The new ETS unit will pursue strategic equity investments, growth partnerships, and mergers and acquisitions
PRINCETON, N.J. (Sept. 16, 2020) — ETS, the world’s largest nonprofit educational assessment and measurement organization, today announced the creation of ETS Strategic Capital, a new unit that will focus on growing the business and advancing its mission through strategic equity investments, growth partnerships, and mergers and acquisitions.
ETS Strategic Capital will broaden, expand and diversify ETS’s offering in assessment, learning and development for K–12, higher education, and corporations. With this mandate, ETS Strategic Capital is actively seeking transactions to establish a global portfolio of innovative education companies that will have both a positive financial and strategic impact.
“We’ve reached a pivotal point in the ongoing evolution of education — there is a fundamental change in how educational services are delivered, how tools and assessments are structured, and how learners, schools, and companies are engaged and connected,” said Ralph Taylor-Smith, the Managing Director of ETS Strategic Capital. “With our funding, expertise and experience in education, ETS Strategic Capital is well positioned to help emerging education companies that are addressing these gaps grow and increase their impact, while tapping into new opportunities. ETS brings value-add capabilities in assessments, research and development, global distribution, and innovative technologies to our portfolio and partner companies.”
ETS Strategic Capital currently has a portfolio of five companies that bring technology, new business models and geographic coverage, and that complement and build out ETS’s current business areas:
- ApplyBoard: Guided by ETS Strategic Capital, ETS made an equity investment in Canadian-based ApplyBoard Inc., the world’s largest platform for international student recruitment. As part of this investment, ApplyBoard and ETS’s TOEFL® business unit, which provides the world’s premier English-language test for university study, work and immigration, are also developing a strategic growth partnership. https://www.applyboard.com/
- Pipplet: A start-up specializing in language assessment for businesses, Paris-based Pipplet helps companies assess job candidates’ language fluency based on their practical, real-world ability to interact in a professional context. ETS’s subsidiary, ETS Global B.V., acquired Pipplet S.A.S., guided by ETS Strategic Capital. https://www.pipplet.com/en-gb/home
- Capti (by Charmtech Labs LLC): Through the use of machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing, Buffalo, N.Y.-based Capti, created by Charmtech Labs LLC, provides personalized literacy and learning support to K–12 students. Capti – dubbed a “AAA” for teachers – helps teachers accommodate, assess and accelerate reading for all their students. ETS Strategic Capital arranged a seed investment from ETS in Capti and established a strategic business partnership with ETS Research & Development (R&D) and New Product Development (NPD). Capti is licensing ETS’s ReadReady™ intellectual property in internet-driven reading diagnostics, and will work closely with ETS’s R&D and NPD teams to expand opportunities to positively impact K–12 student reading success across the United States. https://www.captivoice.com/capti-site/
- EdAgree: Focused on the international student experience, EdAgree, Inc. is a newly formed spin-out company from ETS that will match international students with universities and support those students throughout their education journey. EdAgree plans to validate student profile information, package it for streamlined processing by admissions departments, and collaborate with universities to identify and deliver support that will optimize learning outcomes. EdAgree also will collaborate with partner universities on research efforts to optimize student success. ETS Strategic Capital arranged $1 million of seed funding from ETS to incubate the new start-up company and facilitated the spinout from ETS. https://edagree.com/
- Gradschoolmatch: Gradschoolmatch.com is an interactive internet-driven software platform that helps prospective graduate students match with potential graduate academic programs. The match-algorithm, search-engine and business-approach are modeled after successful “personal-dating” web-driven businesses; students can post biographies, research interests, career plans and academic profiles; they can also “bookmark” a graduate program profile to “signal their interest” in learning more or send “private messages” to graduate school recruiters. Both prospective graduate students and graduate institutions may subscribe, which allows them to search by location or academic interests, tracking prospects and making contact with simplified one-click interconnectivity for matching. ETS Strategic Capital arranged the purchase of the Gradschoolmatch.com platform, and it will be incorporated into ETS’s offerings to the graduate school market. https://www.gradschoolmatch.com/
ETS Strategic Capital will serve as the private equity investment and M&A execution arm for ETS, its subsidiaries and its partners. It will source transactions both within the domestic United States and internationally. It will partner with the broader EdTech ecosystem, to identify and execute deals, coordinate with other ETS business units to identify opportunities and needs, network with professional services firms with education expertise, and build direct relationships with businesses internationally — especially within Asia Pacific, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East & Africa (MENA) regions.
More specifically, ETS Strategic Capital will target private equity investments that are typically in Series B, C or later, where companies already have a proven product and/or market fit, initial customers, and developed business-model, and are seeking further new growth capital to scale the business; in select situations, earlier-stage investment may be possible. Acquisitions will primarily focus on middle-market scale deals, though smaller or larger acquisitions may also be possible in certain situations. ETS Strategic Capital defines growth partnerships broadly and they might involve joint ventures (JVs), channel-partner or distribution agreements, Intellectual Property (IP) licensing and technology-transfer relationships, along with similar strategic value-add business partnerships.
Ralph Taylor-Smith, currently the Vice President of Corporate Development at ETS, will become the Managing Director of the new unit, bringing a wealth of experience in private equity investing, M&A and growth partnerships and joint ventures. ETS Strategic Capital has a growing bicoastal team based in offices in Princeton, N.J., Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley, Calif. Read more about our team.
At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and postsecondary education, and by conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series® assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide.