November 14, 2017

Acquisition of Cogent Education is a win for Georgia

Co-founder credits GRA's early support

University of Georgia startup Cogent Education will now bring its celebrated interactive science lessons to many more schools and students.

Charlottesville, Va.-based ExploreLearning announced Nov. 10 it had acquired the GRA-backed company. Cogent Learning’s entire R&D staff will remain in Athens, and it will also continue its Atlanta operations, according to co-founder Tom Robertson.

ExploreLearning already holds the world’s largest library of interactive, online math and science simulations for students in grades 3-12.

Which makes Cogent Education an excellent fit: Its one-of-a-kind interactive experiences allow students to assume the roles of STEM professionals to solve real-world problems.

The acquisition opens the doors to many more classrooms — and closes the door on the startup era of Cogent Education’s journey, which Robertson credits GRA for playing a key formative role.

“GRA was with us through three critical phases,” Robertson says. “Their first investment helped us get the technology up to par and do some market research. Their second allowed us to prototype SABLE, our flagship formative assessment tool. Without that, we wouldn’t have landed a major NSF grant.”

Robertson says the third GRA investment allowed Cogent Education to bridge its operations from federal grants to the marketplace, a move that ultimately led to the acquisition

“Our technology is on the cutting edge for education,” he says, “and ExploreLearning saw great value in our team. So the deal effectively brought money into Georgia and created well-paying jobs in our state. That’s a good return for what GRA invested."

Robertson also credits GRA, and particularly senior advisor Bill Midgette, for providing the counsel that help guide decision making during the acquisition process. “It was my first time in ‘the Show,’ and they’d been there before,” he says. “That was a great help.” 

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