Desire2Learn’s $85 Million Deal

Tony Wan Tony Wan

When Desire2Learn raised an $80 million Series A round in 2012, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company claimed the honor of receiving "the largest-ever venture capital investment in a Canadian software company."

While the company no longer wears that crown (Vancouver-based social media management system, HootSuite, raised $165 million in 2013), it’s once again making a scene in the edtech industry with another funding fury: an $85 million Series B round.

To put this in context, this amount surpasses the $50 million total that we tallied in the 20 funding rounds for U.S. edtech companies during the month of July. (O Canada!)

The round was led by an undisclosed “large institutional asset manager.” Others include Columbus Nova Technology Partners, Graham Holdings, Four Rivers Group and Aurion Capital, along with existing investors New Enterprise Associates and OMERS Ventures. Silicon Valley Bank also provided debt financing. Desire2Learn has now raised $165 million.

The deal comes on the heels of what the company calls “a year of record growth in the higher education, K-12 and corporate markets.” John Baker, founder and CEO, says the company currently serves 1,100 institutions and 15 million learners--up from 850 and 10 million, respectively, at this time last year. The company also recently opened offices in Latin America, Asia Pacific and Europe.

Desire2Learn went on an acquisition spree after its Series A round, snapping up Degree Compass, Wiggio, Knowillage and Achievement Standards Network within a span of 15 months. In July 2014, the company re-branded its learning platform as BrightSpace and showed off how all these different technologies have been integrated within the system.

This time, the company says it will play it cool. “There are no planned acquisitions at this stage,” Baker tells EdSurge. “At this point, we’re primarily focused on building out our learning platform to support our clients and thousands of integration partners.” To do so, the company will grow its team of 783 full-time employees. “We are actively looking for dozens of new positions; over 60 in R&D alone,” shares Baker.

Growing the team may just be one way for Desire2Learn to catch up with Blackboard, which employs 3,000 worldwide (500 hired in the past 12 months) and claims a lion's share of the market with over 1,700 institutional customers. Like Desire2Learn, Blackboard says that it, too, has started integrating at least 13 standalone technology assets into a unified product.

And with Instructure (which some some say has a similar market share as Desire2Learn) rumored to make an initial public offering soon, signs are pointing to an intensifying jostling among LMS providers.

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