Well, that's a great transition, Matt. Normally, we do funding rounds first, and then m&a. But we're gonna actually flip it with m&a Kicking us off. And you mentioned the bright bytes m&a, we also talked at the top about the BrainPOP acquisition, bright bytes was acquired by Google. This is an EdSurge article. So not a lot of details. But bright bytes is kind of an OG of data, data analytics for schools and ad tech providers. And you know, they've been through several pivots and evolutions, but now they will basically perform in that school data backbone for Google. And we also saw ASCD, merging with ISTE. So it's the runs a gigantic conference every summer with educators and ASCD also does a newsletter as well as events for administrators mainly, but also educators. And what we're really seeing is these are, as far as I know, nonprofits is the bought at search is these bringing in ASCD. We're just seeing some consolidation under the banner of Ed Tech and ad tech adjacent communities. For our deep dive this week, we are talking to Julia Stiglitz, the CEO and co founder of CO rise, which just announced is $8.5 million seed round this week. Julia, welcome to the podcast. Hi, Alex. It's great to be here. And great to see you. And yeah, it's fun to catch up. Yes. So Julia and I worked together years ago at Coursera. You were running the whole business side there. And you've had this incredible career in edtech, you did Coursera, you are an investor at GSB. And now you are taking an entrepreneurial route with this amazing company co Ries tell our listeners about CO Ries and what it's about. Great, thank you. So Cobra is is a technical upskilling platform, we partner with industry leaders to create amazing engaging courses and high demand very dynamic fields like machine learning and AI. And then we use technology and social or community in order to scale up the experiences and continue to get amazing results. And so one way to think about it is most asynchronous courses have completion rates of between four and 6%. Our completion rates are about 78%. Amazing. And so do you attribute the high completion rates to the quality of the teaching or the social environment or all of the above? I think there's a number of factors that influence the completion rate. And when we started, that was one of the goals was one of the questions that I like in our first pilot, which I actually did with my husband, before we are even a company was can you actually drive completion in an online course? Especially if you know if it's free? Or if they're not paying that much where they're, you know, aren't that much sunk costs associated with it? Can you actually get people to engage and complete that was one of the questions that we were asking. And there's a couple things that I think that we've done that have really enabled completion. One, the classes are taught by industry experts who curate the knowledge that people need and want to know and can apply the next day. It's all project based, so really hands on, and that is really motivating for people. The second is this social component to it where you're in a cohort of other peers and going through that experience, it creates this positive inertia towards completion. That is really powerful. We have students handle all of their work in public, and the projects are due on Sunday. So come Wednesday, you have this awesome social proof. People doing the projects, and it motivates you to do them as well. And then the last thing is around support and nudging. So we come into this from the perspective of adult learning is really hard. And our learners are busy, and they have a lot of competing priorities going on in their lives. And so using nudging and other mechanisms to pull people back into the course, to remind them why they're doing it, to support the way is also really powerful. Those social psychological mechanisms really are powerful. And I think sometimes online courses just don't employ them enough. So do you focus on individual learners in CO Ries? Or are you working with businesses and sort of a b2b model? Or is it a combination of both, it's a combination of both our sort of ultimate focus will be b2b. And that's where we think we can have the biggest impact and where the largest market is. But as we've been getting started, we have focused on b2c And so we've had 1000s of learners sign up for our courses, and take our courses. And then we're seeing a lot of them actually recommended to their companies, which is really exciting and become enterprise customers. And so it's both it's b2c and b2b, but our focus will be b2b. That makes sense. And, you know, we've talked to a couple of other people in adjacent spaces on this podcast and cohort based course providers or b2b, you know, training providers, I'd love to hear sort of how you think about the core, you know, when you go to a business and say, This is what makes co rise different, what's sort of the core message about what's so exciting about CO Ries for for businesses in this space, that's increasingly, you know, more and more players coming into it, I think the biggest difference gets back at what I shared in the beginning, which is outcomes. So there's learning the as a leader, you might want to provide to everyone in your company as sort of a nice to have where it's like, great, like, this is a nice benefit to be able to give all of your employees, but then there are other areas that really are becoming need to have learning areas for a company. And, and these are a lot of the areas that we're focused on. So machine learning, data engineering, data science, these are areas that are exceptionally hard to hire in. And then even if you do hire into them, the field is changing so rapidly, like just think about, like how much has happened in the field of deep learning