IPO Corner: Biotech, Fintech And Now Edutech

When you think about your childhood and your school days, what images are conjured up? Maybe you get flashbacks of sitting at your desk, your eyes trained on the teacher at the front of the class. You’re with twenty or thirty other kids, all scribbling in your notebooks intently… trying to keep up with what’s being written on the board. It’s mostly a solitary journey, with occasional class or group projects. And, most importantly, the focal point is on memorization and learning to self-motivate.

But… you know what we’re going to say, right? Education is changing, evolving to fit a faster, more volatile, more populated world. Gone are those simpler days of our childhoods and here are the machines and mega classes. No longer will teachers be focal points, and the student’s teachability and virtue tied to how long he can sit, stare at one person, and memorize facts. The classrooms that are being built today are centric to a model designed around technology and molding learners to be collaborative, critical thinkers.

The Paperless Classroom

To envision the future of education, we need to understand the single element central to all of it: edtech. Edtech is short for education technology and it’s basically using software and hardware tools within an instructional environment to foster inclusivity, increase engagement, and create learning experiences tailored to individual learners rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach… which is about students fitting the model rather than the teaching model working for them.

Indeed, classrooms are evolving… in a world where information moves faster than instructors can design materials, edtech is poised to help us scale the ample challenges we now find laid out before us in education. To keep pace, learning spaces are now being fitted with robots, screens galore, and interactive IoT devices that create a “learning environment” as the preferred alternative to a dull room where bored students stare at a wall and one human being for hours on end.

Today’s classrooms have moved beyond the clunky desktop computers that were once the norm and are now tech-infused with tablets, interactive online courses, and even robots that can take notes and record lectures for absent students. In today’s new learning environments, as standard issue, we’re seeing virtual reality lessons, gamified classroom activities, automated grading, personalized instruction, and classroom management tools that carry out the busy work of instructors automatically… with things like automated homework reminders and noise level warning alerts.

The market for these technologies looks healthy moving forward, with forecasters projecting a swell to $404 billion by 2025. Far from being only for schools, edtech demand is being driven by employers and other institutions as well. Employers have not only had to rethink how they hire and operate, but how they train and keep their workforce educated. In ever more complex working environments, keeping workforces trained up and upskilling using new methodologies are becoming more commonplace. Edtech is making it easier to offer education and training that’s more accessible, affordable, fast, and convenient.

Deals To Watch

The companies we’ve chosen to look at in the space in this issue are Visionary Education Technology Holdings Group and Elevate K-12. Visionary Education Technology (VEDU) is a private education provider located in Markham, Canada that sprang up in 2017 to offer education resources. The company serves Canadian and international students with the aim of providing access to secondary, college, undergraduate, graduate, and vocational education through technological innovation. Founder and majority shareholder, Fan Zhou, has over 20 years of experience in international vocational education and has made it her mission to broaden access to multicultural education.

In addition to education programs, the company offers educational services which include immigration and study visa services, student housing, career guidance, and internship and entrepreneurship guidance. The company went public in May with a listing on the NASDAQ, closing its IPO of 4.25 million common shares at $4 each and raising $17 million. It’s barely a $1 stock now. Ouch. According to the company, proceeds were allocated for Public Private Partnership (“PPP”) projects, course development, program partnerships with other universities, vocational education, development of global market and distribution channels, staff development, and general corporate purposes.

The answer to the teacher shortage… that’s where Elevate K-12 has positioned themselves in the market. Elevate K-12 is a Chicago-based instructional services company bringing live streamed instruction into K-12 classrooms. Operating in over 27 states, K-12 is a go-to partner for educational institutions to solve teacher shortages and overreliance on substitutes through their special instructional solutions. The company offers curriculum and classroom management tools along with live streaming instruction to bringing synchronous, structured teaching to schools with a “teach from anywhere” modality.

In June, K-12 closed a Series C $40 million round of funding led by venture capital firm General Catalyst and has used the funding for products and services that continue to drive toward their mission of easing the burden of teacher shortages on schools through scaling livestream instruction. The K-12 team is dedicated to the idea that live, structured, synchronous instruction is the answer to current educational woes. We look forward to seeing what they bring us next… and watching as they inch toward a possible IPO.

It seems, more and more, edtech tools are working to emulate real-world classroom experiences safely and efficiently. As we’ve recently seen schools in Mississippi go remote indefinitely due to catastrophic flooding, we could safely ask… is edtech in a position to help us not only revolutionize learning, but keep it going through virtual, synchronous, remote learning? And, if so, will either of these companies land our Buy List? Come back next week, as sure as the sun will rise, we’ll be here brining you the latest research and news in the IPO space.