edtech start-ups settle in France

E-learning and e-education are on a roll. After the United States, start-ups in the sector are beginning to emerge in France and to raise funds. Here’s an overview.

While the major education and technology event (Educatice/Educatec in Paris, Porte de Versailles) is currently taking place, the world ofe-learning and e-education in France seems to be in turmoil. While investments in Edtech in the United States have been growing steadily for the past 4 years, with more than 1 billion invested in 2013, things are finally changing in France.

The ball was set in motion by the acquisition of the French company Crossknowledge for $175 million by the American publisher Wiley last June. The company had achieved a turnover of $37 million at the close of its accounts in June 2013. Alven Capital is a forerunner in the fund universe. It funded Simple IT (the renamed zero site openclassroom) in March 2012 for €1.2 million, and then another €1 million last February.

In the last six months, Lelivrescolaire.fr raised more than €900,000 in May, Kartable, which wants to become the deezer of online education, raised more than €1.2 million with Partech and BPI in late October. The e-learning platform 360learnings raised €1.2 million from Isai and 3T capital and last week Coorpacademy, the company founded by Philippe Tassetto, raised €3.2 million. At the same time, more than a dozen projects are currently in the VC pipeline.

The Edtech trend in France

The craze for edtech is out of all proportion to the United States, but it is clear that things are moving in France. The government has announced that 800,000 tablets will be distributed to 5th grade students in September 2016. More than 100,000 tablets are in circulation in French schools and the number of experiments in schools has been countless.

“In the United States, about 1.3 billion dollars will be invested in 2014 in edtech, in France we feel that things are simmering. It is not impossible that 20 to 60 million euros will be invested in 2015,” says François-Xavier Hussherr, president of Gutenberg Technology, which makes more than 50% of its sales in the US. The government’s announcements will undoubtedly boost sales in 2015 and 2016, as was the case in England in 2009 and 2010.” In the US, players are emerging who claim 5 to 40 million users. Hundreds of schools are signing agreements with Edmodo, Remind or Google Education, which claims 40 million “education” accounts. In e-learning, Plurisight has raised more than 200 million dollars to cover the gap between the qualities of students that companies expect and those that universities provide. More than 10% of American students take only online university courses.

“Beyond the equipment of students with smartphones, we can see that the uses are changing profoundly. The lecture model, which has remained unchanged for over 100 years, has reached its breaking point,” explains Ivan Ostrowicz, CEO of Domoscio, which is the only company involved in the Open Education Challenge. “We need to invent a different way of teaching and take advantage of personalized and adaptive learning technologies.”

French investment funds are starting to take notice of the phenomenon. “A specific fund for edtechs is being set up, it corresponds very well to the rise of the business,” reveals Laetitia Grail, co-founder of MyBlee. “These projects are often very technological, the time to market is long, start-ups in our sector require a lot of investment,” she analyses.

A typology of Edtech investments

At present, investments are focused in four directions. First, SaaS e-learning technology platforms that have the advantage of being able to handle all content and digitize it, such as Aquafadas and Gutenberg Technology. In the US, Echo360 just raised $18 million in November around the concept of SaaS Teaching. Then there are content companies such as OpenClassroom for teaching computer science and code, or specialized content for tablets such as MyBlee or Edupad for primary and secondary schools. Then, social networks for students are slowly beginning to emerge with Digischool. They are more established in the United States, where millions of students use the services of Edmodo, the Facebook for schools (which raised $87 million) or Remind (which raised $59 million).
But the biggest fundraisers will come from adaptive learning companies that allow each student to have a different path according to their profile and their results. Knewton raised $51 million in December 2013 (for a total of $105 million raised). In particular, Knewton released with Gutenberg Technology in October the first adaptive tablet application. Each student who uses the apllication has a different, personalized learning path. In France, Domoscio stands out for its particularly effective memory anchoring technology.

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