China’s ByteDance leads $57m Series C in US edtech firm Minerva Project

The logo for Beijing ByteDance Technology Co.'s Jinri Toutiao mobile app is displayed at the company's headquarters in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

ByteDance, the Chinese technology giant best known for its video-sharing app TikTok, has led a $57-million Series C funding round in San Francisco-based education technology (edtech) firm Minerva Project.

According to a statement released by the US company, the funding round, which brought its total capital raised to date in excess of $128 million, was also participated by existing investors TAL Education Group and Yongjing Group.

A host of new investors, mostly from South Korea, also chipped in. These include Pinpoint Ventures, Kakao Ventures, Tan Tan Ventures, and Lighthouse Combined.

With the investment, Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of Bytedance, joins the Minerva board, along with Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for All and Founder of Teach For America.

Founded in 2012 by Ben Nelson, Minerva Project said it has built an educational system that includes a scaffolded curriculum that equips students with the cognitive tools and core competencies across disciplines and proven pedagogical practices, enhanced by a proprietary active learning technology.

Its nonprofit side – the Minerva Schools at KGI – offers accredited undergraduate and masters programs that currently serve about 630 students. Minerva Schools at KGI is a partnership between the Minerva Project and Keck Graduate Institute, a member of the Claremont University Consortium. It offers both a four-year undergraduate programme as well as a master’s in science graduate programme.

Minerva said it will use the fresh funding to accelerate access to its “unparalleled learning experiences” through partnerships with universities and corporations.

“Minerva’s model for higher education is attracting interest from leading institutions and organizations who want to use the Intellectual property we have developed including our curriculum, pedagogy, technology platform, and faculty training,” Nelson said.

ByteDance’s Zhang said the investment underscores the Chinese firm’s excitement and confidence at Minerva’s innovative approach to educating the next generation of talent.

The investment also adds to ByteDance’s education-focused investments. The company has so far invested in eight education-focused apps that target K-12 students and adults who want to learn English or other skills.

In China, education startups continue to pull in massive funding rounds. Recently, Beijing-based online tutoring firm Yuanfudao has raised $300 million in its latest round of funding at a valuation of over $3 billion. The funding round was led by Tencent Holdings and joined by Warburg Pincus, Matrix Partners China, and IDG Capital.

Chinese online education company Zuoyebang also raised $350 million in its series D financing. Chinese online education company Zuoyebang also raised $350 million in its series D financing. The round of financing is part of the company’s broader efforts to promote educational resources to more students across China through advanced technologies.

In April, Warburg Pincus has led the $140-million Series D funding round in Beijing-based education services provider Gaosi Education Group, further boosting the global private equity firm’s education portfolio.