Nextord online university gets $8 million to expand academic offerings
US-based online university platform Nexford University has raised $8 million in a Series A round co-led by New Markets Venture Partners and Learn Capital, two leading edtech venture capital firms in the United States States that have invested in Pathstream, Udemy and Coursera. Jason Palmer, General Partner of New Markets Venture Partners, and Greg Mauro, Managing Partner of Learn Capital, will join Nexford’s Board of Directors.
The tech startup, launched by Fadl Al Tarzi in 2019, fills gaps in education affordability and relevance. As the traditional college experience has not changed for many years, education technologies like Nexford are at the forefront of a paradigm shift in higher education that puts learners first, their giving the skills needed to succeed in the present and the future.
The University of Nexford offers learners a fully online accredited higher education in the United States and allows them to study at their own pace. Once learners apply and gain admission into a degree program or course, they choose the speed or the slow of the program. Nexford’s most important markets have traditionally been underserved English-speaking communities like Nigeria. The West African country is the only market where the US-based edtech has partnered with local organizations to provide community learning spaces that help learners bypass infrastructure issues like Internet and transport. The company plans to partner with others to launch such centers in markets like Kenya and the Philippines. These spaces are not directly owned or operated by Nexford.
The University of Nexford offers the same programs as last year. Bachelor’s degrees include courses in business administration, artificial intelligence and automation, business analytics, and product management; business administration, advanced AI, e-commerce, hyperconnectivity, sustainability, and global business courses are programs for graduate degrees. In a recent interview with TechCrunch, CEO Al Tarzi said his company plans to add other programs, such as software engineering, data science, clean energy, business analytics, digital marketing and project management in the next six to twelve months depending on demand from learners.
The chief executive also mentioned that Nexford intends to launch several pathway programs – six-month programs designed to equip learners with the skills they need to get specific jobs in five vertical areas, including the new courses aforementioned – to complete its degree programs.
“Pathway programs are also going to integrate with our degree programs,” he said. “So what that means is that when you finish the Pathway program, if you want to go on and get a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, you can do that,” he said. “But if you have a job and want to come back a few months later, you can do that too. So, the pathway will give you the skills you need and a certain percentage towards a formal college degree.
This stackability factor is one of the many differences between Nexford and traditional institutions, Al Tarzi said. He also praises the platform’s day-to-day academic support and affordability, adding that conventional universities in the US can charge up to three or four times Nexford’s price for pathway programs. For example, Nexford accredited degrees cost between $3,000 and $4,000 (which are paid in monthly installments), but the average annual tuition for a master’s degree in the United States is around $36,000.
Regardless of cost and unique selling propositions, edtech platforms must prioritize results. And over the three years of Nexford’s existence, the measurement of results has changed. Many traditional and new edtech upstarts measure learning outcomes by internships. For Nexford, it’s just one of three, including getting a promotion and a pay rise and actually applying courses to grow a business as an entrepreneur.
“I think one of the most fundamental developments we’ve had is that we now have a lot more learner data and outcome data which gives us greater confidence that our alumni are succeeding after graduation,” said the CEO. “In our last survey, we saw that around 92% were successful.”
Internally, the edtech platform also wants to improve operations by becoming profitable. Al Tarzi said Nexford is tapping into positive margins with revenue doubling in 2021 compared to the previous year, and registrations growing from 70 countries to more than 90 this year.
Last June, the three-year-old startup announced a $10.8 million pre-Series A round. It seems like a turn down; however, Al Tarzi disagrees, citing the drop in funding size to a “significantly oversubscribed and extended” pre-Series A.
Investors participating in its Series A round include the Learn’s Emerging Markets Fund anchored by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Bisk Ventures, Global Ventures, Future Africa, UK investment firm AMK Investments and the Future of Learning Fund.
Nexford, in a statement, said the proceeds would take it into new markets, expand the company’s academic offerings, including career path programs, and improve its technology infrastructure. “We will continue to invest in geographic and technological product expansion. The latter allows us to operate as efficiently as we do, so we will not need to increase our tuition fees,” said the CEO. “Last year, we reduced customer retention costs by almost 50% and this is directly due to the operational efficiencies enabled by technology. We will therefore continue to invest in technology to increase efficiency and maintain tuition fees for learners now. »