EdTech Unicorn Mega-Funding Evolution

$11B of VC and 11 years later, the funding evolution of the world’s 20 EdTech Unicorns is a sage reminder that EdTech is a long-game.

Education Intelligence Unit

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October 15, 2020

The world’s 20 EdTech Unicorns have now collectively raised over $11B of funding, nearly one third of all EdTech venture capital over the last 10 years. In 2020 alone, six new Unicorns have been added to this list.

EdTech was massive before COVID and we won’t see the true long term impact of the sudden and massive shifts we are experiencing for some time to come. For now and in the moment, it certainly feels like a ‘great acceleration’ as we noted in our Q3 2020 Venture Capital Snapshot.

It’s important in times like now however to zoom out and put the month to month madness into perspective. The chart below for example shows the world’s 20 EdTech Unicorns grouped from top to bottom into India, China and the US (excepting ApplyBoard from Canada). Left to right is a bubble for each funding round each of those companies has disclosed over time. The size of the bubble representing the size of the funding round from early seed stages to Yuanfudao’s $1B round earlier this year.

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Our Complete List of Global EdTech Unicorns offers a little more information on each of the individual players. The real insight in this chart however comes from sitting back and identifying the waves of mega-bets. Following the US’s early lead, China’s rapid rise and ByJu’s 10-year funding cadence and recent acceleration.

By definition, the chart maps out every EdTech Unicorn, ‘a startup disclosing a valuation over $1B’. For context, there are over 50+ more private and listed education companies valued over $1B which do not fit the Unicorn criteria as many are listed public companies and most have achieved profitability and ‘maturity’.

China

China remains the largest global market for EdTech funding by a large margin, deploying $3.5B of VC in 2020 and over $20B in the last decade. China saw a steady expansion of Unicorns over the last 5 years with a notable moderation in 2019. What was a monthly mega-round trend up until 2019, China has returned with even bigger but now fewer mega-funding cadence. The pace seems to picking back up as 2020 races by and China emerges from the economic impact of COVID faster than most.

India

India has overtaken the US in 2020, for the most part driven by ByJu’s relentless capital consumption. Unacademy joined ByJu’s as the second Indian EdTech unicorn and now we see a broad cohort of global grade players emerging. Built on lean infrastructure, serving a large and complex market, this cohort has clear global ambition and ability – and is not to be underestimated.

United States

Finally, the United States, an innovation powerhouse, led the charge at the start of the last decade and backed a stable of now Unicorns taking the US, many western markets and in some cases the world, by storm. Operating in a very different learner, parent, institutional and political landscape than Asian peers, US Unicorns are predominantly post-secondary focused.

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