Dozens of Venture-Backed Startups Among Edtech Recipients of PPP Loans

Even the most important names within the schooling expertise trade, awash in personal capital, are in search of public assist in the course of the pandemic.

School districts are hardly the one ones in schooling below financial duress inflicted by COVID-19. Also feeling the ripple impact are the businesses and organizations that present instruments and providers to college students and educators.

Like their friends in different industries, many personal schooling firms and organizations utilized for assist from the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), which supplies federal loans to assist organizations maintain workers on payroll and keep in enterprise. Loans are forgiven supplied that recipients meet criteria that embrace utilizing no less than 60 p.c of the quantity to maintain their employees whereas sustaining no less than 75 p.c of their present salaries.

Last week, the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury launched knowledge on 660,000 firms and nonprofits that had been accepted for over $150,000 in PPP funding. Among the recipients within the schooling sector are personal Ok-12 faculties, faculties and universities, charter school operators, skilled growth organizations, technical and commerce faculties, and test-prep facilities.

A evaluation of the information by EdSurge for notable schooling expertise software program and repair suppliers discovered greater than 60 for-profit and nonprofit organizations that had been accepted for a mortgage between $150,000 to $5 million. (ISTE, the dad or mum group of EdSurge, was additionally accepted for a PPP mortgage.)

And although this system was designed to assist small companies, some schooling organizations accepted for loans have beforehand raised a whole lot of million from personal backers. Even an funding agency that has supported dozens of edtech startups appeared on the record.

Education technology companies and nonprofits approved for PPP loans

Pitchbook, a market analysis agency centered on personal capital markets, discovered more than 8,100 companies on the record that had raised capital from enterprise capital and personal fairness companies. That quantities to a bit multiple p.c of the 660,000 organizations accepted for a mortgage of no less than $150,000.

Still, privately funded firms have confronted criticism for taking loans as “free money” to easily prolong their monetary runway. Investors themselves are additionally split over whether or not web startups ought to make the most of a necessary lifeline focused towards native mom-and-pop retailers that function in-person companies with out enterprise capital assist or connections.

“When considering applications for forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, we encouraged our portfolio companies’ leadership teams to engage in reflection and discuss whether it was appropriate, if they had not already done so,” stated Jennifer Carolan, co-founder of edtech funding agency Reach Capital, in an electronic mail. “For many, these discussions continued at the Board level. We witnessed thoughtful consideration of their employees’ needs, their values and the greater context of this crisis. In the end, very few companies applied.”

Venture-backed or not, the truth that schooling firms utilized for this system “does not surprise me,” says Sandro Olivieri, who runs Productive LLC, a technique consulting agency for impact-investment applications. In April, he surveyed schooling companies about how the pandemic impacted their operations. Of the 104 firms that responded, greater than 60 p.c stated their monetary runway had shortened, and 71 p.c projected a lower in gross sales. More than 1 / 4 had already laid off workers.

“When school closures started happening, edtech companies started hurting for cash. Their sales pipeline was impacted, their outlook for the fall changed and it drastically reduced their runway,” says Olivieri.

Funding for Big Fishes

Among venture-funded edtech firms that obtained a PPP mortgage, Altitude Learning has raised probably the most capital. Formerly often known as AltSchool, the corporate had secured greater than $176 million earlier than it significantly retrenched its operations final yr and rebranded to its present title. The San Francisco-based firm, which now affords an internet schooling platform to varsities and households, was accepted for a mortgage between $2 million to $5 million.

Sphero began as a client robotics toy firm and later refocused its business on the schooling market. It has raised $148 million from buyers—and was additionally accepted for a mortgage between $2 million to $5 million.

RaiseMe, a supplier of an internet scholarship platform for highschool college students that beforehand raised $31.5 million, was additionally accepted for a PPP mortgage in April. A pair months later, the San Francisco-based startup was acquired by CampusLogic. (RaiseMe declined to remark about whether or not it had used these funds.)

