Investors are putting a premium on companies that have the products and expertise to span distance learning and a return to in-person lessons.
Education companies that either weren’t involved in education at all, or had narrower interest in it, are finding ways to serve the market during COVID-19.
Europe’s largest ed-tech venture capital firm has started its second fund.
Brighteye Ventures anticipates investing in 15-20 companies over the next three years at the seed and Series A stages, and writing checks of up to $5 million.
The Luxembourg-based firm’s recent $54 million fundraise for its second fund brings the firm’s total assets under management to $112 million, and it anticipates raising a total of $88 million by the spring for Fund II, the Brighteye Ventures said in a statement.
Brighteye Ventures anticipates receiving funds from a mix of family offices and strategic and institutional investors.
Like its first fund, which committed roughly $60 million in total capital, Brighteye Ventures is expected to spend about half of its second fund on direct-to-consumer products, one-quarter on corporate learning tools, and one-quarter on software that enables existing educational institutions to be “better, faster and cheaper,” Benoit Wirz, a partner at Brighteye, said in an interview.
One possible exception in that calculus is that Brighteye could look to invest a bit more in software for schools and universities, as the pandemic has increased digital penetration within the education market.
“The companies that have done the best [during COVID-19] are full-stack, purely online educational offerings that respond to people’s needs to train, or particularly related to professional skills,” he said. Yet “across the board, I think online educational experiences are doing well.”
Two of the 18 total companies financed by Brighteye’s first fund were based in the U.S., Wirz noted, adding that he expects Brighteye will invest in about one to four U.S.-based companies out of the second fund.
About 80 percent of the firm’s investment targets are based in Europe.
In terms of the types of U.S. companies that Brighteye will look to target through its second fund, the firm is considering software that allows for large-scale delivery of online education, ranging from administrative tools to tutoring platforms to online assessment proctoring, Wirz said.
Wirz also sees enormous potential in efforts to apply artificial intelligence to learning.
“The use of AI for content creation is something that we’re really interested in,” Wirz said. “There’s a number of companies that are doing that quite well.”
Brighteye is also scouting potential uses of AI for narrow professional development applications, Wirz said. He pointed to the firm’s completed investment in Silicon Valley-based TeachFX, which provides a coaching application to improve the quality of dialogue between teachers and students
The firm has invested only about 50 percent to 60 percent of the money committed to its first fund, but the remainder of capital available in that account is reserved for follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies, according to Wirz.
The firm has committed or invested about 5 percent to 10 percent of the $54 million currently in its second fund, he said.
“While Brighteye Ventures has long advocated for greater adoption of tech-enabled learning solutions, we scarcely imagined the size of the move that closing 90% of global schools would provoke in Europe, the U.S. and beyond,” said Alex Spiro Latsis, managing partner at Brighteye Advisors, the sole advisory firm to the fund, in a statement.
Latsis continued, “Post-crisis we expect broader awareness of tech enabled learning tools to continue to drive increased adoption as consumers and businesses look to enhance skills through the coming recession and recovery.”
Amit Patel, a managing director at Owl Ventures, talks about how his venture capital firm makes investment decisions, and the forces he sees in play in the market during COVID-19.