Before class starts, a Zoom-compatible virtual instruction tool, Michael Chasen was the founder of Blackboard, one of the first cloud solutions for education on the market. While Class has a few nods to Chasen’s previous gig, like the ability to integrate CMS systems directly into the classroom tool, today it heralds a much closer integration.
Class tells TechCrunch that it has purchased Collaborate, Blackboard’s virtual classroom tool for an undisclosed price. However, an investor close to the deal said the deal closed for $210 million. They also confirmed that Class raised a financing round solely to fund this deal, but did not share specific terms other than that it was an upstream round. Class’s last public fundraiser was a $105 million round led by SoftBank Vision Fund II with a post-money valuation of $804, so we can assume it’s at least a smidgen (or a sizable chunk) higher. than the revealed number.
Class’s move comes as the startup market, especially edtech, is taking a beating in both the public and private worlds. The fact that the startup is not only buying startups but also raising money at a higher valuation stands out more than it would have last year.
Chasen declined to confirm these financial details, but said 50 to 60 people from Collaborate will join his company.
“It’s a full circle moment and an unexpected opportunity to bring the whole family together,” Chasen said during an interview with TechCrunch. He later added that “certainly this was never the long-term plan,” but that it was a great collaboration.
Blackboard’s flagship product, which is best known for its learning management system. Collaborate is more like Zoom or Google Meet, and was traditionally a plugin offered with LMS contracts. More than 13,000 institutions used the web portal worldwide. Class, meanwhile, began in the heart of the pandemic as a more interactive meeting tool with a focus on teaching. The startup, which is approaching unicorn status, made a bold move to build solely on top of Zoom, essentially integrating itself into the platform that was already on everyone’s computer.
Now, with Collaborate, Class may be entering a new chapter. Once the deal closes, Class customers can use Class’s Zoom client or use Collaborate’s standalone product. That expanded support could be great for accessibility and help eliminate the risk of launch being entirely platform dependent. That said, Chasen said that Zoom remains the “long-term” game for the company, because its back-end works well with its scale goals.
Zoom exclusivity aside, Class’s new purchase gives it that kind of key partnership that risk-averse institutions need to take more seriously. Chasen said the company is already generating significant revenue through its 350 clients and will now expand to 1,750 clients with Collaborate.
Blackboard was acquired in October 2021 by Anthology, a massive educational technology merger that ended Blackboard’s career as an independent education company. Today’s sale, a startup buying a piece of a giant, feels like a soft landing for Blackboard, but Chasen says it’s “quite the opposite.” Blackboard is investing more in its LMS tool, Learn, and thus was interested in selling its virtual classroom tool, he says.