Published On: May 17, 2022By
Learning tech industry investments have been on a wild pandemic-era ride. What should we expect next?

Overview: Learning Tech Industry M&A Investment Trends, 2021-2022

Miss a year and you miss a lot – especially when it comes to recent learning tech industry M&A and other investment moves! It seems like only yesterday when, at the start of 2021, I predicted that mergers and acquisitions would intensify. I knew strong investor interest would continue to drive momentum. But no one could have predicted the epic M&A tsunami we’ve seen since then.

Looking back at the dozens of deals that closed over the past 16 months confirms what many of us already know. Although the pandemic helped fuel historic funding levels in 2020, with plenty of money still available to go around last year, investment continued to skyrocket.

In fact, 2021 totals are estimated between $20-$50 billion, globally, according to sources like BrightEye Ventures, Reach Capital, Metariverse and others. No corner of the learning tech industry remained untouched. As a result, the market landscape has permanently changed in profound ways.

Show Me the Money

Want to decide for yourself just how much our sphere is changing? Then I invite you to review the massive list of news clips we’ve compiled below, in 9 key categories:

  • RESKILLING, UPSKILLING & CONTINUING EDUCATION
  • LANGUAGE SKILLS SOLUTIONS
  • WORKFORCE LEARNING & TALENT TECH
  • CUSTOMER EDUCATION & PRODUCT ADOPTION SOFTWARE
  • SALES TRAINING & CUSTOMER CARE TOOLS
  • LIFE SCIENCES, WORK SAFETY & HEALTH EDUCATION
  • KNOWLEDGE SHARING & COMMUNITY TOOLS
  • REMOTE WORK & ONLINE EVENTS MANAGEMENT
  • OTHER LEARNING TECH INNOVATORS

Want more detailed insights about today’s rapidly changing learning tech industry? You’ll be interested in our 2022 Learning Systems Market Report. Based on in-depth analysis we conduct when vetting vendors for our annual Talented Learning Systems Awards, this publication will be available later this summer. To receive advance notification about this report and to lock in an early-bird discount, enter your email here:


 


Top Movers and Shakers

Not surprisingly, some of the best-known names in learning technology have been most active on the investment scene – each spearheading multiple transactions in recent years. For example:

Cornerstone OnDemand (CSOD)

Of course, CSOD hasn’t been the only industry giant that has been flexing its growth muscles. For instance, these two companies also made bold moves:

Learning Technologies Group (LTG)

This British learning technology holding company took advantage of global market disruption to continue its portfolio expansion throughout 2021:

KnowFully Learning Group

This continuing education provider for accounting, finance and healthcare professionals has scaled its offerings through a series of strategic acquisitions:

For a more complete understanding of noteworthy deals involving other learning technology industry players, check the collection of news clips below…


Learning Tech Industry Investment Highlights 2021-2022

RESKILLING, UPSKILLING & CONTINUING EDUCATION

 


LANGUAGE SKILLS SOLUTIONS

 