over the last three months, like there is no way that somebody, you know, can stay up to date unless they are learning. And so for those needs to have learning areas, and we're able to actually sort of drive those outcomes and get people to complete and then apply their learning back to the job. And we can do it at scale. So there are solutions that get outcomes, when most of those solutions are very high cost. It's like hiring a consultant. And delivering small scale, small group learning experiences to a small set of employees, the companies we're talking to are very large, the problems are large, and they want to deploy it across 1000s of people. And that means you need a solution that can scale. So I think that is the sort of route of our differentiation and the route of the value proposition that we come in with. That's fantastic. So it's high skill, high quality, high demand topics that are very cutting edge so that you know, the fields change all the time and learning continuous upskilling. And learning is necessary. And you know, only co writers can deliver that. That makes sense to me. You know, one of the things that I love about CO writers just personally is that you work with a whole set of amazing Coursera folks from back in the day that a whole number of Coursera alums, early Coursera alums are working, of course, I'd love to hear how you all found each other again, around this really exciting idea. Yeah, so that's been like one of the biggest joys of building co rise has been the people that I've been lucky enough to build it with, many of whom I had worked with before and knew just how amazing they were and how fun it would be to work with them. You know, the early Coursera employees. And this is probably true of a lot of early employees that other companies in the space are so passionate about these problems, like the problem of how you create accessible education and how you create an amazing experience for learners. And, you know, when I left Coursera, and when, when my colleagues at colourized, left Coursera we didn't stop caring about that problem. And you know, in fact, we kept thinking about it, and kept thinking about like how we could solve it. And I know we've had conversations about this, as well. And so as I was starting to think about what a solution could look like and starting to experiment and doing are, you know, the initial pilot, I reached out to former Coursera people to get their thoughts and hear what they were up to. And Saurabh Hodge, one of my co founders who after Coursera went to Google Brain and then Neva had actually been thinking about similar ideas in the Creator space. So we've reconnected and really just started like geeking out on these ideas, and then pulled in Jake, who also was like really yearning to get back into ad tech. He had spent the last few years at Wayfair in a product leadership role. And it was really fun. It was really fun to think about optimizing for a different set of metrics and what we thought about at Coursera. And to build something quite different on the back of the great work that had been done, you know, in that era. So yeah, it's just been a true pleasure working with former Coursera colleagues, and the new colleagues as well. Oh, sure, I'd love to sort of zoom out and try to look at the sort of big arcs of ad tech. And it feels like you know, there's one here in which Coursera and the movement and Udemy. And you know, a lot of the companies at that time really just opened up access, just make people say, hey, I can learn anything, even the most difficult cutting edge complicated, important topics online, I think nobody ever thought of it that way before. And then there was obviously the backlash, and the trough and the plateau and this feeling of okay, but to really deliver quality, online learning isn't just about the content, there's got to be additional services and supports and social factors. And there's been this, you know, Cambrian explosion of different types of online models over the last few years, trying to find that holy grail of courses that can be finished, that actually have meaningful outcomes that are project based, that are social that are fun and exciting to be in, and that can be scaled. And, you know, I think I'm biased, because I know you guys, I think you're amazing, but I think you're really onto something great with coryza. I just can't wait to see what you do. Thanks so much. Yeah, no, I think it's yeah, it's been fascinating. People forget how radical it was in the sort of early days of the MOOCs that these elite universities were opening up access to their content, which previously had been gated off to such a small, tiny fraction of, of the world's population that was lucky enough, and could afford to attend those institutions. And democratizing that access to content was powerful and had a huge impact on millions of people. And then 10 years later, we think about the problem to be solved. And it's evolved, where now it's not just access to content, it's this question of how you actually get people to engage and complete and achieve the outcomes, which is ultimately what they're trying to achieve whether you know, career or educational outcomes. And that's the problem to be solved. And we haven't solved yet, like it is how you get engagement and also get scale and not experience that trade off, is something that hasn't been solved. And we're really excited about trying to solve it. Wonderful. Well, good luck to you and your team at ko rise, you're off to the races with your seed round. Thanks for being here with the EdTech insiders. Thank you so much, Alex. I'll pass Alex for the funding rounds. Well, actually, Matt is always my go to for the funding. He's the funding Master, I just wanted to make one quick comment about the st merge, which