Course Hero Makes First Acquisition Since Joining Unicorn Club

Oct 27, 2020

Course Hero has made its first acquisition since joining the billion-dollar unicorn stable earlier this year.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based provider of an online education platform has acquired AI-powered math platform, Symbolab.

The deal follows an $80 million Series B funding round that valued Course Hero at $1.1 billion. While the company is keeping the financial details of this deal close to its chest, similar moves look likely as Course Hero takes steps to become a more proactive supplier of educational material.

“This announcement is indicative of us growing not only through internal product innovation, but also through acquisition,” said Andrew Grauer, Course Hero CEO and co-founder. “We see this as being a meaningful way to accelerate our mission … that is something we’ve been progressing towards with the Series B financing.”

Course Hero was founded in 2006. Initial growth came as a repository for students to share course specific material such as tests, quizzes, study guides and lecture notes. Shadows of plagiarism and accusations from higher-ed faculty that it enabled cheating stalked the company’s early years. More recently, the platform has attracted teachers to join the platform to share their own materials, and expanded its offerings to provide tutoring services to supplement its traditionally crowd-sourced content.

Discussions with Symbolab were ongoing for more than a year before the deal was concluded, Grauer said. Course Hero has purchased not just a technologically powerful platform, but also a committed user base. “If we were to internally develop something like this, it would take us many years,” he added.

Symbolab is an advanced math calculator used by 50 million students worldwide. It offers step-by-step explanations to problems ranging from simple elementary school questions through complex calculus queries. The existing Symbolab brand, and nine-strong team of mathematicians, developers and computer scientists will remain in place while the technology will be shared and integrated with Course Hero.

“We are constantly exploring innovative ways to make mathematics accessible for students, reducing anxiety and equipping them with the understanding they need to persist at the next level,” said Michal Avny, co-founder and CEO of Symbolab. “By joining forces with Course Hero, we can develop technology solutions to give millions of students the confidence they need for broader educational success.”

Course Hero’s recent moves indicate an aggressive approach to expanding its educational offerings and customer base. It began by wooing students, but now claims more than 50,000 verified educators on its platform in the US and Canada, up from 20,000 in 2019.

In July it launched the Education Exchange portal where college faculty can earn money by uploading teaching materials such as lecture notes and practice tests for use by teaching peers. The goal is to amplify the work of teachers and help them reach wider audiences, Grauer said.

Course Hero currently claims more than one million subscribers, paying $9.95 to $40 per month. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in usage, and the company says it is on track to surpass the $100 million revenue collected in 2019.

“We want to add more value into the subscription,” Grauer said. “If we do our jobs right, if we add more value in every quarter, every year, to this subscription … that provides more quality, more access, more value at the same cost to students.”

The ultimate goal, Grauer said, is a Netflix or Spotify-type subscription service that goes beyond a static repository or database of materials, and becomes an interactive location for learning and tutoring.

Moving forward, Grauer expects Course Hero to make further acquisitions. While the company is not in a position to disclose details, discussions with companies are ongoing, Grauer said. As with Symbolab, the focus will be on companies with significant technology, strong teams and well developed-products.

“We view this as an additional way that will help build and grow Course Hero.” Grauer said.


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