Mary Meeker’s Bond backs Indian online learning startup Byju’s

Indian online learning startup Byju’s has nearly doubled its valuation in a year as it adds one more high-profile name to the list of its backers: Bond.

In a statement on Friday, Bangalore-based Byju’s said it had raised an undisclosed amount from the VC fund co-founded by Mary Meeker. The first female-founded VC firm’s check valued the nine-year-old Indian startup at $10.5 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. This is the first time Bond has backed an Indian startup.

TechCrunch reported early last month that Byju’s was in talks with some investors to raise as much as $400 million at a $10 billion valuation. TechCrunch understands that Bond is investing less than $100 million in Byju’s. A Byju’s spokesperson declined to comment on the startup’s valuation and size of the investment.

The new deal makes Byju’s the second most valued startup in India, surpassing budget-lodging firm Oyo, which was last valued at $10 billion. Indian financial services giant Paytm, which was valued at $16 billion late last year when it raised its $1 billion Series G, retains the top spot.

“Endorsed by millions of students, Byju’s has emerged as a clear leader in education technology,” said Mary Meeker, general partner at Bond and author of the widely influential Internet Trends Report. “We are excited to support a visionary like Byju and his team in their quest to continue to innovate and shape the future of education.”

Byju’s prepares students pursuing undergraduate and graduate-level courses, and in recent years it has also expanded its catalog to serve all school-going students. Tutors on Byju’s app tackle complex subjects using real-life objects such as pizza and cake.

Last year, Byju’s acquired U.S.-based Osmo, a startup that develops apps for kids that uses offline input, in a deal worth $120 million. Osmo has since expanded to serve the pre-schooler market and this month it told TechCrunch that it has built a video-conferencing service for kids.

Byju’s said today it has amassed more than 57 million registered users, more than 3.5 million of whom are paid subscribers. After New Delhi ordered a nationwide lockdown in late March, which forced all schools to close, Byju’s and scores of online learning platforms, including Facebook-backed Unacademy, have introduced new classes to students at no charge.

“This crisis has brought online learning to the forefront and has helped parents, teachers and students alike to experience and understand the value of it,” said Byju Raveendran, a co-founder and chief executive of the eponymous startup.

“We have the opportunity to positively influence how teachers teach, students learn and school’s function. The ‘Classrooms of Tomorrow’ will have technology at the core, empowering students to cross over from passive to active learning. The result will be a combination of the best of both online and offline educational offerings.”

Investment by Bond is a “testament to the role that Byju’s is playing in helping students learn better by customizing our platform to their abilities. It also demonstrates the rising global interest in education technology as digital learning becomes increasingly accepted and embraced,” he said.

Friday’s announcement comes months after Tiger Global and General Atlantic invested between $300 million to $350 million into the nine-year-old startup. At the time, Byju’s was valued at $8 billion, up from $5.75 billion in July last year, when it raised $150 million from Qatar Investment Authority and Owl Ventures.