Google Capital invests in Renaissance Learning
By Ruth Atkinson
One of the largest investments in education over the last year highlights the importance of using precise data to boost student achievement.
Renaissance Learning, an assessment and learning analytics company with a presence in thousands of schools worldwide, announced a minority investment from Google Capital at a company valuation of $1 billion. Google Capital was formed in 2013, and its investments to date include Survey Monkey and Lending Club. This marks Google Capital’s first investment in education.
The investment follows the October 2011 acquisition of Renaissance by funds advised by the private equity firm Permira and makes Google a minority owner of the company. A representative of Google Capital will join Renaissance Learning’s board of directors and become the company’s second new board member in the last two months. Bruce Chizen, former Adobe CEO and current Oracle board member, joined the Renaissance board in December 2013.
“All over the world, technology has opened new doors for students to learn both in the classroom and at home. For many educators, the question is not whether to embrace new technology, but how to embrace technology in a way that makes teachers’ lives easier and meaningfully boosts student achievement,” said Gene Frantz of Google Capital. “Renaissance Learning is at the forefront of this educational movement, and their ability to use data to support effective teaching and drive student growth is unparalleled.”
Through one of the world’s largest anonymised data sets, Renaissance helps educators plot students along a research-validated learning path so that students can make progress to the height of their potential. Nearly 20 million students and teachers use Renaissance cloud-based offerings in schools across the world. Within the last year alone, Renaissance programmes supported the reading of more than 335 million books, the mastery of 30 million maths concepts, and the administration of over 45 million STAR computer-adaptive tests – more than any other interim assessment.
“Education is in the midst of a transformation, and today there is enormous potential to diagnose the needs of every student and then empower teachers with actionable, precise data to help students realize their full learning potential,” said Jack Lynch, Renaissance Learning CEO. “Now, more than ever, teachers are combining the insight we provide with their own expertise as they access a vast array of great content, from sources such as Google Play for Education, to accelerate learning.”
Just last August, Renaissance Learning acquired the e-reading platform Subtext, the first and most robust platform for instructional e-reading in schools. The acquisition complemented Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader, a leading programme for independent reading. Google Ventures was an early investor in Subtext, and users of the Subtext platform continue to access Google Books as their source for e-book purchases and rentals.
Google’s education offerings include a range of applications and devices. Around the world, over 30 million students, faculty and staff use Google Apps for Education (which includes Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Sites and more) to teach, learn and collaborate. Chromebooks for Education give students, teachers and administrators a simple solution for fast, intuitive and easy-to-manage computing — and are now used by over 5,000 schools. Google Play for Education allows teachers to discover educational apps, books, and videos and easily distribute them to a classroom of students’ tablets.
Gene Frantz at Google Capital added, “We have a great deal of respect for Permira as technology investors and are thrilled to work with them and with Renaissance in the education technology sector.”
Significant improvements to the STAR Assessments programmes in the UK will be launched in the summer of 2014. The new STAR Assessments will include skills-based test items and new in-depth reports for screening, instructional planning and progress monitoring. With STAR, educators have immediate access to skill-specific, actionable data to target instruction and practice, to select students for intervention, and to monitor progress towards targets.
About Renaissance Learning
Renaissance Learning is a leading provider of cloud-based assessment, teaching and learning solutions that fit the classroom, raise the level of school performance and accelerate learning for all. By delivering deep insight into what students know, what they like and how they learn, Renaissance Learning enables educators to deliver highly differentiated and timely instruction while driving personalised student practice in reading, writing and maths every day. Renaissance Learning leverages top researchers, educators, content-area experts, data scientists and technologists within a rigorous development and calibration process to deliver and continuously improve its offerings for subscribers in more than 60 countries around the world.
About Google Capital
Google Capital is a growth equity fund backed by Google. We invest in companies that use technology to change the way people experience the world. Advised by Google technology and product leaders, the team has the extensive operational and technical expertise to make smarter investments and help our portfolio companies succeed. Google Capital’s investments to date include SurveyMonkey, Lending Club, and Renaissance Learning. (www.googlecapital.com)
Permira is a European private equity firm with global reach. The Permira funds, raised from pension funds and other institutions, make long-term investments in companies with the ambition of transforming their performance and driving sustainable growth. Founded in 1985, the firm advises funds with a total committed capital of close to $30 billion. Permira established itself in North America in 2002 and today has offices in New York and Menlo Park. The Permira funds have a long track record of successfully investing in technology and digital media companies around the world including Ancestry.com, LegalZoom, Odigeo, NDS, Genesys and Renaissance Learning, which a company controlled by the Permira funds acquired in October 2011 for $455 million. Since 1997, over 30% of the Permira funds’ investments have been in the core sector of Technology, Media & Telecom.