WORKFORCE LEARNING & TALENT TECH

  • Jan 2021:  Kallidus, acquired onboarding software company, Sapling, to further enhance its talent management and learning platform.
  • Jan 2021:  Sana Labs received $18 million Series A funding to expand the reach of its AI-driven workforce learning personalization and engagement tools.
  • Jan 2021:  Adaptive microlearning tools provider, Mindmarker, closed expansion capital funding to further develop its technology.
  • Jan 2021:  Learn to Win raised $4 million in seed funding to launch its mobile-first active learning platform for high-performance teams.
  • Jan 2021:  Restaurant operations platform vendor, CrunchTime!, acquired hospitality industry learning and development solutions provider, DiscoverLink.
  • Jan 2021:  AI-based learning suite provider, Docebo, closed a post-IPO secondary offering valued at $115 million, followed in September by another round in a bought deal with gross proceeds of $128.8 million. Then in January of this year, Docebo acquired Skillslive, an Australian educational consultancy to expand its presence in the Asia Pacific region.
  • Feb 2021:  Praxis Labs launched its VR-based diversity and inclusion learning platform in conjunction with seed funding from a team of venture capital firms.
  • Mar 2021:  LMS provider, Axonify, acquired digital learning platform MLevel to double down on its mobile-first frontline training and communication solution strategy.
  • Mar 2021:  Centrical (formerly GamEffective) closed $32 million in expansion-round funding for its employee success platform that leverages personalization, microlearning, real-time performance management and adaptive coaching tools.
  • Mar 2021:  CommPartners was acquired by Symphony Technology Group, a private equity firm focused on software and tech-enabled services. STG’s strategy was to combine CommPartners technology with solutions from 3 other vendors acquired in 2020 – CadmiumCD, EthosCE and Warpwire – to create a unified learning and events platform.
  • Mar 2021:  eLearning Brothers (now ELB) continued its expansion by acquiring The Game Agency. Then, early in 2022, the company closed an additional $54 million to fund the acquisition of Origin Learning and video-based coaching and practice platform, Rehearsal. And in April, ELB acquired corporate training services provider, CoreAxis.
  • Apr 2021:  Private equity partnership, Silversmith Capital, sold Absorb Software to another private equity firm, Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe.
  • Apr 2021:  Global learning platform company, Kahoot!, acquired learning engagement app provider, Motimate.
  • Apr 2021:  Gamified simulation training platform provider, Attensi received a $26 million funding round for business expansion.
  • Apr 2021:  Leadership training provider, FranklinCovey, acquired social learning and coaching platform startup, Strive.
  • Jun 2021:  CYPHER LEARNING, an LMS provider serving both enterprise and educational markets raised $40 million in growth equity.
  • Jun 2021:  In what was positioned as the largest deal in India’s corporate learning space, solutions provider MRCC Group acquired digital learning platform and content provider, G-Cube.
  • Jul 2021:  Online learning development platform provider, Articulate, raised $1.5 billion in one of the largest series A funding rounds in U.S. history.
  • Jul 2021:  Online training innovator, OpenSesame, received a $50 million investment to accelerate global expansion.
  • Jul 2021:  Digital learning technology company, Valamis, acquired career mobility and organizational performance technology provider, The Working Manager.
  • Jul 2021:  Enterprise learning and knowledge platform provider, Fuse Universal, acquired performance support platform, PowerGuides, and unveiled a strategic alliance with enterprise knowledge search specialists, PureInsights.
  • Jul 2021:  Go1, one of the world’s largest corporate education content hubs, raised $200 million in Series D funding to further expand in existing markets. And then in April 2022, Go1 acquired multinational elearning content and platform provider, Coorpacademy.
  • Sep 2021:  Pluribus Technologies acquired online learning content development firm, Pathways Training and eLearning.
  • Sep 2021:  Workforce LX/LMS platform provider myskillcamp secured a $13 million investment to expand its European market reach.
  • Oct 2021:  Collaborative learning tech vendor, 360Learningraised $200 million in funding from multiple investment firms to advance its position in what HR Tech luminary, Josh Bersin, calls the “corporate learning creator platform” space.
  • Jan 2022:  Cengage Group acquired Infosec to expand its workforce education capabilities with cybersecurity training.
  • Jan 2022:  Collaborative learning platform provider, 360Learning, acquired the UK’s leading learning management system, Looop, in a $200 million deal.
  • Jan 2022:  Real-time workforce engagement, development and performance management platform, Lattice, raised an additional $175 million, bringing the company’s total valuation to $3 billion.
  • Feb 2022:  Spatial computing company, Tailspin, closed a $20 million Series C round to expand its talent development and skills mobility offering.
  • Feb 2022:  Learning amplification platform, Continu, secured $13.5 million Series A funding to scale its platform globally.
  • Mar 2022:  All-in-one learning platform, WorkRamp, raised $40 million in Series C funding, bringing total investment to $67 million.
  • Mar 2022:  Corporate talent academy platform provider, Learn In secured $10 million in Series A funds to expand its employee skills development mission.
  • May 2022:  Blended learning platform vendor, Rise Up, raised $30 million to further scale the company’s European growth.

 


CUSTOMER EDUCATION & PRODUCT ADOPTION SOFTWARE

  • Jan 2021:  In-app onboarding, product adoption and knowledge sharing platform, Spekit, closed $12.2 million Series A funding. And then early in 2022, the company raised an additional $45 million in expansion funds.
  • Mar 2021:  Only 4 months after receiving a $14.4 million round of expansion funding, customer-focused product knowledge coordination platform, Zoomin, landed a $52 million Series C round from multiple equity partners.
  • Aug 2021:  Digital Adoption Solutions provider, Whatfix, acquired Nittio Learn LMS, to help make digital product education more personalized and adaptive.