is that, you know, this is really, I think, a really good thing for teacher professional development. And it also I think, says something important about how professional development is increasingly tech focused. I mean, st is really the tech professional development work in ASCD is really sort of the curricular, you know, teacher professional development. org that is not particularly tech focused. And part of the reason I'm merging is that st has been continuing to sort of grow and SED has been not growing. So I think putting them together. It's a it's a big powerhouse. But it also shows that professional development for teachers is increasingly tech focused, which I think is really interesting. With that, Matt, I'd love to pass to you for the funding round. You're the funding man, pixel Alex, I will do kind of a lightning round here and see if any of these pique your interest. So first, Ada 24/7. I may be mispronouncing that I apologize, raise 35 million bucks, they are at test preparation company in India, highlighting that that kind of test prep market in India and some parts of Latin America as well, you know, continues to be just kind of light hot people will pay anything for the licenses, that that professional licenses that these companies help you study for class some raises $11 million dollars. They are, I think, a relatively new company on the scene. They are based in South Korea, and have just kind of a learning management platform for colleges and corporates. Phys is a social network for college students. Stop me if you've heard that one before. They raised four, five $5 million. I kind of love this because it feels like every six to 12 years. There's a new social network, where it's kind of a new generation kind of trying to show its colors and you know, they don't always work out but it is kind of fun to see. And I think what's kind of most interesting to me is what the generation prioritizes so Fizz is kind of semi anonymous and that the public conversation is anonymous with heavy ma Narration but that private conversations are named. And you know, I think that shows a level of nuance among the Gen Z's and whatever comes after Gen Z that my generation certainly didn't have when we were just posting at random on people's Facebook walls. So kudos to them for being far smarter than us help, which is a Toronto based college admissions counseling platform raised $4 million. And notably, Serena Williams is one of their investors. I thought that was cool. And that market just continues to grow like crazy. A bunch of the big name players in the space have made recent investments or acquisitions in that space. And then a couple others who Denso raised a million dollars. They're focused on the AR side of education, and marathon raised a non disclosed amount of funding from Paul Allen's that the late Paul Allen's venture fund to do I think they're doing tutoring in Vietnam. So that's the funding round up. That was a jumble. Any of those kind of stuck out to you, Alex. I mean, I've mentioned it almost every week. But it's so interesting to me that the Indian tech scene just continues to reward Test Prep. It is just such a huge industry. And yet companies still continue to grow and run into it and succeed. I guess you there's so much. There's so much demand. I love the name help. That's like all I would say what a great you how? Yeah, how? I think that's what it means. I don't know. But I think that's the text based counseling is, I think such a ripe space. And people have been, you know, coming into it in various ways for a while. But it makes so much sense given where students are at. So yeah, that's about it. For me, I think it'll be interesting to see where they go with their fears goes the way of of Yik Yak or not, but or Tiktok is a Viagra tick tock. But yeah, always interesting to see these rounds are relatively small, but I think they're interesting. And they're super global, which is always nice to see. Yeah, totally agree. I think specifically on how it's, they are really kind of inverting the traditional International Student Admissions model, which is typically a very high upfront fee for, you know, pretty concierge like services to get into traditionally more selective colleges, they have humans doing the texting, I would love to see their financial model and how they make that work. But I think it is interesting saying, Well, this is how the market works. What if we tried to invert it as a way to grow our share of the pie. So that part I find compelling and saying, We can probably do this, you know, low cost 20% of the price for maybe as much as 80% of the value we'll see. So this one, I will be watching for a multitude of reasons. Fantastic. I always appreciate you know, you always have your eye on the funding landscape really closely. And it's always great to when we have you on because you can sort of shed a lot of light on all of these funding rounds that come in every week. There's always companies in there that I have never heard of at least, you know, two or three every week, which just shows the scope of the EdTech space, but it's always great to get everything together. So I think that brings us to the end of this episode of This Week in ed tech from Ed Tech insiders. We've talked about that amazing BrainPOP news college ROI, k 12 online learning and of course the by Jews beat that we have been pursuing for quite a long time. Thank you so much for listening as always and remember if it happens in edtech you'll hear about it here on this week in tech from a tech insiders. Thanks for listening to this episode of Ed Tech insiders. If you liked the podcast, remember to rate it and share it with others in the tech community. For those who want even more and Tech Insider subscribe to the free ed tech insiders newsletter on substack.