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The Class of COVID-19

The Class of COVID-19
June 8, 2020

COVID-19 has forced all universities in the US to take classes online. After 3 months, the experience has been mixed and has invited questions on the traditional college model and the value of a college degree. Indeed, some very large employers are reassessing the need for the baccalaureate. Recently, Tesla emphasized that working at Tesla does not require a college degree. Apple CEO Tim Cook says nearly half of Apple's U.S. employment last year was made up of non-degree holders. He says most colleges don't build the skills business leaders need most, such as coding.

Many alternatives to colleges have emerged. FutureLearn, a subsidiary of the UK Open University, is serving millions of learners in 18 countries with its 200 online courses from 120 universities. China's XuetangX now reaches 16 million learners and offers 1,900 classes from universities in China as well as Stanford, Berkeley, and others. All of these alternatives provide credentials that are certified and badged, in many cases with learning outcomes carefully designed to meet employer needs.

In its latest response to the coronavirus pandemic, Coursera will give college students around the world free access to its entire catalog of courses. The company, a leading online learning platform and one of the pioneers of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), made the announcement this past week, opening up enrollment in any of its thousands of courses to millions of students.


Summer typically marks some of the busiest times for local libraries. Bored kids flock to libraries for entertainment, and parents rely on them as a free and safe replacement for the supervision usually offered by schools. But with COVID-19, libraries have had to rethink their summer programs, and the way they can serve local communities.

Many libraries have turned to e-book-lending programs suh as Hoopla and Overdrive, which have seen usage surge since March. That increased usage has also put a spotlight on the costs associated with these services, and the role that book publishers play in the digital transformation of libraries, as well as conflicts between business models and policies designed to serve the public good.

Overdrive, owned by the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, and Hoopla, from Midwest Tape, produce audiobooks for libraries. Both services have seen massive usage spikes. E-book checkouts through Overdrive's Libby app increased 51% since mid-March, with app installs more than doubling, compared to pre-COVID-19 averages. Hoopla has seen 300 new library systems join since March 2020, according to its co-founder and CEO Jeff Jankowski.


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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs):

Udacity is a for-profit MOOC platform that focuses on career development through technical and vocational online courses. Topics span six areas of study, which include data science, cloud computing, autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence. Students can also take programming and development classes in C++, Blockchain, and Android development. Beyond diverse course offerings, Udacity delivers comprehensive career services, including personalized job coaching, resume writing guidance, and LinkedIn best practices. The Udacity Talent Program lets users create detailed profiles and connect with major employers like Google and Mercedes-Benz.

Kadenze was launched in 2015 as a for-profit company with the support of 18 institutional partners, including Princeton University and the Rhode Island School of Design. This MOOC provider focuses on music, visual arts, creative technology, and other fields of study that lagged behind due to the prominence of STEM education. Students enjoy self-paced, mobile-friendly content that lets them showcase their skills with professional portfolio tools. Although Kadenze offers most of its MOOCs for free, students can pay to access in-depth feedback and other premium content. Kadenze also offers curated programs that enable learners to specialize in a subject.

As the largest online learning provider, Udemy offers over 150,000 courses in 65 languages. While students can take a variety of free courses, many MOOCs require a fee. By paying for premium content, users also gain access to features like direct messaging, Q&A, and certificates of completion. Topics cover 11 broad categories, including office productivity, health and fitness, and photography. Students can also complete finance and accounting classes, learning the key elements of Bitcoin and blockchain, or developing global market analysis skills. Additionally, Udemy provides personal development content that enables users to manage stress, improve their self-esteem, and cultivate meaningful relationships.

FutureLearn is a massive open online course provider founded in the United Kingdom in 2012 by 12 university partners, including King's College London and the University of Leeds. Students can complete one of 418 short courses to learn new skills in areas like digital product management, ecology and wildlife science, and the future of globalization. They may also obtain micro-credentials from leading universities and major companies. Additionally, FutureLearn provides low-cost online academic programs that enable candidates to earn a bachelor of arts in international business or a master of science in cybersecurity. Unlike other platforms, FutureLearn structures its courses through narrative, with weekly to-do lists that help students stay on top of coursework. Learners can also access one-on-one support from a network of tutors.

Funding & Deal Highlights:

Anti-phishing startup Inky raises $20M in a Series B round of funding, led by Insight Partners. Inky started a decade ago with a bold mission to reinvent email with its desktop app focused on helping users better organize and filter their inboxes. The company pivoted away from its email improvement efforts in 2018 to focus on its cloud-based anti-phishing technology. A year later, it raised $5.6M in a Series A round.

Athira Pharma, Inc., a Seattle, WA-based clinical-stage company developing innovative first-in-class regenerative therapies with the potential to restore brain function, closes an $85M Series B financing.

Hyperscience is a startup in the automation space that works with a buzzy category of software called robotic process automation, or RPA. Hyperscience is emerging as one of the higher-valued enterprise startups in the New York tech ecosystem. The company announced last Thursday that it raised $60M in a Series C funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Hyperscience didn’t disclose its valuation, but the investment likely values the startup at more than $250M.

Resolute Capital Partners announces the company has completed a $1.5M equity investment in Routinify, a technology-based, remote healthcare solutions company. RCP leadership believes that technology companies within the healthcare, financial services, and regulatory sectors are defensible due to each sector’s immense national and global demands.

Artax Biopharma, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on transforming autoimmune disease treatment, announces the completion of an extension to its Series B financing led by Columbus Venture Partners.

SigmaTron International, Inc., an electronic manufacturing services company, and Wagz Inc., a privately held Pet Technology(“Pet Tech”) company, announces that they have executed a Letter of Intent (“LOI”) relating to a proposed business combination. 

ConnXus, a startup creating software to help companies manage their supply chains, has been acquired by San Mateo, Calif.-based Coupa Software. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Servier, an independent international pharmaceutical company, announces that it has completed the acquisition of Symphogen. Symphogen will now function as Servier's antibody center of excellence across multiple therapeutic areas, including oncology. Symphogen, now a Servier subsidiary, will keep its operational autonomy and continue to rely on its experienced employees while maintaining its headquarters in Ballerup, Denmark.

Original One Parts, the supplier of certified auto parts for use in both collision repair and mechanical repairs, announces that it has been acquired by private equity firm Kinderhook Industries, LLC. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Since last week, PrivCo has added:
304,220 Profiles Updates| 175 M&A Deals
125 Funding Activities

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