 


SALES TRAINING & CUSTOMER CARE TOOLS

  • Jan 2021:  Xerox enhanced its customer service technology offerings by acquiring CareAR, which makes expertise available in real-time through interactive visual AR tools.
  • Jan 2021:  SalesLoft, the leading sales engagement platform, raised $100 million to continue its rapid business growth. This round brought total funding to $245 million.
  • Feb 2021:  Sales enablement platform, Highspot, raised $200 million in growth funding to further expand its market reach in response to surging demand.
  • Apr 2021:  Pathlight, a real-time performance management platform for customer-facing teams, raised $25 million to continue expanding its growth. And then in January 2022, the company closed another round at $248 million, bringing total equity funding to $648 million.
  • Aug 2021:  Leading sales enablement platform, Seismic, raised $170 million in Series G funding and also purchased team learning platform provider Lessonly.
  • Aug 2021:  Sales enablement tools provider, Bigtincan, bought sales readiness platform, Brainshark.
  • Aug 2021:  MindTickle, a leader in sales readiness technology, raised $100 million in Series E funding, for a total of $281 million in equity.
  • Oct 2021:  Sales coaching and gamification provider, Ambition, received a “significant” round of growth financing to accelerate the company’s offerings for hybrid work environments.

 


LIFE SCIENCES, WORK SAFETY & HEALTH EDUCATION

  • Jan 2021:  mPulse Mobile, a leader in conversational AI solutions for the healthcare industry, acquired The Big Know to add streaming consumer health education experiences to its offerings. (Jan 2021). Then in Jan 2022, mPulse Mobile acquired HealthCrowd, a health engagement company that serves the Medicaid market.
  • Mar 2021:  Therapeutic Research Center, a leading provider of drug therapy and medication management education for healthcare clinicians, acquired healthcare continuing education solution provider, NetCE.
  • Jun 2021:  Healthcare education platform provider, TrueLearn, expanded its footprint and functionality by acquiring audiovisual learning tool developer, Picmonic.
  • Nov 2021:  Environmental health and safety instruction provider, HSI, purchased professional microlearning pioneer, Blue Ocean Brain.
  • Dec 2021:  Lecturio, a medical education provider, raised $45 million in growth capital to expand its global footprint.
  • Dec 2021:  Healthcare industry skills development company, HealthStream, acquired SaaS-based continuing medical education management and delivery provider, Rievent Technologies.
  • Jan 2022:  headversity completed $10 million in funding to grow its employee  mental health and safety skills platform.
  • Apr 2022:  Workplace health and safety training specialist, 360training, acquired HIPPA Exams to kickstart its entry into the healthcare sector with 29 new courses.

 


 KNOWLEDGE SHARING & COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS

  • Jan 2021:  AI-driven Knowledge-as-a-Service company, Lynk, received $24 million in second-round funding to advance the product roadmap and expand U.S. operations.
  • May 2021:  Community engagement platform, Higher Logic, acquired competitor, Vanilla Forums.
  • Sep 2021:  Digital coaching platform, CoachHub, secured $80 million in Series B2 funding, for a total of $110 million.
  • Jan 2022:  Workplace mentorship program management vendor, Together, raised $5 million in funding to grow its business.
  • Feb 2022:  Profi raises $6 million seed round to help trainers, coaches and other professional services providers work and collaborate more effectively with corporate clients.

 


REMOTE WORK & ONLINE EVENTS MANAGEMENT

  • Jan 2021:  Virtual event and webinar platform provider, ON24, announced its initial public offering.
  • Mar 2021:  KUDO, a cloud-based video conferencing platform with real-time multilingual interpretation capabilities, closed $21 million in Series A funding to develop its Language-as-a-Service business.
  • Apr 2021:  All-in-one deskless employee app, Connecteam, closed a $37 million expansion capital round from multiple investment firms.
  • May 2021  Open work operating system provider, Monday.com, filed for an initial public offering, which was completed in June.
  • Jun 2021:  Virtual events platform, Hopin, raised $400 million in March. Subsequently, LinkedIn joined its roster of investors.
  • Jul 2021:  YOOBIC, an all-in-one digital work and learning platform for frontline teams, raised $50 million in Series C funding, for total equity of $80 million.
  • Aug 2021:  WorkJam, an all-in-one digital workplace app for frontline employees, received $35 million in growth financing.
  • Jan 2022:  Microlearning-focused EduMe raised $20 million to expand its deskless workforce training solution.
  • Mar 2022:  Following a $37 million funding round in April 2021, Connecteam raised $120 million in Series C funding to expand its deskless workforce enablement solution.

