Ranku’s eCollege optimizer bought by edtech giant for ~$25 million

The online learning market is becoming as crowded as the app stores. Ranku offers the equivalent of SEO assistance to make sure colleges with electronic courses convert visitors into students.

Now Ranku (pronounced ran-koo) is being acquired by publicly traded education conglomerate John Wiley & Sons. A source familiar with the deal confirms to TechCrunch that the acquisition price was around $25 million.

That’s not “F-You Money,” but it’s a strong exit for a startup that had only raised $650,000. The startup scored that seed round in 2014 from Mark Cuban, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Microsoft Accelerator, Archangel and Deborah Quazzo. They should see healthy returns on their small investments.


Ranku’s story is also a testament to the power of pivots. The startup changed directions several times.

Ranku launched in 2013, founded by Kim Taylor and Cecilia Retelle. Ranku was a comparison shopping site for legitimate universities offering online degrees. It was designed to save people from enrolling in scammy for-profit schools like University Of Phoenix Online, Kaplan and Everest.


The old Ranku product

By 2015 Ranku had refocused on naive international students who might not know which schools are actually prestigious. Eventually it began working directly with schools, providing them with analytics about their web traffic-to-enrolled student funnel, and helping them tailor their courses to demand.

Ranku’s product could fit nicely amongst Wiley’s many tentacles that reach across the education space. It sells print reference books and journals, professional development training, test prep and online course management tools for schools, amongst other services. Ranku should be able to optimize Wiley’s various offerings to match the fast-moving trends in what people want to learn.


“There are so many affordable online degree programs within state systems and community colleges but without the right strategies and tools, many are going undiscovered,” writes Taylor. ”With Wiley’s support, Ranku can ensure that potential applicants are discovering the programs that are right for them and enable both the student and institution to be successful.”

It’s a wisely timed buy for Wiley. Education is poised for a rapid shift from one-size-fits-all traditional school and online courses to personalized learning systems that account for whether someone learns best from reading, visuals, lectures, independent work or group projects. Students will need the best education they can get to still find jobs in the post-AI/robotics world.