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Miami edtech startup Nearpod acquired by Renaissance

Marcella McCarthy
·4-min read

Nearpod, the Miami-based edtech company, is being acquired by Renaissance Holding Corp., a group that develops education technology. While the deal hasn’t closed yet, Todd Brekhus, Chief Product Officer at Renaissance said in an interview this afternoon, “We have a definitive agreement signed by both parties.” The news of the deal first leaked to Yahoo! Finance yesterday, and a source inside the company confirmed the sale with TechCrunch this morning. Brekhus said that Renaissance doesn’t plan to disclose the price of the acquisition even after the deal has closed.

Nearpod offers an edtech platform that K-12 teachers use in the classroom to create interactive slides filled with videos, quizzes, questions and other activities. Students can use any device to participate in the lessons in real time; there is also a student-paced learning mode. In response to the pandemic, Nearpod now also offers remote learning.

It’s been a busy year for Nearpod. The company, which was founded in 2012 by three Argentinian entrepreneurs, is now led by Pep Carrera, who was brought on in early 2020 just as the pandemic gained traction. The company has raised more than $30 million in venture capital according to Crunchbase, and we last profiled the startup in 2017 when it raised its Series B.

Renaissance has had their eyes on Nearpod for a while, said Brekhus, a former edtech founder himself. “We [Renaissance] were looking to connect more with lesson delivery and teacher engagement in the classroom and Nearpod has done that in an exceptional way,” he said.

Carrera and the entire team will continue work as usual, with the exception that now Carrera will be reporting to Chris Bauleke, CEO of Renaissance. “We’re looking to continue on our mission and combine our mission with Renaissance,” Carrera said.

Carrera, who grew up in Miami and moved back in 2020 from Michigan to lead Nearpod, has had quite a year. In a previous interview, he told me “My first day on the job, I’m driving to the office [near Dania Beach] and talking to the management team on the phone, and we decided that we needed to close the office due to the pandemic. This was in March.” Nearpod currently employs about 290 employees, most of whom are at their Dania Beach HQ.

Carrera wouldn’t clearly confirm if he was brought on to lead the company to an exit, but he did say the founders were looking at several growth options with the intention of better serving their users — teachers and students alike.

While the pandemic has posed many questions around remote work, under the leadership of Carrera, Nearpod has seen explosive growth in 2020. While Nearpod was primarily designed to be used in the classroom, the team was able to turn it into a remote-learning platform, too, making it a forerunner in K-12 distance education.

Nearpod is used in all 50 states, and in more than 1,800 school districts. In 2020 alone, the company grew by about 50% with more than 1 million teachers using the product, and 2-3 million students online per day. In a December 2020 interview, Carrera told me that all the money being generated right now is being put back into the company to propel its growth, which has been organic. Nearpod spends very little ad dollars on marketing. The real marketing, he said, is by word of mouth.

A teacher uses Nearpod to deliver digital curriculum to students' mobile devices, during class. Photo via Nearpod.

Prior to joining Nearpod, Carrera was president of ProQuest Books, where he led a team focused on providing innovative software that made the acquisition, management, and delivery of books to academic learners, researchers, and librarians efficient and impactful. And even prior to ProQuest, as president and COO, Carrera grew VitalSource Technologies, the digital learning division of Ingram Conte Group, serving more than 20 million learners per year globally, by 10x over his six years there.

M&A activity in edtech has accelerated as VCs have splurged funding into the space. As my colleague Natasha Mascarenhas wrote recently, edtech M&A is leading to mass consolidation in the space. Nearpod joins a number of other edtech companies like Symbolab and Woot Math that have exited in recent months.

Updated Friday February 19 with our interview with Todd Brekhus, Chief Product Officer at Renaissance, and some additional context about the company.