 


OTHER LEARNING TECH INNOVATORS

  • Mar 2021:  Text-based learning messaging platform, Arist, expanded seed funding to $3.9 million.
  • Apr 2021:  AI video generation platform, Synthesia, received $12.5 million in first-round funding led by FirstMark.
  • Apr 2021:  Publishing industry solutions provider, Ingram Content Group sold educational technology developer, VitalSource Technologies, to private equity firm, Francisco Partners.
  • May 2021:  AR-powered visual guidance platform, SightCall, received $42 million in capital funding to further develop its innovative enterprise support solution.
  • May 2021:  Vimeo, the world’s leading all-in-one video software solution, began trading on the Nasdaq as a separate, public company, after spinning off from IAC.  And later in 2021, Vimeo acquired two technology providers to advance its position in the enterprise space: Wibbitz, an automated short-form video creation suite and WIREWAX, a powerful interactive TV tool.
  • Jun 2021:  Immersive learning technology startup, Motive.io, received seed funding to further develop its enterprise VR training solution.
  • Sep 2021:  Managed hosting services provider, Liquid Web, acquired the WordPress learning platform provider, LearnDash.
  • Sep 2021:  Interactive content development platform, Tiled, closed $13.7 million in Series A funding.
  • Oct 2021:  Higher education solutions provider, Anthology, completed its merger with global edtech software company, Blackboard, to create a comprehensive solution for learner and institutional success.
  • Oct 2021:  “Snapchat for work” company, Volley, received a $5.5 million seed investment for its asynchronous messaging app.
  • Oct 2021:  Leading educational content provider, Wiley, continued its ongoing commitment to strategic acquisitions with the purchase of three companies – editorial operations company, J&J Editorial, as well as Knowledge Unlatched, an innovator in online open access, and eJournalPress, a scholarly publishing software and services provider.
  • Nov 2021:  Digital learning ecosystem leader, Instructure, acquired Kimono, a cloud data integration solution for the education market and rebranded the company as Elevate Data Sync. And in April of this year, it acquired stackable digital credentials developer, Concentric Sky.
  • Feb 2021:  LumApps added no-code onboarding and HR automation capabilities by acquiring HeyAxel.
  • Feb 2021:  People activation platform provider, Enboarder, raised $32 million in a Series B round, for a total of $50 million in funding to grow its people journey capabilities.
  • Mar 2021:  Trainer selection company, Electives, raised $8 million in Series A funding to expand its live learning support platform.
  • Apr 2021:  Mytaverse closed $7.6 million seed round for further development of its enterprise metaverse infrastructure.

 


Learning Tech Industry Investment: What’s Ahead?

There’s no doubt about it – learning systems have been on a wild ride. Even if you’ve only skimmed through these mergers, acquisitions and funding deals, I’m sure you’ll agree that this list is impressive by any measure.

Clearly, this flurry of deals didn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of multiple factors working in concert to unleash a perfect investment storm – a pandemic that forced the shift to online learning, an abundance of venture capital chasing scalable opportunities, and organizations around the world that have been looking for better ways to learn and work.

But all that glitters is not gold. Now, a more ominous storm is looming over the learning tech industry. Today, the combination of soaring inflation, rising interest rates and unstable supply chains threatens to cool business activity at large. And we should expect the learning tech industry to follow.

If you doubt this word of caution, consider the recent turn of events at Thinkific, a cloud-based platform for subject-matter experts. After its IPO in March 2021, Thinkific was flying high and doubling its headcount to support aggressive growth plans. But that ended abruptly this March, when the company laid off 20% of its workforce – 100 people – after a net loss of $26.4 million in 2021.

Of course, this is only one case. But it’s important to keep in mind that business buyers are becoming more cautious, and this is bound to have implications for the learning systems market.

The rollercoaster ride continues…

Thanks for reading!

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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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