Tencent backs Indian education startup BYJU’s at a valuation of $800 million

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Tencent, Asia’s highest-valued tech company, has continued to invest in India after it backed online education service BYJU’s. The startup that includes the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Sequoia among its investors.

The size of the investment has not been disclosed, but a source close to the deal told TechCrunch that it values BYJU’s around the $800 million mark. Tencent has been less prolific in India than rival Alibaba, but its investments in the country include e-commerce giant Flipkart, healthcare firm Practo and chat app Hike.

Bangalore-based BYJU’s operates a range of online classes in India from students from grades 4-12 — it is named after founder and former teacher Byju Raveendran who started it in 2011. The company claims that it has nine million students using its apps, with 450,000 paying subscribers for the service overall. It said it has turned profitable in the last quarter with annual revenue more than doubling to reach $40 million for the  2016-2017 period.

Its business has attracted the interest of many esteemed investors, including Sequoia, which led a $75 million investment last March. That was quickly followed by a $50 million round led by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — the philanthropic fund from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan — in September 2016. The World Bank’s IFC fund added $15 million more in December. All in all, BYJU’s has raised more than $200 million from investors

BYJU’S has emerged as the clear leader in the Indian education-tech sector. We share BYJU’S mission of transforming education by creating personalized learning experiences for students,” Hongwei Chen, executive director of investment and M&A at Tencent, said of the deal.

Mark Zuckerberg commenting on an investment in BYJU’s last year

BYJU’s has focused on growth this year with two acquisitions of fellow India-based startups. The company sucked up career guidance service Vidyartha in January, and then TutorVista from U.S. media giant Pearson earlier this month.

The latter transaction is notable for a few reasons. BYJU’s positioned the deal as a potential accelerator to enable expansion into new markets — a vision the firm is seemingly moving towards — because of TutorVista’s range of services, which include digital content and information for school, test preparation and offline coaching to students, and management of K-12 schools. BYJU’s also got its hands on Edurite, a business selling educational CDs and DVDs which TutorVista acquired in 2007.

Pearson paid around $150 million over several investments to acquire TutorVista. Its acquisition by BYJU’s was never disclosed, but Indian tech media outlet The Ken claims it paid just $3 million for the deal. That would make it, potentially, a very good piece of business.

Expect more deals to come soon. BYJU’s said this new money from Tencent will go towards product development and “inorganic growth through acquisitions.”

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