Fund II Closes at the Dawn of the New Age of Digital Learning

GSV Ventures has closed our second venture fund at $180 million.

We’re at a tipping point for a new era in education. Almost overnight, COVID-19, forced 1.6 billion students and their instructors online. The world leapt from B.C. (“Before COVID”) into the new era, A.D. (“After Disease”).

That’s why we’re calling GSV Fund II — B.C./A.D.

In B.C., the education market has steadily evolved as 4.5 billion people have joined the internet over the past 25 years, creating new opportunities for learning for those on the spectrum of lifelong learning that we at GSV Ventures call “Pre-K to Gray.”

COVID-19 lit a match, accelerating change and adoption unlike anything else — and bringing us all into a new era, where barriers to entry have lifted.

And there’s no going back.

In higher ed, only 30% of students were taking a course online B.C. (“Before COVID”). In A.D. (“After Disease”), essentially 100% of students shifted to online learning. And in K12, the shift was even more dramatic as schools scrambled to bring an entire population of instructors and students online. Even as schools have reopened, online learning has been a lifeline for those unable or unready to return.

To date, the $7 trillion global learning market has been growing at a steady 5% CAGR. The transition to digital learning that started with the rise of the internet has ballooned to a $160 billion market today. Before COVID, it was projected to become a $440 billion market by 2026, growing at an impressive 16% CAGR (5X global GDP growth).

COVID has propelled us all into a present that we thought was still years away. A market that has already been growing at a healthy rate is now in overdrive — likely doubling our previous growth estimates. Part of this is because initial adoption drives future adoption. Now that learners are online, they’re more willing to try other online activities. That’s just one of the reasons this particular genie isn’t going back in its bottle.

At GSV Ventures, we invest based on the belief that education technology has the potential to support teachers and faculty, parents and students of all ages — throughout what we call “Pre-K to Gray” — to drive transformational change in learning and skills outcomes. We seek to leverage technology to deliver learning that can be achieved at scale, with quality engagement that drives educational returns.

And we’ve got some exciting news of our own: the final close of our second fund, GSV Fund II: B.C./A.D., with equity commitments totaling $180 million — which will continue to invest in the accelerating global education technology sector. We raised our first venture fund in 2016 with limited partner commitments of $97 million, investing in a number of leading EdTech companies including Coursera, Course Hero, ClassDojo, Degreed, MasterClass and Nearpod.

Fund II is being invested by a team of EdTech leaders and investment professionals including Deborah Quazzo, Managing Partner; Michael Cohn, Partner; Julia Stiglitz, Partner; Luben Pampoulov, Partner; and Michael Moe, Senior Advisor and Investment Committee member. The fund is focused in high impact EdTech businesses and will invest in early stage Seed and Series A financing, with approximately 20% of the fund reserved for multi-stage growth opportunities. GSV expects our next fund, Fund III, to have its first close later this year.

GSV Fund II is seeking investment opportunities and has already begun funding innovative companies, including investments in Class Technologies, Inc., Guild Education, Outlier, Photomath and Valenture Institute. GSV portfolio companies collectively serve more than 400 million learners, with recent investments backing founders in India, Indonesia, South Africa and Jordan.

The Tip Of A Trillion Dollar Market

We see tremendous opportunity in the education technology market. To provide a reference point, in 2004, US E-Commerce was 2.1% of overall retail sales in 2004. By 2019, it was 11% of retail sales. Right now, Digital Learning represents 2.3% ($160 billion) of the overall education sector — effectively where E-commerce was in 2004.

We initially projected that digital learning would follow a similar projection and reach 4.5% ($440 billion) of the education market by 2026. We now believe digital learning will reach 11% of the education market by 2026, representing a ~$1 trillion market and a 30% CAGR, close to double the rate of growth projected in B.C..

The After Disease World For PreK-12 Will Be Hybrid Education

Kids will go back to school, but more of them will have devices and access to the internet than ever before. Learning will no longer happen just in class as the digital world and real world will become fluid with students learning both inside and outside of school. The idea of school will shift from a place to a purpose.

Higher Education Walks The Plank: Digitize or Fall Behind

In higher education, pre-existing conditions have set up the system to fail its customers: the students. While tuition has been increasing at a 2–3x rate compared to inflation in the last 30 years, most of that money is actually going towards non-academic resources. Thus, while traditional institutions got more and more unattainable, their educational offering has stayed more or less the same. This will have to change.

The B.C./A.D. Fund Goes To Work

We raised our first venture fund in 2016 with limited partner commitments of $97 million, investing in a number of leading EdTech companies, including a substantial investment in the EdTech unicorn, Coursera.

Now our second fund — B.C./A.D. — is actively seeking investments and has already begun funding innovative companies including Series A investments in Class Technologies, Inc., Guild Education, Outlier, Photomath and Valenture Institute.

Over $400 million of global EdTech investments are under management between GSV Special Purpose Vehicles and GSV Funds I and II.

We are grateful for the confidence investors and entrepreneurs have placed in us and will work vigorously to seize the opportunity to build EdTech businesses on a mission to give all people equal access to the future. With this as our purpose, we never have to worry about why we do what we do. Our business brings with it the promise of education equity and access for the world.

The hyper acceleration of the market due to COVID brings unprecedented opportunities for us to help learners throughout the Pre-K to Gray system. We’re in a race to find and fund the companies that will bend the arc of education towards access and equity around the world