Y Combinator Absorbs Edtech Accelerator Imagine K12, Creating Specialized Vertical

Y Combinator, the popular accelerator program, has made its first acquisition of a kind. The fund is today announcing that it has formed a specialized vertical within Y Combinator by bringing into the fold Imagine K12, an edtech-focused accelerator.

The new program, YC/Imagine K12 will groom its first combined batch of students this summer. Applicants will be routed through the regular Y Combinator application.

The move isn’t likely to herald a wave of consolidation involving Y Combinator, say IK12’s cofounders, Geoff Ralston and Tim Brady, both former executives at Yahoo. The reason: IK12 and Y Combinator have always enjoyed a singularly close relationship.

Indeed, Ralston and Brady sought out the advice of Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham before creating the accelerator. (Graham, who wasn’t interested or prepared to focus on more than the occasional edtech startup at the time, encouraged them to do it and provided them with Y Combinator’s playbook.)

Ralston was recruited as a partner at YC at the same time that he and Brady were accepting their first applicants for Imagine K12; in fact, while Ralston was helping advise his first batch of startups at YC, Brady was advising IK12’s first class, with Ralston’s help.

Other ways the programs remained close: Some companies applied to both programs and were simultaneously accepted to both. Ralston says in those cases, both programs agreed together to take less equity in the startups.

As of late last year, IK12 had worked with 80 companies, investing an average of $20,000 in each. Some of its best-known alums include ClassDojo, the communications platform for teachers, parents and students; Panorama Education, which provides data analytics to hundreds of school districts; and LearnSprout, a software startup whose online data insights helped K-12 educators track students’ performances and that was acquired earlier last month by Apple.

Still, Y Combinator’s platform has grown even faster, and with the encouragement of Graham, his wife and cofounder Jessica Livingston, and Y Combinator President Sam Altman, Ralston and Brady decided it was time to join their “big sister,” as they characterize Y Combinator, in what seems like a very clean maneuver.

No money was exchanged; Ralston and Brady had invested all the capital they had raised for IK12. Brady joins Ralston as a partner at Y Combinator. And Y Combinator now has more resources to focus on the ever-growing ed-tech market.

You can learn more about the companies’ union in a newly posted blog entry at Y Combinator.