Edtech further training platform graduated has come into possession of learn in, which creates talent resource hubs for employers to better run education services for their teams. While we would almost always cover a noteworthy acquisition in a relevant tech sector, what’s extra interesting here is a human resources: Both companies were co-founded by the same entrepreneur, David Blake.
It feels rare to see serial entrepreneurs let one of their startups acquire another of their startups. Part of the reason is that there can be conflicts of interest or power imbalances in making decisions. After all, most people agree with themselves. For example† Tesla shareholders sued somewhat famous CEO Elon Musk when Tesla acquired SolarCity, where Musk was also chairman and the largest shareholder. (They accused him of saving the solar installer; a judge later ruled that Tesla wasn’t overpaying for the company.)
Blake said he made all conflicts public and refrained from representing Degreed during the negotiation process. He only represented himself as the CEO of Learn In, while Degreed’s board of directors represented the other side. Even still, it’s hard to completely remove bias from a financial deal, especially one as sharp as this one — the two companies have shared investors, including GSV, Firework Ventures and Album VC.
Blake declined to share the price or terms of the deal.
The entrepreneur also emphasized that despite co-founding Degreed, he has spent the past few years in a “different, more distant role” within the company as executive chairman. “I was more closely and more involved in the operations than the rest of the directors, but it was in the capacity of a board member,” he added. Degreed approached Learn In and the deal was closed in less than a week, he said.
Blake started Degreed in 2012 to provide individuals with a platform to access open access educational content. The mixed-grade large-scale platform was ultimately what edtech now refers to as a learning experience platform, all about content discovery.
Blake stepped down as CEO of Degreed to push for political advocacy and democracy reform. After his two-year stint in organizing, he says he became “fascinated by the paradox of upskilling,” which he described as a lack of in-company businesses, despite offering huge ROI. Degreed helped innovate on self-directed learning, but did not work on implementing those practices within larger companies.
Blake then began building Learn In, focusing more specifically on executive-led training that made the content that made Degreed more accessible to the right people.
To our knowledge, Degreed last raised venture capital in June 2020 in a $32 million round led by Owl Ventures. The total known capital raised to date is $182 million. Learn In, meanwhile, launched in April 2020 with just over $3 million in seed funding. In April, $13 million was last raised. By raising venture capital, Learn In sold investors too high a return on their investment. By selling so soon after those initial controls, there was either a solid control in the mix or a change in scale.
“I think Learn In independently had a very bright future,” he said. That said, by joining Degreed, Learn In has a wider reach, bigger customers, and can give the market what it wants: helping with the large and small needs of educating employees.
As a result of the deal, Blake will become CEO of the new, combined entity and Dan Levin, who took over as chief executive from Degreed last year, will step down. It’s a notable uproar as Blake returns to the CEO position he previously held.
Blake described the transition as “amicable” and said he appreciates Levin’s stewardship.
Blake doesn’t fully return to just one job title. In addition to Learn In, Blake has also spent the pandemic starting Book Club, which has raised millions in venture dollars to bring virtually author-led book clubs to readers. Blake says he will remain active as CEO of Book Club, which last announced funding about a year ago. It’s more of a consumer game than its previous startups, otherwise we’d say it could be Degreed’s next target.