A special thanks to Robb Doub from New Markets Venture Partners, who wrote to correct me about my list of “top ed-tech investors.” He had more data than I did – obviously – about what his firm had invested in.
From Doub’s email, here are the companies that the firm has invested in since 2009:
Questar Assessments, Moodlerooms (Acquired by Blackboard), Presence Learning, Starfish Retention (Acquired by Hobsons), Think Through Math, BetterLesson, American Honors, ConnectEdu (Acquired by Graduation Alliance), Straighterline, Kickboard, Calvert Education Services, Civitas, Regent Education, Fishtree, Three Ring, Credly, and Graduation Alliance
This correction, which I do appreciate, poses some problems, and I can’t simply add these to my list. Or rather, it prompts me to clarify some of my methodology:
1) I am only looking at investments from 2010 on. As far as I can tell, New Markets’ investment in Questar Assessment was back in 2009, so I haven’t added that one to my database. I’d love to extend my research farther back in time, particularly to Tech Bubble 1.0. Someone should pay me to do that.
2) I need three pieces of funding data for the dataset I’m making publicly available: name of investor, name of startup, and date (that is, the year in which funding was announced). I’m not including the amount that the startup has raised in this particular dataset, as this one is focused on building a network map of investors and not so much on individual startups and how much they’ve raised. (That dollar figure is in the datasets that tracks startup funding, month-by-month in 2015 and 2016.) I just don’t have enough knowledge about how to take a $5 million Series A, for example, and break down how much money each investor contributed to the round. That’s not public data.
3) And that gets me to my final problem – and not just in adding the New Markets investments to my database – with this project: a lot of this isn’t public data. (That’s why I’m doing this!) In order to add something to my records, I am looking for at least one (but ideally two) confirmations about the funding round. There’s got to be either a press release or an entry in Crunchbase or a post on the investor or startup blog or an article – something publicly stating those data points mentioned above. I need a URL to point to to be able to say “investment happened and here’s who invested.” I can’t find any information online that shows me when New Markets Venture Partners invested in Moodlerooms, Starfish Retention, American Honors (which I think is actually Quad Learning?), Straighterline, or Graduation Alliance – other than these companies appear in the portfolio section of New Markets’ website.
I realize that the data that I’ve gathered and published so far about ed-tech funding is incomplete. Again, that’s part of the reason why I’m undertaking this research, and it’s part of the reason why I’m making my datasets freely and openly available. You can submit an “issue” via Github (or send me an email) in order to ask questions or make corrections. I’m also trying to be deliberately transparent – about the process, the flaws, the data itself – because so much of ed-tech financing is incredibly opaque. And that opacity makes it challenging to really be able to scrutinize the networks and the narratives surrounding “the business of ed-tech.”
Of course, that’s probably the point.