The funding streak for educational startups in Asia continues into 2019 after Emeritus, a U.S-Indian company that partners with universities to offer digital courses, landed a $40 million Series C round led by Sequoia India.
The deal includes participation from existing investor Bertelsmann India Investments, and it takes Emeritus — founded in 2010 as offline management program company Eruditus — to around $50 million from investors to date. It also follows notable rounds in December for India-based education companies Byju’s ($540 million) and Toppr ($35 million).
Emeritus is the online branch of Eruditus. It was founded in 2014 as a response to the growth in digital learning. Specifically, it took the core elements of Eruditus — which include helping educational institutions design new curriculums — and applied them to the online space to develop certificate courses and online degrees.
The company has offices in Boston — where it works to develop curriculum content — as well as Dubai, Mexico, Mumbai and Singapore. In total, it has some 350 employees, while its partners include MIT, Columbia, Tuck at Dartmouth, Wharton, UC Berkeley and London Business School.
Today, Emeritus accounts for most of the business’s growth potential and is really the focus of this investment, co-founder and director Ashwin Damera told TechCrunch in an interview.
“We’re helping working professionals who can’t otherwise come to these schools to access high-quality educational content online,” Damera said. “It’s very different from a MOOC [such as Coursera or Udemy], we are a SPOC — small, private, online course.”
For one thing, all Emeritus courses are run in collaboration with universities, they tend to attract older students — because they are master’s degree level — and their completion rates are around 90 percent, according to Damera. Students on a course, he said, are broken down into sections of around 100, and then smaller working groups of around six, much like traditional offline courses.
Emeritus said it will enroll 30,000 students from 80 countries during this current financial year. That’s a figure that Damera wants to grow ten-fold over the next five years.
The company’s strategy to reach that lofty goal revolves around widening its reach to new audiences. A key part of that focus is to expand its existing English and Spanish content libraries, and develop content in Portuguese and Mandarin for the first time. Interestingly, in the case of China, Emeritus is open to a potential acquisition or a joint venture to get a local business up and running.
Right now, Damera said that just 70 percent of students are based overseas. In addition to accommodating additional international languages, he said that global push will mean the company will develop its tech stack to enable greater, more mobile-based content for students.
But, beyond those perhaps obvious areas, Emeritus is examining the potential to offer newer products and courses at more affordable prices. In particular, Damera believes there is a “huge opportunity” to apply itself to bachelor’s degree education, although he plans to expand its master’s degrees first.