Education Opinion

Edu-Roll Ups: The Sprint to Scale

By Tom Vander Ark — September 14, 2018 3 min read
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Carnegie Learning announced yesterday that they acquired Mondo Publishing, an elementary literacy provider. The news came a week after the Pittsburgh company announced its merger with New Mountain Learning, a St. Paul publisher founded in 2012.

There have been about 100 mergers and acquisitions in education each quarter for the last four years, an uptick of about 25% over the first few years of the decade. The increase can largely be attributed to private equity rollups--investment firms that buy, combine and attempt to grow a group of companies.

Last week, CIP Capital, announced investment in Carnegie Learning and a merger with New Mountain which CIP acquired in April.

Starting as Steve Ritter’s Carnegie Mellon research project in the 1980s, Carnegie Learning launched as an independent company in 1998 focused on adaptive tutoring in math.

The merged companies have been busy. Last year, Carnegie acquired the project-based coding app Globaloria. In February, New Mountain acquired Zulama which uses games to teach coding.

Carnegie CMO John Jorgenson said he was excited about becoming a comprehensive K-16 provider and the ability to combine STEM and literacy.

Private equity firm Wicks Group formed New Mountain by combining EMC School, a developer of language-learning materials; Paradigm Education Solutions, a suite of print and digital materials for healthcare and computer software literacy; and JIST Career Solutions, a library of career and life-coaching workbooks and videos.

Under President Mick Demakos, EMC developed the Passport platform, a dynamic learning environment. Demakos is excited about deploying the platform in support of Carnegie assets and incorporating their adaptive engine.

The opportunity to leverage purchasing relationships with comprehensive platform-based offerings is compelling--and is behind the growth in private equity-based mergers and acquisitions.

Big Roll-Ups

Weld North. In 2010 former Kaplan exec Jonathan Grayer took some KKR funding and launched Weld North which acquired and invested in 20 ed tech companies including Edgenuity, Generation Ready and Imagine Learning. Weld acquired Compass Learning in 2016 and combined it with Enginuity. In July, Imagine Learning acquired nonprofit middle-grade math provider Reasoning Mind. In January KKR sold their stake to Silver Lake.

Vista Equity. In 2015, Vista Equity Partners purchased PowerSchool, a student information system. To become a comprehensive learning platform, Vista purchased another eight ed tech companies including LMS Haiku in 2016. In 2018, Vista merged PowerSchool with talent management platform PeopleAdmin. This week, Vista acquired iCIMS, a leading provider of cloud-based talent acquisition solutions.

Frontline Education. Founded in 1998, Frontline provides administrative and human resource software for K-12 schools and districts assembled through 10 acquisitions of companies including Teachscape, School Improvement Network, and Teachers-Teachers. In 2017, Thoma Bravo bought the conglomerate from Insight Venture Partners.

Hero K12. Starting as a student behavioral management tool, Hero K12 received $150 million in 2017 from BV Investment Partners, to assemble a platform of educational data services beginning with Schoolmint

Francisco Partners. With two big acquisitions of brand-name assets in Discovery Education and Renaissance Learning, Francisco Partners became a leader in education (but it doesn’t even list education as a vertical).

Carnegie CEO Barry Malkin will lead the combined entity. Eric Cantor will serve as Executive Chairman.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.