Online ed platform Desire2Learn raises $80M Round A

Steven Loeb · September 4, 2012 · Short URL:

Largest VC investment in Canadian software history; first money taken by Desire2Learn in 12 years

I did not go to college all that long ago. But I don't remember very many people bringing their laptops to class. Now, I would guess that nearly everyone does, as more and more content is put online to save money and time. Providing online infrastructure to universities and schools has become a big business.

Online-education startup Desire2Learn has raised an $80 million Round A from New Enterprise Associates and Omers Ventures, it was announced Tuesday.

The money will be used to “bolster Desire2Learn's customer service and cloud infrastructure, support global growth, and accelerate its development of industry-leading education technologies.”

The Waterloo, Ontario-based Desire2Learn was founded in 1999. The company offers a cloud learning platform for schools in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and Singapore. It currently has 700 clients, and eight million students using the technology in both higher education and K-12, as well as the corporate sector.

This is the first time the company has taken any outside money; it is also the largest-ever venture capital investment in a Canadian software company.

"The need for quality education has never been stronger than right now," John Baker, President and CEO of Desire2Learn, said in a statement.

"This significant round of funding provides us with additional resources to address new markets, while maintaining our position as an independent, client-centric business focused on innovation."

“This substantial round of funding will enable Desire2Learn to grow its cloud infrastructure to meet customer demand, expand into new emerging markets, and continue to provide the most innovative products for schools undergoing this important transformation,” NEA’s Jon Sakoda and Ravi Viswanathan wrote on their blog today.

The $80 million investment is the largest NEA has made since closing a $2.6 billion fund in July.

NEA has also recently been involved in a $125 million round for cloud-storage company Box in July, and participated in a $50 million round for, which is an online service that specializes in finding an array of people for a range of care jobs.

Its investment in Desire2Learn is not the first time that NEA has put money into online education. In April, NEA and KPCB led a $16 million round for Coursera. Scott Sandell, General Partner at NEA, also joined Coursera's Board of Directors.

Recent online education funding

Online education has boomed in the past decade, and so has the amount of money pouring into it.

The number of students enrolled in at least one online course rose for the nine straight years, a report from The Sloan Consortium says.

During fall 2010, over 6.1 million students took at least one online class, a 10% increase from 2009. Only a decade ago that number was only 1.6 million.

“Over $1 trillion is spent on K-12 and higher education globally, and schools are in the midst of a technology renaissance that is reinventing the classroom as we know it.,” Sakoda and Viswanathan wrote.

In addition to Courseca, multiple other online education start-ups have recently raised money.

In April, StraighterLine raised $10 million, 2tor raised $26 million, while Schoology and Piazza raised $6 million each. Memrise raised $1.05 million in February, while Schoolfeed received $1.75 million the same month. In December of last year social learning tool Edmodo raised $15 million.

Desire2Learn could not be reached for comment.

For a great series on the changing education landscape, check out Faith Merino's Resetting Education series.

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