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Learning Technology on the Rise With OpenSesame, Go1 Funding News

July 23, 2021 Learning and Development
Mike Prokopeak
By Mike Prokopeak

The online learning and digital skills industry is rapidly becoming the land of the unicorns.

With its latest funding round, Brisbane, Australia-based learning technology company Go1 became the latest company to achieve $1 billion “unicorn” valuation status when it closed a $200 million Series D funding round on July 20. That news comes on the heels of e-learning company Articulate Global reeling in a massive $1.5 billion investment earlier this month.

The rise of remote work and the digital workplace have pushed companies to invest in online learning and the technology to support it. According to one recent report, the number of companies adopting learning technology has grown by nearly 50% year over year. That's significant for a global corporate training market that was already valued at nearly $333 billion, according to one analysis, and projected to move north of $400 billion in the next five years.

Investors are clearly taking note. Go1’s funding was led by SoftBank and follows a $40 million Series C funding round just two months prior. The company plans to use this new investment to build content partnerships, expand product offerings, and grow its physical presence globally, particularly in the U.S., as companies explore hybrid working models, Go1 CEO Andrew Barnes said in a press release statement.

“As society transitions out of the pandemic, ensuring that employees have opportunities to explore learning and development resources will be essential for team retention and encouraging employee growth within the organization,” Barnes said.

Go1's core product is a content library that aggregates courses and content from other providers and makes it accessible to employees via integration with existing learning management systems, HR information systems and platforms like Microsoft Teams and Viva. The company also offers its own standalone delivery platform. Access is about $10-$12 per user a month.

The idea is to create a Spotify for corporate learning, creating one subscription for access to unlimited content, said Softbank managing director Nagraj Kashyap in a statement.

Investors Say 'OpenSesame' to Online Learning

Go1's funding wasn’t the only digital learning news this week. Portland-based e-learning company OpenSesame nabbed a $50 million Series D round on July 22, led by JMI Equity. OpenSesame offers a cloud-based catalog of more than 20,000 courses in 19 languages from content partners like TED and Harvard Business Publishing.

The company reported a surge in adoption of online learning and employee development as companies moved to remote operations during the pandemic. In particular, companies have been asking for more training on topics like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), leadership development, enabling a safe working environment, and wellness in the workplace.

The latest funding round is an acknowledgement that the world of corporate learning is in transition as companies adopt a digital-first mindset and invest in reskilling and upskilling employees in response.

OpenSesame is growing because organizations want to train employees wherever they might be, not by gathering everyone in a single location, CEO Don Spear told The Oregonian. “That’s been the biggest impetus and the biggest growth for us,” he said.

OpenSesame last received investor funding in May 2019, when the company raised $28 million in a Series C round. With this month's latest round, OpenSesame has received $97 million from investors to date. According to a press release statement, the company will use the money to accelerate global expansion and explore merger and acquisition opportunities.

In addition to access to content, OpenSesame technology gives learning administrators the ability to create custom learning paths for employees with AI-curated course lists that integrate with major learning management systems.

"COVID-19, the increased need for learning resources around important DEI-related topics, and a growing commitment by global organizations to invest in continuous learning have all accelerated demand for OpenSesame’s technology, curation expertise, and content marketplace," said Sureel Sheth, principal at lead investor JMI Equity.

Other Digital Learning News

In other learning technology news, London-based Fuse Universal, a learning platform that aims to put learning in the hands of employees when they need it, acquired PowerGuides, a video-based micro-learning tool that provides contextual performance support to employees while they're on the job.

Learning in the flow of work has become a high priority for companies as they look to boost productivity and minimize time away from the job. 

And finally, Learning Technologies Group announced on July 15 a $394 million deal to acquire workforce transformation firm GP Strategies. The tie-up brings together London-based LTG's growing learning and talent technology portfolio with GP Strategies' services business, creating a business that can serve companies from end-to-end with technology, implementation services, and ongoing training and customer support.

LTG's businesses include LEO Learning, Gomo, Rustici Software, PeopleFluent, Watershed, Instilled and Open LMS. The firm is in the midst of an M&A surge, acquiring learning platform Bridge and PDT Global, a DEI training specialist, earlier this year.

"The proposed acquisition brings new capabilities and deep sector expertise in high-value industries," said LTG chief executive Jonathan Satchell in a press statement. "The acquisition provides LTG with a significant opportunity to expand on our long-term customer relationships while bringing a substantial new base of large global customers from GP Strategies."

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