Edtech Startup Lead School raises $100 million, becomes Third Unicorn of 2022

Lead School, an edtech company, has secured $100 million from investors led by GSV Ventures and WestBridge Capital, bringing its valuation to $1.1 billion in less than a year.

In April of last year, the Mumbai-based company received $30 million to provide tech-enabled solutions to schools with a focus on digital learning through an online or hybrid model (of physical and digital) of classrooms.

After direct-to-consumer brand Mamaearth and artificial intelligence firm Fractal, Lead School is now the third business to join India's unicorn club in 2022. It is also the sixth edtech company in India to achieve unicorn status. Unicorns are privately held companies with a market capitalization of $1 billion or more.

Instead than reaching directly to children, Lead School partners with schools.
“In K-12, everyone has been talking about edtech that is direct to students by circumventing schools. And everyone focuses on test prep and tuitions. Because people have accepted that schools cannot be improved. But we thought differently,” says, Sumeet Mehta, cofounder of Lead School. “That’s why we focussed on a school-based edtech (solution).”

Lead School, according to Mehta, works with 5,000 schools in 500 cities. The company hopes to reach 2 million kids across the country by the start of the next fiscal year. In 2021-22, according to Mehta, the edtech firm will have an annual contract value of $80 million (derived from cooperating schools).

In India, there are over 1.5 million schools, half of which are privately run.

According to Mehta, Lead School has only 5,000 students, which is only 1% of the total. "Lead adopts an outcome orientation for schools. Students’ learning outcomes have improved by 20-25%... This funding will funnel much-needed innovation towards schools in India,” Mehta said.

Last year, Mehta and Smita Deorah, who cofounded Lead School in 2012, added to their leadership team with the additions of Ritwik Khare (chief commercial officer), Harsh Kundra (chief technical officer), and Vipul Redey (chief excellence officer).

“Lead’s growth last year, despite Covid disruptions, underlines its consumer-first approach and deep focus on learning outcomes. We are excited to double down our investment in Lead, to support its mission of transforming the education sector in India,” stated Sandeep Singhal, managing director at WestBridge Capital.

Tutoring platform Vedantu, executive education platform Eruditus, and upskilling platform upGrad all received equity funding and joined India's unicorn list in 2021.

Byju's, Unacademy, upGrad, and Vedantu, among other large Indian edtech companies, had banded together to adopt a self-regulatory code. The group is known as the 'India EdTech Consortium.' A "single code of behaviour" was required of the 15 edtech companies that established under the banner of the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

This comes as Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan announced that his agency is working on a regulatory policy for India's fast developing edtech sector.