LEAD (formerly LEAD School), an ed-tech startup, has raised $100 million in a fresh round of funding, bringing its valuation to $1.1 billion in less than a year. The Series E funding round was led by Bangalore-based WestBridge Capital and California-based GSV Ventures. The first 2022 ed-tech unicorn is likewise the first school ed-tech player to join the exclusive unicorn club.
LEAD is the third startup to join India’s unicorn club in 2022, following D2C brand Mamaearth and artificial intelligence firm Fractal. It is also the sixth Indian educational technology company to attain unicorn status. Unicorns are privately held startups valued at $1 billion or more.
The funds will be used to help LEAD accomplish its objective of offering high-quality, affordable education to over 25 million students with a $1 billion annual revenue run rate. The company’s initial priorities will be product and curriculum innovation, expansion of its footprint, as well as the acquisition of top talent across all functions. In the long run, the company wants to grow into more regions of the country to guide students in lower-fee schools, as well as expand overseas in similar geographies.
LEAD, a Mumbai-based school ed-tech startup founded in 2012 by Smita Deorah and Sumeet Yashpal Mehta. It is a school-focused ed-tech startup that facilitates schools to incorporate technology, curriculum, with pedagogy into an integrated teaching and learning system. LEAD collaborates with over 5,000 schools across Tier 2 and 3 cities as well as beyond to make the classroom experience more tech-enabled. This includes tracking teacher and student performance, cloud-based management of school administration, and the provision of digital solutions to make learning more interactive. The company claims to have an annual revenue run rate of $80 million.
LEAD Co-founders Smita Deorah and Sumeet Mehta commented on the fundraise saying, “A child spends six hours in school and only one hour in tuitions. Transforming schools, when done right, has massive potential to alter our country’s future. LEAD, with its integrated school system, has broken new ground in this direction. We believe that in ed-tech, Saraswati precedes Lakshmi.”
Edtech startups raised about $4.7 billion in 2021, making them the third most funded Indian startup category, only behind e-commerce ($10.7 billion) and fintech ($8 billion). Investors hardly pay much interest to the education sector before 2020. However, by 2020, the Covid-induced lockdowns were directly supporting ed-tech companies, causing investors to act in response to the sector.
The funding in LEAD also happened at a time when online education firms have decided to self-regulate under the Internet and Mobile Association of India after regulators’ concerns about ed-techs’ aggressive marketing practices and monopolistic attitudes.