Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Microsoft acquires TakeLessons, an online and in-person tutoring platform, to ramp up its edtech play – TechCrunch

Microsoft said in January this year that Teams, its online collaboration platform, was being used by over 100 million students — boosted in no small part by the COVID-19 pandemic and many schools going partly or wholly remote. Now, it’s made another acquisition to continue expanding its position in the education market.

The company has acquired TakeLessons, a platform for students to connect with individual tutors in music lessons, language learning, academic subjects, professional training, or hobbies, and for tutors to book and organize the assignments they give, both online and in person.

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but we are trying to find out. San Diego-based TakeLessons had raised at least $20 million from various VCs and individuals, including Lightbank, Uncork Capital, Crosslink Capital, and others. TakeLessons posted a short note in the form of a Q&A confirming the deal on its site. The message said that it will continue operating, business as usual, for the time being, to take its platform to a broader global audience.

It’s not clear how many active students and tutors. TakeLessons had on its platform at the time of acquisition. Still, for some context, another big player in the area of online one-to-one tutoring, students out of Europe, raised $244 million in funding earlier this year that valued it at $1.7 billion. Others in online tutoring like Brainly are also seeing valuations in the hundreds of millions.

Given the relatively modest amount raised by TakeLessons, it’s likely this was a much lower valuation. Yet, the acquisition is still one that gives Microsoft the infrastructure and beginnings of setting up a much more aggressive play in mass-market online education, potentially to go head-to-head with these and other big platforms.

TakeLessons today offers instruction in a wide variety of areas, including music lessons (which was where it had gotten its start) through to languages, academic subjects, and test prep, computer skills, crafts, and more. It has been around since 2006 and got its start as a platform for people to connect with tutors local to them for in-person lessons before progressing into online classes to complement that business.

The pandemic has precipitated a shift to a much bigger wave of the latter, with online tutoring apparently the majority of what is offered on the TakeLessons platform today. These lessons continue to be provided on a one-on-one basis, but additionally, students can take part in group lessons online via the startup’s Live platform.

The shift to online education that we’ve seen take hold worldwide is likely why Microsoft sees an ample opportunity here.

On the heels of many schools around the world scrambling for better online learning platforms to manage remote learning during lockdowns and quarantines, educators, families, and students have been using (and paying for) a variety of different tools. Within that, Microsoft has been pushing hard to make Teams a leader in that area.

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