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Desire2Learn “Getting Warmed Up” With Close of $85 Million Series B Fundraising

Scarbourough MPP Brad Duguid touring Desire2Learn’s headquarters at the Tannery building in 2012.

Desire2Learn Inc., the Kitchener-Waterloo Ed Tech giant, has announced the closing of an $85 million round of Series B funding, led by Columbus Nova Technology Partners, Graham Holdings, Four Rivers Group, Aurion Capital, along with previous investors New Enterprise Associates and OMERS Ventures. Silicon Valley Bank provided debt financing.

Including an $80 million Series A round completed in 2012, total fundraising for Desire2Learn now totals $165 million. Considering that the company is 15 years old, and was previously bootstrapped until that first venture capital injection, this fundraising effort represents more a validation of Desire2Learn’s existing practice than speculation about what it might accomplish.

That said, founder and CEO John Baker, who saw his company evolve through Waterloo’s Communitech Hub from very humble beginnings said, in an interview with the Communitech blog, “I think I said we were just getting warmed up last time. I think we’re really now just getting warmed up.”

Baker founded Desire2Learn in 1999, when he was a third-year University of Waterloo student, attending his first Communitech event the following year. Even then, the company had employees – two.

“The education industry is undergoing a technology renaissance unlocked by cloud computing, digital content, mobile devices and big data analytics,” said Jon Sakoda, a partner with New Enterprise Associates. “We have seen tremendous adoption of D2L’s cloud-based learning platform in higher education, K-12 and the corporate sector. This round of funding should enable the company to further expand its global presence.”

As with any company in the SaaS space, Desire2Learn’s opportunity lies in the prospect of user engagement. “It’s that personalization of the learning experience that I think will be the next generation of these types of learning solutions,” he said. “Just like in medicine, you’re starting to hear the buzzwords around personalized medicine, or personalized video for video streaming companies.”

D2L will use the funding to expand globally, ramp up its existing cloud SaaS software platform, an Integrated Learning Platform (ILP) which it has branded Brightspace, as well as working on predictive modelling and data visualization engines and the development of an eTextbook platform and game-based learning engine.

“This is about really building the foundation for the future,” Baker told the Communitech blog. “We’re focused on building an enduring company, and this investment is great validation that the work we’re doing is on the right track, and that we’re going to be able to really cement our position as the market leader as clients look to cement their choices in the future.”

Brightspace is currently used by over 1,100 clients and 15 million users in 25 countries.

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