Blackstone is pumping $250 million into its acquisition of a majority stake in Simplilearn, the AI, ML and digital skills platform based in Bengaluru. This is Blackstone’s first-ever private equity (PE) investment in the consumer-tech category in India and all of Asia in fact. Simplilearn is now valued at $400 million after this latest funding round. The Indian ed-tech market is witnessing several mergers and acquisitions and funding deals, with the COVID-19 outbreak scaling up the need for reliable online learning solutions and also new-age digital certifications and skill-sets.
As per the latest investment, Blackstone is buying the shares of previous Simplilearn investors, Helion, Kalaari, and Mayfield Fund, which had collectively put in $28 million earlier. The investors are reportedly making profitable exits with 6-15 times higher returns on their investments. Blackstone already has AUM (assets under management) of $112 billion in the corporate private equity space. $50 billion of this kitty is present in India, covering Mphasis, the leading IT brand, and Piramal Glass along with ed-tech company Aakash Educational Services, which was acquired for close to $1 billion recently by Byju’s and more. Blackstone is adding ed-tech majors to its global line-up including Ellucian, a company offering software solutions to universities globally, Ascend Learning, a software provider for vocational learning, and SaaS major Articulate, which takes care of corporate training needs.
Simplilearn will use these funds to expand into the European and U.S. markets, forging deals with universities globally. This will involve doubling the team size to 3,000 people from 1,500 at present. A lot of this hiring is anticipated over the upcoming 12-18 months. The company will be buying back employee stock options for benefiting close to 100 team members. Entrepreneur Krishna Kumar started the company in 2009 as a blog that shared valuable project management details and guidance for learners. The platform now has 100+ programs for enabling skill development for early or mid-stage professionals in domains encompassing AI, data science, technology, ML, Cybersecurity, machine learning and more. Courses are offered with partner universities like MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Purdue Online, Caltech CTME, IIT Kanpur and even companies like Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, and Amazon.
The paid user count has already touched 2 lakh at the company while SkillUp is its free-learning platform. The latter aims at onboarding 5 million people by 2023 itself. The program offers access to 1,000+ hours of technology development and learning modules that encompass 600+ coveted skills.