Zen Educate secures $37M and acquires Aquinas Education to combat teacher shortage

Thu May 23, 2024 - 7:36am GMT+0000

Zen Educate, a digital marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B funding round. This investment comes as schools on both sides of the Atlantic face a worsening teacher shortage, a crisis exacerbated by the global pandemic. A recent report from the ADP Research Institute highlights that stagnant wages and a stressful work environment have deepened the supply-demand imbalance in the education sector.

Revolutionizing Teacher Recruitment
Founded in London in 2017, Zen Educate aims to disrupt the traditional teacher recruitment model, which often relies on third-party agencies with analog workflows and high fees. By digitizing the recruitment process through a self-serve platform, Zen Educate eliminates expensive intermediaries. The platform allows teachers and schools to create profiles, and uses data such as proximity, skills, and experience to automatically match them.

Zen Educate’s platform offers a flexible solution for schools and teachers. Schools can hire for full-time roles, while teachers can find temporary or part-time positions that fit their schedules. This flexibility is increasingly important in the education sector, as noted by Zen Educate co-founder and CEO Slava Kremerman.

“Like in all areas, educators are looking for greater flexibility in their work, and thus, there is a greater need for flexible working solutions in education like Zen Educate,” Kremerman told TechCrunch.

In addition to flexibility, Zen Educate also promises higher pay for teachers, taking a smaller cut than traditional recruitment agencies.

“The average incumbent industry take rate is between 35-38%,” Kremerman said. “We’re a little over half that. As a result, teachers earn more and schools save money.”

Expansion and Growth
Zen Educate previously raised $21 million in a Series A round in late 2022, which helped it expand into the U.S. market, starting with a soft launch in Minneapolis. The company now operates in Texas, Colorado, California, and Arizona, in addition to 11 regions in England. More than 15% of Zen Educate’s 300-strong workforce is based in the U.S.

“From the Minneapolis soft-launch, we are now the second-largest provider in the state,” Kremerman said. “We are live across five states and we are working with nine of the top 200 largest school districts in the U.S.”

Kremerman emphasized that Zen Educate’s technology-based approach has enabled it to adapt quickly to the varied regulatory environments across different states in the U.S.

“Licensing is state-specific, whereas England and Wales have a standardized national standard,” Kremerman explained. “We’re able to use our credentialing technology to adapt and roll out quickly between states, whereas most traditional staffing firms struggle with this.”

With the new $37 million investment, Zen Educate plans to expand into more U.S. and U.K. markets and launch new software for school administrators. This software will include tools for credentialing, compliance, and absence management.

Strategic Acquisitions
Zen Educate is also expanding its resources through acquisitions. The company announced its second-ever acquisition, purchasing the teacher staffing agency Aquinas Education. This acquisition aligns with Zen Educate’s strategy to bolster its market presence and enhance its service offerings.

Aquinas Education counts former professional soccer player turned TV presenter Jermaine Jenas as one of its owners. Following the acquisition, Jenas will join Zen Educate as a brand ambassador, bringing visibility and credibility to the platform.

Zen Educate plans to pursue several more acquisitions in both the U.S. and U.K. to strengthen its position in the market further.

Funding and Future Plans
The Series B round was led by Round2 Capital, with participation from Adjuvo, Brighteye Ventures, FJ Labs, Ascension Ventures, and several angel investors. This diverse group of investors underscores the confidence in Zen Educate’s innovative approach and growth potential.

Key Takeaways
Founded: 2017 in London
Platform: Digital marketplace connecting schools and teachers
Funding: Raised $37 million in Series B, following a $21 million Series A
Expansion: Operates in five U.S. states and 11 regions in England
Acquisitions: Recently acquired Aquinas Education
Future Plans: Further market expansion and new software development
Zen Educate’s innovative approach to teacher recruitment addresses the critical need for flexible working solutions in education. By leveraging technology, the company aims to streamline the recruitment process, reduce costs, and improve working conditions for teachers.

As the education sector continues to navigate challenges exacerbated by the global pandemic, Zen Educate’s model provides a timely and effective solution. With substantial funding and strategic growth plans, the company is well-positioned to make a significant impact on the education staffing industry.