April 9th, 2015
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — To observe the major forces at play in the education technology sector, one needed only to stand near the marble fountain in the Phoenician Resort lobby this week.
That’s where hundreds of venture capitalists and executives attending an annual ed tech industry conference arranged — in full view of their rivals — to meet one another privately.
From coveted perches at cafe tables and couches in the plush hotel lobby, for instance, investors watched as Aaron Skonnard, chief executive of Pluralsight, an online skills training company for technology professionals, sat down with David Blake, chief executive of Degreed, a start-up that helps companies track, analyze and manage the skills development courses taken by their employees.
“Degreed has the best content-scoring algorithm for online courses,” said Michael Staton, a partner at Learn Capital, a venture capital firm that finances education start-ups, as he observed the tête-à-tête from across the room. Then Mr. Staton sighed. “I was hoping we’d invest in them,” he said, “before Pluralsight acquired them for $100 million.”