JUNE 6 2022
Published in TechCrunch
Online education continues to get a lot of attention in the wake of COVID-19 and the shift it brought to how people can learn. And to underscore that fact, Go1 — one of the rising stars in the world of enterprise learning, providing education and training to businesses in turn to offer to its employees or users — is announcing a significant round of $100 million, at over a $2 billion valuation, to fuel its growth.
The funding — which closed in May — is being co-led by AirTree Ventures and Five Sigma, with SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Salesforce Ventures, Blue Cloud Ventures, Larsen Ventures, Scott Shleifer and John Curtius from Tiger Global, TEN13, M12 (Microsoft’s venture fund), Madrona Venture Group, SEEK and Y Combinator also participating. (The company was part of a Y Combinator cohort in 2015.)
For some context on that valuation, Brisbane, Australia-based Go1 has now raised $400 million to date. And when it last announced funding less than a year ago, a $200 million round in July 2021 led by SoftBank, it was valued at half that amount, $1 billion.
That’s a notable increase, in particular when you consider not just the current constricted state of the funding market, but the fact a number of big players in online education have seen their fortunes contract in recent months compared to the booms they saw leading up to and during the pandemic (some perhaps due to overall market pressures, some as part of what appear to be wider macroeconomic and consumer changes).
The core of Go1’s product is a platform in which it brings in content from dozens of other providers — they include companies like Blinkist and Thrive as well as Skillsoft, Pluralsight and Harvard Business Publishing. Go1 aggregates and curates the content, the idea being that its customers — which include companies that range from the likes of TikTok through to the Singaporean government — can ink a deal to be able to access that educational and training content without having to ink all of those agreements themselves.
At a time when there is a lot of fragmentation and many options for e-learning, that approach has seen a lot of traction, largely to fill needs in three categories: training, upskilling and more general education to attract and retain talent. In the last year, CEO and co-founder Andrew Barnes told me in an interview that Go1’s revenues, customers and learners all doubled, and it now has some 5 million learners taking courses through its platform.
And while most of its growth to date has been organic, it will be using some of the funding potentially to bring some inorganic growth into the mix. It’s already doing some of that: in April, it made an acquisition of French-Swiss edtech B2B edtech startup Coorpacademy to expand deeper into francophonic markets.
But Go1’s ambitions extend beyond that: It also plans to use some of the funding to further explore how it might extend its platform beyond corporate learning as well.
“Right now our learners come to us through their employers, but we want to have a relationship outside of that context,” Barnes said. That is dovetailing with another ambition, he added. “Internally, we are considering how to provide education to everyone without pricing them out. If we do something in consumer, we would want to make that a target. It would be quite a different product.”
Another area where it would like to use investment is to bring more technological innovations into the Go1 platform. One of these is likely to be more VR-based learning, Barnes said; another is to build out more live streaming to complement the existing catalogue, which is based today around asynchronous content.
Online education definitely got a boost during the pandemic both for emerging as a necessary tool for students to continue learning, but also as a critical route for helping organizations keep their workers connected to company culture, trained in new skills and more, at a time when they too were less able to assemble in person. Interestingly, while Barnes acknowledges that the pandemic definitely brought remote learning into focus, the market for online education in the workplace was already a thriving one pre-COVID.
“Companies are embracing the opportunity to programmatically upskill, reskill and empower their workforces, and Go1 has emerged as the go-to provider of learning content to make that opportunity a reality,” said Craig Blair, founder at AirTree Ventures, in a statement. “We’re delighted to be a part of Go1’s global journey in building an enduring company at the helm of the Learning & Development ecosystem.”
Similar to others in the same space such as Odilo (which announced funding just last week), Go1 positions itself as a kind of Netflix or Spotify, aggregating and curating content for its customers. Unlike Odilo, Go1 keeps its branding intact throughout the experience, more like a YouTube. Barnes said there are no plans to move into a completely white-label product.