Each quarter, TrainingIndustry.com gathers the industry’s mergers, acquisitions and funding from the previous three months to share some of the major trends. The first quarter of 2019 saw significant activity in compliance training, e-learning and learning technologies, and performance management and HCM (human capital management) platforms.
Compliance training companies raised over $60 million this quarter for businesses offering products and services ranging from cybersecurity training to employee wellness and health and safety training. ADURO, a “human performance consulting” business, raised $22 million from Abry Partners to “radically shift the health & well-being sector.” ADURO’s platform provides employee wellness metrics, coaching and communications. Similarly, Unmind, whose goal is to improve workplace mental health, closed £3 million ($3.9 million).
In a quarter that saw increased awareness surrounding the importance of training for safety and risk management, MākuSafe closed a $3 million seed round for its cloud platform, which uses “real-time environmental and human motion data to identify workplace risk” to better inform training and other health and safety programs.
KPA, an environmental health and safety compliance and workforce management solutions provider, acquired Compli and its compliance business process automation software, for an undisclosed amount. Vector Solutions acquired two companies this quarter: CrewSense, an HCM and “employee resourcing” software company aimed at public safety, utilities and manufacturing companies, and Halligan, the developer of a mobile app designed for public safety agencies.
GAN Integrity, an “all-in-one” compliance software company whose products include a compliance-specific LMS, announced in January a $15 million Series B growth financing round led by Aquiline Technology Growth and Edison Partners. The funding followed doubled revenue and customer growth in 2018. DuPont’s specialty products division announced this quarter that it would divest its DuPont Sustainable Solutions business (DSS). DSS is now an independent management consulting firm serving clients in safety training, risk management and operational performance.
The need for a strong cybersecurity program is, unfortunately, not going away anytime soon. But that’s good news for companies like Elevate Security and KnowBe4. Elevate Security raised $8 million in Series A funding for its “Security Behavior Platform to change employees’ habits while giving Security teams unprecedented visibility into security readiness.” Additionally, KnowBe4, a “security awareness training and simulated phishing platform,” announced “a sizable minority investment” from KKR that valued the company at more than $800 million. Enlightenment Capital, an investment firm focused on the aerospace, defense and government industries, announced an investment of an undisclosed amount in System High Corporation, a cybersecurity solutions provider whose services include cybersecurity training. Goldman Sachs led an $8 million Series A funding round in Immersive Labs’ cybersecurity skills platform.
E-Learning and Learning Technologies
E-learning and learning technologies saw over $300 million in funding this quarter. A large portion of this funding was LMS/HCM software company Talentsoft’s $50 million funding round, led by Francisco Partners and ranked among the 10 largest funding rounds in Europe for enterprise software in the last 12 months. The company’s strategy is now focused on international development, HR data management and employee experience innovation, and a “pivot towards a platform open to external applications.” Another large funding round was EMERITUS’ $40 million Series C round, led by Sequoia Capital India. EMERITUS offers courses for working professionals in partnership with MIT, Columbia, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, the Wharton School, UC Berkeley and London Business School.
As game-based learning continues to gain popularity, French startup My-Serious-Game raised €3 million ($3.4 million) for its game-based and virtual reality (VR) training programs. VRtuoso, creator of a VR presentation platform for training and sales enablement, raised $650,000 in seed funding, and Mursion, an immersive VR training company, announced an $8 million Series A funding round led by New Markets Venture Partners. The Glimpse Group, which includes multiple VR and augmented reality (AR) businesses, announced that it has raised a total of $5.5 million in aggregate equity funding. Also in AR, Ario Technologies, Inc. raised $1 million in funding, and Scope AR closed a $9.7 million Series A funding round led by Romulus Capital. Besomebody, Inc., which provides job training programs and employer services, acquired Pixelbug Technologies Inc., an AR and AI startup, expanding its capabilities to include emerging technologies.
Scalable language learning is a growing concern among global learning leaders, and a number of providers are responding. Emmersion Learning closed $2.4 million in equity funding led by Imagen Capital Partners for its language learning platform, which is used by academic and corporate customers, and acquired Perpetual Technology Group and its language placement testing business. Learnlight, a language, intercultural and soft skills training company, acquired German language training company Arenalingua. While not a language training platform, Orai’s AI-based speech coaching app raised $2.3 million in a seed funding round led by Comcast Ventures. Orai’s founders were guests on “The Business of Learning,” Training Industry’s podcast, last year.
GO1, an online corporate training marketplace, became the first startup in Australia backed by Microsoft’s global venture capital arm M12, in a $30 million Series B funding round this quarter. GO1 markets itself as “the simplest way for businesses to find, book and deliver their corporate training.”
