Course Hero scoops up Scribbr for subject-specific study help

For an undisclosed price, Course Hero has acquired Scribbr, a proofreading and editing service for academic writing. This is Course Hero’s latest deal in a string of buys – including CliffsNotes, LitCharts, QuillBot and Symbolab – all powered by a duo of financings that saw the edtech platform valued at $1.1 billion, then $3.6 billion.

Founded in 2012, Scribbr says it has an international network of 700 editors that offer a variety of services, from edits to notes and clarity checks. The deal will help Course Hero expand its footprint in Europe, since Scribbr is a Netherlands-based business. Overall, Scribbr’s focus specifically compliments Course Hero’s 2021 buy of Quillbot, an AI tool that helps clarify writing that feels somewhat reminiscent of Grammarly.

Course Hero CEO Andrew Grauer explained that the mission of his company is to create a question-and-answer platform with extreme levels of specificity for students. It sells subscriptions to students that unlock access to all of its learning and teaching content, which includes course-specific material created by teachers and publishers.

The startup wants to be subject-agnostic, meaning that it can connect students to any specialty that they need advice in, whether it’s a niche grammar rule or a one-off algebra question. In some ways, that feels like the future of education: Students shouldn’t have to cobble together advice, and even better if it’s on-demand help. Edtech companies that help the same students across different subjects can even poke out consistent gaps in their understanding. What if a company could tell a middle-schooler that they constantly get stumped when it comes to inferential questions?

The flipside, though, is hard to ignore. Just because a student wants to come to Course Hero for math help, it doesn’t automatically mean that they want to come to the company for a summary of the Shakespeare reading. That reality can take away from Course Hero’s assumed goal of creating a stickier, more useful product for customers.

Grauer’s response to that concern is that he says he doesn’t plan to rush the integrations between the new and different companies within the Course Hero umbrella.

“We start with the thesis of ‘let’s be decentralized, let’s empower and continue the entrepreneurialism of building out those individual companies,” Grauer said. “And then if and when there’s these moments, and you’re gonna start to see more and more of integration of different content, tools and services between the offerings at the right moment in time.” The answer suggests that Course Hero wants to play a backseat, and more of a platform role, in these companies’ lives, versus combining and paywalling them to drive more subscriptions.

And to take a minute to believe the founder, who started the company in 2006 and only recently began using venture capital as leverage to grow the core business, it does appear that every acquisition continues to stand alone in its own, specific world. There’s more to come, he tells me, which means that we’ll see what the edtech’s appetite looks like as it scales.

“We’re a company of relatively more independent, autonomous brands,” he said. “There is so much amazing opportunity for integrating each other’s technology and services with each other. And the question is how to stack rank those and prioritize them.”

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