Professional Development
Business / Education / Funding / Investing / Venture capital

South Baltimore-based edtech company StraighterLine gets investment from PE firm

"More than anything it validates what we've been doing for a decade," CEO Burck Smith said.

StraighterLine CEO Burck Smith. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Education technology company StraighterLine has received an investment for an undisclosed amount from Boston-based private equity firm BV Investment Partners, the firm said Tuesday.

Founded in 2009 by CEO Burck Smith and company president David Parento, South Baltimore-based StraighterLine set out to make higher education more affordable. Its platform offers access to online college courses that are designed to be student-paced and help learners earn credit that is transferrable. The company gets the courses to students through its own site, as well as through partnerships with universities. In either case, the idea is to lower the cost and risk for students.

Smith has talked about how the company’s model has been proven out in the marketplace when it comes to higher education institutions and policymakers. Tuesday’s investment brought a sign from an investment firm that focuses on business services, software and IT services industries: “More than anything it validates what we’ve been doing for a decade,” Smith said.

The company has grown its technology offerings recently, with a platform called Academy that integrates with a partnering college’s broader online platform. It’s also making the courses available via employers through a partnership with workplace employee services company Bright Horizons, providing a way for corporations to offer courses to employees.

The investment also brings funding during a period when “the need for efficient and effective remote learning offerings has never been more evident than today,” said Jason Kustka, managing director of BV, in a statement. Along with a move toward remote learning since campuses are closed due to social distancing, enrollment in college typically increases during an economic downturn as folks who are unemployed seek to up their skills. In this environment, students are also changing their assumptions about what courses should cost as everyone goes remote, Smith said.

The South Baltimore-based company currently has 52 employees, and Smith said it plans to continue to grow the team steadily, as it has been doing in recent years.

“This investment presents a unique opportunity for BV to invest in a founder-run online education platform focused on the higher education space,” Kustka said. “We believe StraighterLine has true break-out potential, with a differentiated platform and significant opportunity to grow within the higher education and employer markets.”

Companies: StraighterLine

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