Byju’s buys Nexus-backed WhiteHat Jr for $300 mn; investors to exit in phases

Byju’s buys Nexus-backed WhiteHat Jr for $300 mn; investors to exit in phases
Photo Credit: Pixabay
6 Aug, 2020

Online learning platform Byju’s said it has acquired Whitehat Education Technology, which provides online coding language courses for children under the brand WhiteHat Jr, in a $300 million all cash deal.

WhiteHat Jr is backed by Nexus Venture Partners, Omidyar Network India and Owl Ventures. As part of the deal, Nexus said it would exit the company along with other co-investors.

Byju’s, in a separate statement, said that it will make significant investments in WhiteHat Jr’s technology platform, product innovation and expand its teacher base to cater to demand from new markets. The acquisition will help the Bengaluru based decacorn expand its offerings in India, it added. A decacorn is industry parlance for a startup worth at least $10 billion.

Karan Bajaj, founder of WhiteHat Jr, will continue to head this business in India and the US, the statement said.

“WhiteHat Jr is the leader in the live online coding space. Empowering children with the right future skills has always been part of our vision at Byju’s and coding fits well into this. WhiteHat Jr’s coding product capabilities, combined with our pedagogy, expertise and scale, will help expand our learning offerings for school students,” Byju Raveendran, founder and CEO of Byju’s, said.

Founded in November 2018, WhiteHat Jr is an online one-on-one platform, which teaches coding fundamentals such as sequence, structure, logic, commands and algorithmic thinking to kids aged between six and 14. With its original coding curriculum, the startup offers four levels of courses -- beginner, intermediate, advanced and professional -- to help children build commercial-ready games, animations and apps online.

The company claims to be growing at more than 100% month-on-month in the US market, where it launched courses in February this year. It now plans to expand to other global markets such as Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

The Mumbai-based startup has raised a total of $11.3 million till date.

Its last raised funds in September when returning investors Omidyar Network India and Nexus Venture Partners made a $10 million Series A investment into the company. Silicon Valley-based education technology focused venture capital firm Owl Ventures also participated in the round. Interestingly, Owl Ventures is an investor in Byju’s as well -- it marked its maiden India investment when it participated in a $150 million funding round in the company with Qatar Investment Authority in July 2019.

WhiteHat Jr also raised $1.3 million from Nexus and Omidyar in April 2019.

Kids focused technology skills platforms, especially computer language providers, appeal particularly to the country’s upwardly mobile young parents. On the other hand, Whitehat Jr definitely adds more muscle to Byju’s as it expands its offerings to fight venture backed Unacademy, Vedantu, Toppr and Gradeup.

Gurugram based online technology learning platform Camp K12 recently raised $4 million in a seed funding round from venture capital firm Matrix Partners India and multi-stage investor SAIF Partners.  Founded in 2010, Camp K12 offers live coding courses to kids between class 1 and 12. The courses include game development, artificial intelligence, machine learning and web development for students.

Both Vedantu and Toppr launched new programmes, called Vedantu Superkids and Toppr Codr, respectively, to offer coding courses for school children. Unacademy’s recent acquisition of online coding platform CodeChef, a non-profit educational arm of the Bhavin Turakhia-led Directi group, is likely to help it launch kids-focused coding programmes.

Byju’s recently rolled out a tutoring programme called Byju’s Classes to offer scheduled online classes and live doubt solving sessions to students.

In the live courses segment, Byju’s competes with Vedantu, Unacademy and Gradeup. While Vedantu and Unacademy recently raised funds from global venture capital investors, Gradeup is backed by Times Internet, a subsidiary of media house Bennett Coleman (BCCL).

Byju’s last raised capital from Bond, the growth equity investment firm founded by former Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker. The round valued Byju’s at a little over $10 billion.

In February, it raised $200 million from New York-based private equity firm General Atlantic, a returning investor in the company. The round valued the company, post money, at $8.2 billion at the time. Earlier in January, it raised a similar amount from New York headquartered alternative investments firm Tiger Global Management.

Early investors in the nearly 10-year-old company include Sequoia Capital India, Lightspeed India, Aarin Capital, Verlinvest as well as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg backed Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Founded in 2011 and run by Think and Learn, the company catered to students from classes four to 12 by 2015. It subsequently added programmes for competitive exams such as JEE, NEET and IAS. The firm claims that its flagship product, The Learning App, has over 64 million registered students and 3.5 million annual paid subscriptions.