Cloud-based learning platform company BenchPrep announced a $20 million Series C funding round led by Jump Capital and Owl Ventures. Notably, Owl Ventures is an edtech-focused venture capital firm whose other investments include Accelerate Learning and Degreed. Hone, a training platform aimed at leaders of distributed teams, announced a $3.6 million seed round led by Cowboy Ventures and Harrison Metal. The company’s goal is to modernize leader and manager training for the 21st century.
Speaking of distributed teams, mobile learning is becoming more important, not only with deskless workers but also with distributed teams. Teach on Mars closed its third round of funding for a total of €7 million ($7.9 million). Its goal is to turn the smartphone into “a personal learning assistant.”
Edtech and e-learning consolidations this quarter included Emerald Group’s acquisition of Mind Tools, EdCast’s acquisition of training marketplace Leapest and CoSo Cloud’s acquisition of eSyncTraining. Emerald Group’s businesses now include Emerald Publishing, which focuses on scholarly research; GoodPractice, an e-learning and LMS platform company; and Towards Maturity, an L&D research and analytics firm.
Performance Management and HCM
In the performance management and HCM space, the biggest deal this quarter was Ultimate Software’s acquisition by an investor group led by Hellman & Friedman for $11 billion. Ultimate Software is a cloud-based HCM and employee experience solutions provider whose products include L&D content and tools as well as other talent management and HR solutions. The second-largest deal was Alight Solutions’ acquisition of Wipro’s Workday and Cornerstone OnDemand (CSOD) businesses for $110 million. Workday is a financial management and HCM software company, and CSOD is a learning and talent management software company.
Other companies raised over $2.14 billion, including HR and recruiting platform company Personio, which raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Index Ventures, helping it toward its goal of becoming “Europe’s leading provider of human resources software for small and medium-sized companies.” Landit, “a one-size-fits-one career pathing platform” aimed at “women and diverse groups,” closed a $13 million oversubscribed Series A round led by WeWork, demonstrating the prevalence of training and career programs aimed at women and other underrepresented groups.
Betterworks, an enterprise HR software company, announced a $27 million addition to its $51 million Series B round, led by Emergence Capital and Kleiner Perkins. Betterworks is a leader in the move away from annual performance reviews toward continuous performance management. Hibob raised $20 million for its HR and benefits management software, and people analytics and engagement software company Peakon raised $35 million.
Returning to the theme of distributed or deskless teams, Sapling raised $4 million in seed financing, led by Google’s AI-focused venture firm Gradient Ventures, for its “People Management Platform of the Future.” ShiftOne, an employee retention app for the restaurant industry, raised a $2.6 million supplement to its seed funding round, led by The Entrepreneurs’ Fund.
Employee feedback company Culture Amp acquired performance management company Zugata due to their “shared vision about the future of work,” which involves “what we could be when we could connect all the data we have at our disposal,” according to Culture Amp CEO and co-founder Didier Elzinga. Silver Oak Services Partners led the recapitalization of Keystone Partners, an outplacement, career management, executive coaching and leadership development firm.
Also this quarter, Findley, an HR and benefits firm, acquired TAMS Group’s human capital business, and Unit4 acquired Intuo. Unit4 sells enterprise applications for service organizations, and Intuo is the creator of a talent enablement platform focused on performance management and coaching. Finally, BTS acquired Polaris Assessment Systems, adding employment screening and interviewing services to its portfolio of solutions.
Other Q1 Deals
Other deals, which didn’t fall into these three major themes, included:
IT and Technical Training
- Pluralsight, Inc.’s intention to offer “$450 million aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes due 2024 (the “notes”) in a private placement to qualified institutional buyers pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933.”
- Investcorp’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Revature, a provider of no-cost coding immersion training programs.
- Project Management Academy’s acquisition of Watermark Learning, a provider of business analysis, agile, project management and process improvement training.
- Bridgepoint Education’s acquisition of Fullstack Academy, a coding bootcamp.
- Gong.io’s $40 million Series B funding round, led by Battery Ventures, to support its AI-based conversation intelligence platform.
- Sales software company Attentive’s $1.2 million seed round, led by Mangrove Capital and Indico Capital Partners.
- Vector Capital’s acquisition of (and investment of more than $100 million in) Aspect Software.
- TransForce’s acquisition of The CDL School, a commercial truck driving school.
Finally, Entangled Group, “a venture studio focused on the education ecosystem,” raised $15 million in a Series B funding round valuing the firm at almost $100 million. Entangled Group’s portfolio includes a range of higher education, hiring, K-12 and skills training companies.