Facebook backs Indian education startup Unacademy

Unacademy, one of India’s fastest growing education startups, has just received the backing of a major technology giant: Facebook.

The social juggernaut has participated in the four-year-old Indian startup’s Series E financing round, sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

General Atlantic is leading the round, the size of which is about $100 million* (see below), the sources said. It wasn’t immediately clear to us exactly how big of a check Facebook has cut, but one of the sources said it was under $20 million. The round values the startup, which had raised $90 million prior to the new round, at over $400 million, the source said.

Updated at 4:30 P.M. IST: Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and chief executive of Unacademy, tweeted moments ago that the startup has raised $110 million from General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital India and Facebook. Existing investors Nexus, Steadview and Blume Ventures as well as angel investors Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart, and Sujeet Kumar, co-founder of Udaan, also participated in the Series E financing round, he said.

“Our mission from day one has been to make high quality education affordable and accessible to everyone. There are more than 800 Educators who teach live on Unacademy everyday with hundreds of thousands of Learners attending these classes from their smartphones,” he said.

“We have also heavily invested in making high quality free classes available on YouTube and our own platform where we see more than 150M video views every month. Our goal is to not just become the largest education organisation but to be the biggest consumer internet organisation in India,” he added.

The startup said it will use the fresh capital to add more test prep categories, and on-board more teachers.

In a statement, Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director of Facebook India, said, “Facebook is an ally for India’s economic growth and social development, and we are excited about India and its rapidly rising Internet ecosystem.”

“With this investment in Unacademy, we are reinforcing our commitment to the Indian startup ecosystem as well as investing in a company that is transforming learning in India. We love that the company is fundamentally democratising education and driving innovation in new learning models,” he added.

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Unacademy helps students prepare for competitive exams to get into a college and also those who are pursuing graduation-level courses. On its app, students watch live classes from educators and later engage in sessions to review topics in more detail.

A year ago, the startup launched a subscription service that offers students access to all live classes. Munjal tweeted earlier this month that the subscription service had become a $30 million ARR business. It has amassed over 90,000 paying subscribers.

This is the second time Facebook is investing in an Indian startup. Last year, it participated in social commerce Meesho’s $125 million financing round led by Prosus Ventures.

Facebook and Unacademy did not respond to a request for comment.

Ajit Mohan, VP and managing director of Facebook India, told TechCrunch in an interview last year that the company was open to engaging with startups that are building solutions for the Indian market for more investing opportunities.

“Wherever we believe there is opportunity beyond the work we do today, we are open to exploring further investment deals,” he said.

Indian newspaper Mint first reported in December that Unacademy was in talks with General Atlantic and GGV Capital to raise as much as $100 million. TechCrunch understands that GGV Capital, which earlier this month invested in edtech startup Vedantu, is not participating in Unacademy’s funding round.

Vedantu and Unacademy compete with Byju’s, which counts General Atlantic as an investor and is valued at $8 billion. Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has invested in Byju’s, but has sold at least some of its stake, according to a regulatory filing analyzed by business outlet Entrackr.

As India’s startup ecosystem begins to mature, it has started to attract several corporate giants. Google, Amazon and Twitter also have made investments in Indian startups. While Twitter has backed social platform ShareChat, Google has invested in hyperlocal concierge app Dunzo.

Unacademy counts Nexus Venture Partners, SAIF Partners India, and Blume Ventures, which announced its $102 million third fund for the Indian startup ecosystem on Wednesday, among its investors.