Byju's, India's most valued internet startup on September 16 said it will acquire Tynker, a US-based coding platform for kids. This is the latest in a series of acquisitions by the ed-tech behemoth this year to consolidate its leadership in the K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) segment, even as it weighs plan to list on the public markets in the US.
Moneycontrol reported the Byju's-Tynker deal on September 12, 2021.
Byju's breathtaking pace of fund-raising and acquisitions has earned it the moniker of 'Buyju's' in the internet ecosystem.
Tynker is in fact its 9th acquisition this year, coming on the heels of buys such as Aakash, Great Learning, Epic, Scholr and Gradeup as Byju's buttresses its product portfolio to go after varied segments such as K12, test prep, upskilling and learning.
It has spent over $2 billion to buy nine companies this year. It is also reportedly in talks with investors to raise $1.5 billion, at a valuation of over $21 billion, after which it could look at the listing in the US. It is currently valued at $16.5 billion, making it the most valued unicorn in India.
However, Byju's Chief Strategy Officer Anita Kishore, who has been playing a pivotal role in leading their acquisition strategy says they don't keep count.
"We don't keep track of numbers and don't work with a target number. Each of these acquisitions has been very specific. Tynker is a product that we have been looking at for a while and we first met them 2-3 years ago.," Kishore told Moneycontrol in an interview.
Interestingly, the Tynker acquisition will be the second in the coding space after Whitehat Junior, which Byju's bought for $300 million in August 2020. While Byju's and Tynker did not disclose the size of the deal, Moneycontrol learns that it could be in the range of $100 million. This is also the third-based US-based company that Byju's is buying, after educational gaming startup Osmo and online reading platform Epic.
Tynker was founded by Krishna Vedati, Srinivas Mandyam and Kelvin Chong in 2012 in Mountain View, California. It teaches children aged between 5-18 how to develop coding skills. Its coding platform has been used by over 60 million kids and 100,000 schools in 150 countries.
While coding startups like Whitehat Junior have come under fire in the past for using misleading ads and for the quality of its teachers, Tynker on the face of it has a different approach when it comes to imparting coding skills.
"We wanted to give our children a life skill or a craft they can use to become anything they want to become. We focussed on self-learning and an interest-driven approach, trying to make it fun and interesting," Krishna Vedati said.
"Even if you have to train a dragon, what they think they do is playing but they are actually learning."
His co-founder Srinivas Mandyam added that 1 in 3 schools in the US already use Tynker, giving Byju's a huge foothold in North America and it hopes its India reach will go up after it recently released an Android version.
"If you look at pre-readers even dragging code like Scratch is hard if you don't have motor skills. So we innovated with a click and pop. Kids start with icon coding block, then block coding and then they start seeing languages in blocks and then start coding," Mandyam said.
Kishore also ruled out any conflicts between Tynker and Whitehat Junior and said the two offerings are very complementary.
"The Whitehat Junior product is very strong, it has scaled and its NPS (net promoter score) is the highest you will see across products. They made some missteps in marketing, which they corrected," she said, adding that while Tynker would offer an asynchronous way of learning, Whitehat was a more synchronous one.
According to data sourced from Pitchbook, Tynker has over 60 employees and raised $10.35 million in Series A funding led by Krishna Bharat, Cervin Ventures, Prime Partners and Felicis Ventures on May 31, 2016, putting the pre-money valuation at $20.7 million and over $31 million post-money. 13 other investors also participated in the round.
While Vedati did not share details of the revenue run rate or funding rounds, he said the startup has been profitable for the last 5 years and confirmed that it has between 60-100 employees. Vedati, Mandyam and Chong will continue in their roles post-acquisition.
"We have a huge global brand in coding and we spent 9 years scaling. We now want to take it to the next level. Byju's brings us global scale," Vedati said.
Tynker offers interactive content with video tutorials that teach common text coding and block coding. It has over 60 courses that include programs in Creative Coding, Minecraft Modding, Minecraft Game Design, Python and CSS.
Apart from partnering with brands like Mattel to offer coding experiences with Hot Wheels and Monster High, it also partners with companies like Apple, Sylvan Learning, BBC Learning, Infosys Foundation USA, Microsoft, PBS and Lego.
In an interview with Moneycontrol a few months ago, Byju's founder Byju Raveendran said the company was on a buying spree as the education sector has been grossly under-invested in and neglected.
"I strongly believe that we have an opportunity to redefine this space globally. This is not a cut, copy, paste model of what is working in other markets, Starting in India is an advantage in this space" he said.Byju's has aspirations of going public in the next 12-18 months.