Microsoft said in January this year that Teams, its online collaboration platform, was being used by over 100 million students — boosted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and many schools going partly or fully remote. Now, it’s made another acquisition to continue expanding its position in the education marketplace. Microsoft has acquired TakeLessons, a platform for students to connect with individual tutors in areas like music lessons, language learning, academic subjects, and professional training or hobbies, and for tutors to book and organize the lessons they give, both online and in person.
The terms of this deal have not been revealed but fingers are crossed for it. San Diego-based TakeLessons had raised at least $20 million from a range of VCs and individuals that included Lightbank, Uncork Capital, Crosslink Capital, and others. TakeLessons posted a short note in the form of a Q&A confirming the deal on its site. The note said that it will continue operating, business as usual, for the time being, with the intention of taking its platform to a wider global audience. It’s not clear how many active students and tutors TakeLessons had on its platform at the time of acquisition, but for some context, another big player in the area of online one-to-one tutoring, GoStudent out of Europe, raised $244 million in funding earlier this year that valued it at $1.7 billion. Others in online tutoring like Brainly are also seeing valuations in the hundreds of millions.
Given the relatively modest amount raised by TakeLessons, it’s likely this was a much lower valuation. Yet the acquisition is still one that gives Microsoft the infrastructure and beginnings of setting up a much more aggressive play in mass-market virtual learning, potentially to go head-to-head with these and other big platforms.
Today TakeLessons offers instruction in a wide variety of areas, from music lessons to languages, academic subjects, and test prep, computer skills, crafts, and much more. TakeLessons has been around since 2006 and got its start as a platform for people to connect with tutors local to them for in-person lessons, before progressing into online lessons to complement their style of business. The pandemic presented a major shift to the wave of online tutoring, the majority of what is offered on the TakeLessons platform today. These lessons continue to be offered on a one-on-one basis, but additionally, students can take part in group lessons online via the live platform.
The shift to online education that we’ve seen take hold around the world is likely why Microsoft sees a big opportunity here. On the heels of many schools around the world scrambling for better online learning platforms to manage remote learning during lockdowns and quarantines, educators, families, and students have been using (and paying for) a variety of different tools. Within that, Microsoft has been pushing hard to make Teams a leader in the online space. That was built on years of traction already in the market and a number of other acquisitions that Microsoft has made over the years. But it also comes amid a new insurgence of competition arising from the current state of affairs. This competition includes the adoption of Google Classroom, as well as a wide variety of more targeted point solutions for specific purposes like video lessons (Zoom figures big here); apps for lesson planning and homework planning; online on-demand tutorials in specific areas like math or languages or science to bolster in-class learning experiences; and more.
The Microsoft way is to bring as many features into a platform as possible to make it give users an amazing experience and less possibility to turn to other apps, providing more value for money around the Microsoft offer. In other words, it’s expected to see Microsoft sign more acquisition deals and launch phenomenal features to cover more services that it doesn’t already provide through its educational tools. With strategies like this, it’s safe to say, Microsoft is slowly positioning itself to take out competitions and take on opportunities in the tutoring space.