Principles such as the Socratic method and Pythagorean Theorem have been taught for millennia, making education one of the oldest industries in history. And now, technology such as AI is advancing education in ways that make learning easier and more accessible than ever. These e-learning innovations are creating incredible opportunities for private equity firms to expand and future-proof their portfolios.
To help dealmakers get a head start on their research, we'll detail the current trends affecting the e-learning industry at large, followed by those based specifically on the top 50 fastest-growing private e-learning companies. Last but not least, we’ll round out the post with a description of the ten top e-learning companies on our list.
While e-learning has existed for some time, the pandemic fueled previously unseen growth and catalyzed the industry. In 2019, the market was just $101 billion in size. Since then, it nearly quadrupled to $399 billion in 2022, and is expected to grow at a 14% CAGR through 2032 to $1 trillion. Within the industry, however, certain areas provide more opportunities than others: AI, mobile-first and microlearning, and soft skills.
Much as other industries are being impacted by AI, education and e-learning have also begun to utilize this new technology. One result is learning experience platforms (LXPs) that use AI to augment traditional instructor-led training and learning. While the technology isn't in the realm of robots teaching humans, LXPs do use AI and machine learning to gauge the efficacy of lessons and curriculums and help adapt teachers' approaches based on learners' needs. This is especially helpful in increasing personalization and addressing students' different learning styles, particularly for those with neurodivergent tendencies.
Studies have shown that traditional learning techniques don't work for everyone. When combined with students' average attention span of just 10 - 15 minutes, educators are left scrambling to create lessons that stick. Even adults struggle to pay attention for long periods of time and average just 20 minutes. As such, microlearning — short, digestible, and often video-based lessons in an easy-to-consume format — has risen in popularity among e-learning companies. In a similar vein, mobile-first learning — using students' phones and mobile devices to deliver lessons and increase engagement during classes — has also become more prevalent as educational professionals seek new ways to deliver lessons.
The e-learning industry includes much more than the topics taught throughout grade school and university. Curriculums that teach soft skills such as problem-solving and logic, communication, leadership, and collaboration are becoming increasingly important and common in the workplace. Top e-learning companies are often now providing businesses with more choices to improve their employees' knowledge across both hard and soft skills to increase productivity as well as promote a healthier and more collaborative workplace culture.
Macro industry trends can help inform firms' investment theses and categorical focus, but the fastest-growing private online education companies can offer more granular insights for dealmakers. Below are trends from a list of the top 50 fastest-growing private e-learning companies over the last 3 months, as provided by Sourcescrub’s deal sourcing platform.
All 50 companies in our list hail from just three countries: the US, the UK, and Canada. Over three-quarters are headquartered in the United States, with the United Kingdom at just 20% and Canada rounding out the group at 4%. This distribution is one of the lowest we've seen, but aligns with the number of countries in our Best of Bootstrapped breakdown from the first half of 2023.
Of the top 50 fastest-growing e-learning companies, most are relatively small, though none have fewer than 11 employees. Over 90%, however, have 200 employees or less, with 56% of the total list falling within the 11-50 range. Just one company in our list has 201 - 500 employees, and the remaining two online education companies have between 501 - 1000 employees on their rosters.
The online education companies in our list span over five decades, with the earliest founding year we've ever seen in any of our Best of Bootstrapped lists (1971). Each subsequent decade is represented, with 4% of companies on our list founded in the 80s, 14% in the 90s, and nearly 25% from 2000 - 2009. Over half of the list, however, was founded between 2010 and 2019, while just two companies were founded within the last three years. Interestingly, none of the top 50 were founded during 2020 or 2021, the peak years of the pandemic.
While private company information is incredibly difficult to come by, our deal sourcing platform is able to derive revenue insights for each of the companies in our list using data signals. Unsurprisingly, most are relatively small, with over two-thirds of the list having an estimated revenue of under $10 million. The rest of the list is split evenly between the $11 - 25 million range and $26 - 50 million, making the entirety of the top 50 fit firmly in the SMB market.
Active Parenting Publishers, Inc. (APP) is an e-learning provider company that offers educational technology to parenting education companies. The company's programs cover topics including parenting, step-parenting, divorce, school success, and character education for institutions and teachers worldwide.
As an education management company, Ardent Learning offers business-focused classes on cultural and brand immersion, leadership, management development, product and program launches, sales skills and product knowledge, customer service, and business skills. It also provides companies with learning management systems, consulting, and technology solutions to help their employees continuously grow and learn.
Barkley and Associates is an educational services organization that provides nurse practitioner continuing education and certification review/clinical update courses to US-based healthcare professionals. The company has both active nurse practitioners (NPs) and experts in multimedia instructional techniques on staff to create curriculums and help learners of all types.
Based in the UK with an office in Australia, Elastik Learning focuses on ensuring that every child can make progress in their educational journey by analyzing educational programs and identifying gaps in curriculums. Elastik then provides the guidance necessary to help teachers bridge those gaps and improve the efficacy of lessons for every student in the classroom.
Focus EduSolutions is an education e-solutions company that offers bootcamp and micro-credential development to colleges, universities, and industry partners to increase workplace readiness for students. The company is partnered with institutions and associations across the US, with the goal of better connecting traditional university education with what employees need to be successful in today's job market.
With its focus on nutrition education, The Health Sciences Academy is an online educational institution that equips working (and aspiring) nutrition professionals with the latest knowledge, key business strategies, and customizable client tools and worksheets. Based out of the UK, the Health Sciences Academy offers courses, certifications, and continuous education programs to help nutrition experts become more knowledgeable and further their careers.
Knowledge City is an e-learning provider that offers a learning management system and online education platform to learners and companies to increase workplace knowledge. Their platform delivers tens of thousands of video tutorials on topics including business soft skills, computer software, and safety compliance that are available 24/7 from any device.
Specializing in entrance exams and interview prep, Medify is a UK-based organization that helps aspiring medical students better prepare for and successfully enter medical school. Their program includes preparation for several exams, including the UCAT, BMAT, and GAMSAT, and provides information on medical schools and university admissions procedures to help more students get into medical school.
Another UK-based company, the National Learning Group is an e-learning provider that provides tutoring services in math and English for students at any learning level. They mix traditional and modern styles of teaching and offer one-to-one, personalized online tutoring.
Whizara provides classes via live streaming to help students learn the next generation of career skills and acquire digital literacy and coding skills under the mentorship of motivating instructors. The company offers courses on a variety of topics, including both core knowledge categories and electives, like a complete K-12 computer science pathway with advanced math and science courses to prepare students for their future careers.
With the top e-learning companies taking advantage of new technology such as AI and their inherent drive for continuous learning and growth, the e-learning industry is sure to offer great opportunities for private equity firms that wish to add to their portfolio.
Deal sourcing platforms such as Sourcescrub can help streamline the research process and uncover hidden gems. With a sources-first approach that connects millions of data points and creates rich, detailed company profiles, firms get the accurate and complete market view they need to find their next deal.
Get a jumpstart on the search for your next opportunity. Download the list of the top 50 fastest-growing e-learning companies here.