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Exclusive: Zuckerberg-backed Byju’s to spend up to $30 mn on buying US gaming firms

12 January, 2017

Bangalore-based ed-tech startup Byju’s, incorporated as Think & Learn Pvt. Ltd, is scouting for acquisitions in the US to accelerate its international expansion. The company is evaluating a couple of gaming and learning apps that cater to the lower grades, starting from kindergarten.

Byju Raveendran, founder and chief executive of Byju’s, told TechCircle that the startup has evaluated a few companies in the US and the ticket size of the potential acquisition(s) could be in the range of $5-30 million. He said the deal would be closed in the next six months.

“We are looking at companies with good products. If there’s a company with a strong set of games, say 100 games for lower grades, it’s a potential target for us. We are evaluating some of these options in the US. This is to accelerate our growth and to make our product more comprehensive,” Raveendran said.

Byju’s is looking to launch its international version of the app in the next 18-24 months. It will primarily target school students in English-speaking countries such as the US, the UK and Commonwealth countries such as Australia and South Africa.

Raveendran said with the current model, the company has a strong runway for a fairly long period and can carry out the buyouts in the pipeline. However, the company would consider a fresh fundraise to accelerate its expansion projects in multiple markets, with large acquisitions in future.

“If you want to create two more big markets at that point in time or make some very large acquisitions, say in the range of $100 million, we will be required to raise a new round. Compared to one year back, it is easy to raise money for companies with fundamental models. But we can very comfortably make some acquisitions now and still have a strong run rate with the current model,” he explained.

Byju’s had raised around $140 million last year, aiming to penetrate the domestic market deeper with its learning app, and launch and expand in other English-speaking countries to become a formidable player in the K-12 tech-enabled education business. Following the $75 million (about Rs 500 crore) fundraise from Sequoia India and Belgian investment firm Sofina in March 2016, Byju’s raised $50 million (Rs 332 crore) in a round co-led by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) a few months later in September. It was the first investment of the philanthropic foundation of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan in Asia. The ed-tech firm raised another $15 million from International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private-sector investment arm in December 2016.

The quick successive funding rounds make Byju’s the most-funded ed-tech startup in India.

Raveendran said the app has been downloaded more than 7 million times and has reached 350,000 paid subscribers.

Strong growth at the startup founded five years ago by Raveendran, who hails from Azhikode, a small village in northern Kerala, has offered rich dividends to its early investor Aarin Capital, which part-exited with high returns in early 2016.

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Exclusive: Zuckerberg-backed Byju’s to spend up to $30 mn on buying US gaming firms

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