MyON Turns Another New Page With a New Owner: Renaissance Learning

Mergers and Acquisitions

MyON Turns Another New Page With a New Owner: Renaissance Learning

By Tony Wan     Mar 19, 2018

MyON Turns Another New Page With a New Owner: Renaissance Learning

Just a year after it was purchased by a private equity firm, myON is swapping hands again.

The latest owner of the digital K-12 literacy platform is Renaissance Learning, a provider of math, literacy and assessment products. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Last February, myON was sold by its parent company, Capstone to private equity firm Francisco Partners. Renaissance, based in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. is owned by a different private equity group, Hellman & Friedman, which purchased Renaissance for $1.1 billion in 2014.

Founded in 1984, Renaissance is best known today for its Accelerated Reader and Accelerated Math programs, along with its STAR formative assessments that aim to help teachers and students prepare for their end-of-year state exams. Across these three main product lines, the company claims usage in one-third of all U.S. schools.

Renaissance and myON aren’t total strangers. In 2013, Renaissance partnered with Capstone (then the owner of myON) to integrate its Accelerated Reader quizzes with myON’s digital books.

This acquisition will expand Renaissance’s library of digital content for its Accelerated Reader 360 program. “What myON brings that we don’t have is a personalized library of 13,000 e-books that students can have access to at home and in the classroom,” says Daniel Hamburger, CEO of Renaissance Learning, in an interview with EdSurge. Hamburger, who was previously president and CEO of DeVry Education Group, joined Renaissance last July.

In other words, the addition of myON brings a cache of digital content that complements the assessment tools that Renaissance has developed over the years. “MyON is a strong brand for digital literacy,” Hamburger tells EdSurge, “and Renaissance is a strong brand for measuring literacy.” Bringing the two together, he adds, offers “a global opportunity to accelerate literacy in the world.”

Under its previous owner Francisco Partners, myON hired 25 people to launch new products. Among them is myON News, which publishes 5 news articles every day, each written at three different Lexile levels. This content is created by News-O-Matic, a New York City-based company. MyON has also added support for Spanish and French, and secured content partnerships with overseas providers including Santillana, a K-12 publisher serving Latin America, and Canadian publisher Nelson.

Last year, myON grew its number of users by 30 percent over 2016, according to Todd Brekhus, myON’s president. Today he says it’s used by about 8 million students across 8,500 schools and 20 countries. Revenue increased by just under 30 percent in 2017 as well, he claims.

Among the factors that Brekhus attributes to myON’s growth is its pricing model, whereby schools pay an annual subscription that gives them access to all the content—from 67 publishers—in its library. For purchasing decision-makers at schools, he notes, it’s a simpler payment system than the “pay-as-you-read” model that other digital content providers sometimes use.

Brekhus, along with his staff of 100 at myON, will be joining Renaissance Learning, which will number approximately 1,100 employees after this acquisition. Brekhus will join Renaissance’s executive team and will oversee the integration of myON’s products and services. One plan down the road is to “integrate the STAR assessments to recommend the right content” from myON’s digital library for students, he shares. MyON will retain its brand as a distinct offering under Renaissance’s suite of products.

The one person who won’t stay long is Chris Bauleke, who only joined myON as its CEO last February. He will assist with the transition but will not remain with Renaissance permanently.

This is just the latest deal to shake up the market for digital K-12 literacy tools. Earlier this year, LightSail Education, a competing provider, laid off a sizable number of staff before selling to an overseas private equity group that has pledged to maintain the product. Another company, Curriculet, briefly closed shop before it was acquired by a nonprofit last year.

This deal marks the third company that Renaissance has acquired in the past five years. In 2013 it purchased Subtext, a tool that lets teachers embed lesson plans, quizzes, and other interactive features in digital books. Two years later it bought UClass, a content management platform designed for K-12 schools and districts.

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