The record additionally consists of a number of high-profile nonprofit edtech organizations which have obtained tens of millions in assist from philanthropic donors. They embrace Khan Academy, which was accepted for a mortgage in the identical quantity vary as Altitude Learning and Sphero.

Khan Academy CEO and founder Salman Khan told EdSurge in April that site visitors spikes to its web site may triple its server prices. Already the nonprofit has obtained $Three million in grants from AT&T, Google and different company donors earlier this yr. In an interview with Mountain View Voice final week, he said the PPP funds helped the group maintain its 180 workers., a nonprofit that gives and advocates for laptop science teaching programs in Ok-12 faculties, was accepted for a $1 million to $2 million mortgage. Over the years it has obtained about $100 million in philanthropic funding, largely from main Silicon Valley expertise firms.

Min Yoo, director of selling and growth at, stated the mortgage will likely be used to retain its present employees of about 80 workers. The pandemic has pressured the group to cancel its in-person skilled growth applications, and deal with creating on-line assets for college students and lecturers.

“The economic impact from COVID-19—particularly related to fundraising for programs and operations—was and still is quite uncertain. This loan helps mitigate this risk and support unexpected operational adjustments in response to the changing K-12 landscape,” she stated in an electronic mail.

Supporting Small Businesses

Not all personal edtech recipients are as properly endowed; many have raised a lot much less in personal capital, with a employees and footprint befitting the form of small companies that this system aimed to assist.

Among the smaller-sized PPP recipients are firms like Listenwise, which supplies on-line classes, actions and assets to assist college students construct listening comprehension expertise. The Boston-based startup utilized for the PPP mortgage the primary day purposes had been open, on April 3, in line with its co-founder and CEO Monica Brady-Myerov.

That resolution was pushed in massive by uncertainty over how lengthy COVID-19 would disrupt its enterprise. School closures unfolded firstly of the standard procurement cycle, when officers normally plan what to purchase for the next faculty yr. In most districts, buying choices and budgets are finalized from April to June, and the precise purchases occur over the summer season.

The pandemic “turned the sales cycle a bit on its head,” says Brady-Myerov. “We knew there would be delays in purchasing decisions from customers.”

Like many different schooling firms, Listenwise made all its choices out there without spending a dime for the remainder of the 2019-2020 faculty yr because the pandemic hit. Nearly 10,000 lecturers took up the supply, but it surely stays to be seen what number of will likely be paying subscribers for the upcoming faculty yr, in line with Brady-Myerov.

She says the corporate obtained $170,000 in PPP funding, which has allowed Listenwise to keep up its group of eight full-time employees at present salaries.

Education buyers themselves have additionally been accepted for PPP loans. GSV Acceleration, a funder of over two dozen edtech firms, was accepted for a $150,000 to $350,000 mortgage.

LearnLaunch, a Boston-based nonprofit, was additionally accepted for a mortgage in that vary. The group hosts occasions and operates a co-working area for schooling firms, and is affiliated with an edtech enterprise accelerator program that shares the identical title (however which operates as a separate entity).

In an electronic mail, Jane Swift, president and govt director of LearnLaunch (and former Massachusetts Governor) stated the choice to use for PPP loans was as a result of “the uncertainty around our operating model, the closure of our co-working space which created significant financial losses and our commitment to continue to support the education ecosystem.”

LearnLaunch has diminished or forgiven hire for startups that used its co-working area. But it doesn’t personal that area. “We have continued to make rent payments to our landlord, McGraw-Hill Education, at a significant financial loss to the organization,” Swift stated. Her group has additionally canceled all of its revenue-generating occasions for the remainder of the yr. Its subsequent annual convention, scheduled for January 2021, is up within the air, she added.

Swift stated the PPP funds has allowed LearnLaunch to not solely maintain its employees of eight, but in addition convert two of its consultants to full-time workers in August. “As our work with school districts has increased we are slowly beginning to increase our headcount as we are financially able to do so in a responsible manner.”

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