Microsoft said in January this year that Teams, its online collaboration platform, was being used by more than 100 million students – in no small part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and many schools moving away partially or completely met. Now, it has made another acquisition to continue expanding its position in the education market.
The company has acquired TakeLessons, a platform for students to connect with individual tutors in areas such as music lessons, language learning, academic subjects, and professional training or hobbies, and for tutors to deliver lessons delivered by them online and in person. There is a platform to book and organize.
The terms of the deal have not been disclosed but we are trying to find out. San Diego-based TakeLessons had raised at least $20 million from a range of VCs and individuals including LightBank, Uncork Capital, CrossLink Capital and others. TakeLessons posted a brief note on its site in the form of a Q&A confirming the deal. The note added that it will continue to do business as usual, with the intention of taking its platform to a wider global audience.
It’s unclear how active students and teachers were on TakeLessons’ platform at the time of the acquisition, but for some context, another major player in online one-to-one learning, GoStudent outside Europe, raised $244 million in funding It was valued at $1.7 billion earlier this year. Others in online tutoring like Brainly are also seeing valuations in the crores.
Given the relatively modest amount of money raised by TakeLessons, it’s likely that this was a very low valuation. Yet the acquisition is still one that gives Microsoft a start to setting up a more aggressive game in infrastructure and online education at large, potentially going head-to-head with these and other larger platforms.
TakeLessons today offers instruction in a wide variety of areas, including music lessons (where it originated) through languages, academic subjects and test preparation, computer skills, crafts and more. It has been around since 2006 and began as a platform for people to connect with local tutors for them in person, before moving on to online lessons to complement that business.
The pandemic has heralded a turnaround for a much larger wave of the latter, with online tutoring apparently making up much of what is offered on the TechLessons platform today. These lessons continue to be offered on a one-on-one basis, but in addition students can participate in group lessons online through the startup’s live platform.
The shift to online education, which we’ve seen around the world, is likely why Microsoft sees a huge opportunity here.
Teachers, families and students are using (and paying for) a variety of different tools, on the heels of many schools around the world vying for better online learning platforms to manage distance learning during lockdowns and quarantines. Within that, Microsoft is working hard to lead Teams in that area.
It built on years of traction in the market already (and the many other investments and acquisitions that Microsoft has made over the years).
But it also comes amid a new uprising of competition emanating from the current situation. This includes the adoption of Google Classroom, as well as a wide variety of point solutions more targeted to specific purposes such as video lessons (larger figure zoom here); Apps for lesson planning and homework planning; Online on-demand tutorials in specific areas such as math or language or science to enhance learning experiences in the classroom; even more.
Microsoft’s approach is to bring as many features as possible into one platform to make it more sticky and less likely that users will turn to other apps, thereby providing more value for money around what Microsoft offers. In other words, I expect Microsoft to make more deals and launch more features to cover all the services it doesn’t already offer through its educational tools.
(Case: My kids’ school uses Teams for online lessons, as it already uses Outlook for its email system. Now, the school has announced that it will no longer use a separate one for homework planning. Won’t use third-party apps; instead, teachers will assign homework and manage it through teams. For a cash-strapped state school like ours, it makes sense that it would do away with paying for two apps. When only one of them can get the same features. Kids aren’t happy about that! Microsoft takes advantage of that with its platform Play.)
The next lesson is somewhat closer to that school-centered education strategy. Yes, students and their families will have a large audience that could represent a good cross-selling opportunity for tutoring, but NextLessons also represents a more mass-market offering, open to anyone. who wants to learn something, not just use Microsoft Education products already.
So the interest here is not just students who want to complement their online learning – there is a huge audience for online learning – but any lifelong learner, as well as many consumers or professionals who are interested in learning something new. have, particularly during the past 1.5 years, spending more time alone and/or at home.
And with that said, there are other potential opportunities for NextLessons in the Microsoft universe.
Just yesterday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky gave an online presentation of what the future of work will look like. Education – particularly business development – became strongly involved in that discussion, with Conversation launching a new Learning Hub.
LinkedIn has not only been working on building out its education business for years, but it has long been looking for a more sticky route to do more with the video on its platform.
Something like NextLessons can, interestingly, kill those two birds with one stone. While LinkedIn’s education content hasn’t so far been exclusively tied to “live” online lessons, you can imagine a bridge between Microsoft’s latest acquisition and what LinkedIn might consider next.