As seen in Mergermarket: https://www.mergermarket.com/intelligence/view/intelcms-r7jqgs
By James Ward | August 25, 2020
As partner of Tower Education Technologies, it is our honor to share this insightful interview with its CEO and Co-founder, Debra Siler.
Tower Education Technologies, a higher-education tech platform, is having active discussions with investors and considering options that include its first capital raise, said Debra Siler, co-founder and CEO.
After onboarding its first customers in the spring, the Boca Raton, Florida-based company is in “growth mode”, Siler said, adding that growth and investor interest is accelerating with increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we're probably going to see adoption of less niche solutions and more comprehensive platforms that also include the analytics because of the cost and resource benefits,” Siler said. “Institutions are really going to be looking at that return on investment.”
According to a Mergermarket report published 20 August, COVID-19 has led investors to edtech. Fourteen companies in the space have raised more than USD 569m so far in 2020, up from the USD 480m raised by 15 companies in all of 2019.
Ongoing conversations with potential investors concerning the amount of funding it could seek are “fluid” and will be determined by what level of growth it pursues, she said. The CEO, who called the higher education market “underserved,” said Tower is looking for investors who believe education leads to choices, empowerment and lifelong learning.
Tower has at least one year of runway remaining, Siler said, declining to disclose financials. It has raised USD 6m to date from angel investors. Its valuation, based on its share sales to investors, is approximately USD 17m, Siler added.
The COVID-19 crisis paused onboarding in the spring, but the business otherwise has been largely unhindered by the novel coronavirus, she said.
Tower’s platform, designed to support the “critical mission” and goals of higher education, allows faculty and researchers across the world to collaborate and develop proprietary content, from co-creating courses and curricula to conducting peer reviews and co-authoring articles. That feature is in high demand because of COVID-19, Siler said. Its platform provides reporting analytics, a student information system, a learning management system and a customer relationship management system, Siler said. It also connects with alumni to promote lifelong learning, “a value-add that hasn’t been there” with other edtech companies, she noted.
The company has 16 global colleges and universities whose enrollments range from 1,000 to 250,000 students, the result of a membership partnership with the nonprofit American Higher Education Alliance (AHEA). Siler said the ability to work with large and small institutions gives it a unique competitive advantage. “The way we built the platform is it scales quickly. It's very customizable,” she added.
In the next 12 months, despite a potential capital raise, Tower plans to add more customers organically, mainly by word-of-mouth through its AHEA partnership. It aims to connect with colleges and universities around the world, although the CEO declined to offer a geographic focus.
Within the next year, Tower is looking to increase its staff by more than 50% of its current 22 people, all of whom worked remotely prior to the pandemic, Siler said. The company also plans to release three software updates to its platform, the first of which will occur this week.
Its largest indirect competitor is Platinum Equity Partners-backed Blackboard, though Siler noted that Tower has no direct competitors because of its comprehensive features.