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GHP Exits:  Lessons Learned

December 1, 2017

Marking our second Silicon Valley exit, Good Harbor Partners is thrilled that one of our clients, Motion Math, has recently been acquired by Curriculum Associates.  

 

With this acquisition, the Motion Math team has found a home that will provide them with platform and resources to fulfill their goals of advancing student learning.

 

Motion Math’s visually appealing and adaptive learning games are leading the charge in engaging kids. The team has proven that games can be an accurate assessment tool. They have embedding the assessment within the activity, a thoughtful and innovative way of engaging students and improving weak testing practices.

 

Students aren’t the only ones learning, of course.  With each new exit – indeed, with each new client engagement – we at GHP also learn new things, adding to the expertise that we deliver. 

 

Good Harbor Partners supports EdTech companies by developing their business model, outsourcing corporate development, monitoring and shaping trends, and keeping larger players in the industry aware of their progress and innovation. Motion Math is a strong example of GHP’s successful work, and we look forward to seeing their product in K-12 schools nationwide.

 

Motion Math is GHP’s second exit out of Silicon Valley. Intellus, a platform that allows instructors to access open educational resources and library materials while providing data on student engagement, was sold to Macmillan Education in 2016.

 

As Tony Wan at EdSurge reported in his analysis of this deal, the acquisition of Motion Math was only Curriculum Associates’ second company purchase in its 48-year history.  What made this company the right one for Curriculum Associations, when so many others might have made the cut?  CEO Rob Waldron provides the answer: “We’re (looking)…for ways to inspire our existing customers.” 

 

Curriculum Associates didn’t want new lines of business, a new customer base, new adjacent markets – what the company wanted was a way to deepen it relationship with (read: it’s value to) current customers.  That’s instructive for any EdTech company looking for a similar exit. 

 

The EdSurge piece also explores ‘lessons learned” over the years by Motion Math CEO Jacob Klein.  Looking in the rearview mirror, it’s easy to see the early hurdles that the company had to overcome over time  – the lack of a subscription model, the overconfidence that comes from media coverage and a string of awards  (don’t believe your own PR), the black box of the app store, platform commitment.  While company leadership focuses on the day-to-day of growing the business, it often misses important market trends or cues that can impact its growth in the months and years ahead.  Worse still, missing those shifts and signals can stall growth, create risk, or put the company on a trajectory that makes it a difficult M&A target.

 

Fielding a successful product – even one with proven efficacy, awards, and strong PR – does not translate into sales, and is not enough to make a company a smart M&A target. 

 

So, what lessons are there for EdTech executives eyeing an exit, but pushing growth day in and day out? 

 

  1. Don’t get mired in the day-to-day operations of your business – at least not to an extent that you fail to recognize (or seize) new trends or opportunities.  Stay focused, but don’t put on blinders that prevent you from seeing the larger picture.

  2. Find trusted advisors, investors, analysts, board members, etc. that can help maintain a “long view” of your business and how it fits into the greater ecosystem; evolve your business model as the market evolves.

  3. Be honest and realistic – what looks like a winning “product” to you, may make a better “feature” to a larger company.

  4. Plan for and prepare early for an exit – shape your company as the ideal acquisition for a large player; position yourself as a smart extension of a current offering or line of business.

 

 

 

 

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