Inking New Deals With Pearson And Elsevier, Inkling Nets $16M From Sequoia & More To Digitize The World’s Textbooks

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With the word beginning to quietly leak out last week (thanks to its regulatory filing), San Francisco-based mobile learning startup, Inkling, officially announced today that it has raised $16 million in Series C financing, in a round led by Sequoia Capital. The startup’s previous investors, including Felicis Ventures, Tenaya Capital and JAFCO Technology Partners, also contributed to the round. The financing brings Inkling’s total capital to around $48 million, according to the company.

Alongside its new capital, Inkling also announced today that it has struck new, strategic partnerships with two of world’s biggest academic publishers, Pearson and Elsevier, who will use the startup’s digital publishing tools as the “primary environment for creating next-generation digital learning products.” In other words, this is a big win for Inkling, as two of the largest educational publishers will be using Inkling Habitat — its cloud-based, enterprise-grade digital publishing platform — to help digitize their extensive content libraries.

Specifically, the agreements will make Inkling a “key distribution platform” for Elsevier’s mobile and web-based reference and learning content, power the publisher’s medical education and medical reference portals and will see the publisher convert over 650 medical titles into digital content through Habitat.

Not only that, but CEO Matt MacInnis says that the contracts the startup has signed with Pearson and Reed Elsevier are multi-year (and we hear separately, big-dollar) agreements, which comes as the most significant validation of Habitat since its launch earlier this year — and really, for Inkling’s new direction.

The company started off on a path to digitize the world’s textbooks and academic content for the “Tablet Era,” but over the course of the next few years, discovered that this was a much more difficult proposition than they’d originally thought. They decided to hunker down and build Habitat to give traditional academic publishers their own, more robust “WordPress” to convert their content into mobile and web-friendly products. At that point, there weren’t many options on the market for publishers, and most were forced to build their own.

Of course, as big as this news may be for Inkling, it’s important to point out that the company is not alone in this goal. A company called MetroDigi has also quietly been developing interactive digital textbook conversion software and has also been partnering with top publishers to help transform their academic content. The software is competitive and has attracted partners like Pearson, although this may say more about Pearson’s eagerness to digitize its content and needing all the help it can get to do so, rather than which company has the better software.

Going forward, MacInnis said that they hope to continue ramping up partnerships with publishers, and are in conversations with at least five more of the world’s top ten publishers. The company will be expanding its existing library by over 1,000 new academic and medical titles in the coming weeks, and, to complement this new growth, the company is also adding three key executives to the team, including former head of business development and Flipboard, Gus Gostyla and former GoodData and Google finance and operations exec, Stephanie Prior.

When asked about the new round, why it was slightly smaller than their previous round ($16 million compared to $17 million) and what it meant for Inkling, MacInnis said that the idea was to raise as much as it needed to get to “lasting profitability.” With this round, the CEO thinks that Inkling is taking a step in that direction.