After the BTG contribution, Gran Cursos buys university and enters higher education
A little over a year after the BTG Pactual impact fund invested in Gran Cursos Online, considered the “Netflix of public tenders”, edtech is making its first acquisition and entering higher education, a market populated by big fish like Cogna, Yduqs, Ser Educacional, Ânima and Uniasselvi/UniCesumar.
The company, founded by Gabriel Granjeiro and Rodrigo Calado in 2012, is buying Curitiba-based UniBagozzi in an undisclosed deal. The plan is to invest R$ 150 million over the next three years, using its own cash generation and part of the funds from BTG’s investment (which was not disclosed) to enable the company to offer several online courses under the Gran Cursos brand.
“We are going to compete with the giants of the market”, says Granjeiro, exclusively to the NeoFeed. “These companies are making a focus transformation from face-to-face to digital. We were born digital and have a ready-made platform that focuses on the student experience.”
UniBagozzi is a traditional institution in Curitiba, founded in 2001, which was part of the OSJ education network, which has been in the sector for over 70 years. Currently, it has just over a thousand face-to-face and online students in subjects such as management, engineering, information technology and education, society and the environment.
Last year, UniBagozzi became a university center, which gave it the autonomy to create and develop courses without having to wait for authorization from the Ministry of Education, something that is considered fundamental to the strategy of Gran Cursos Online. This explains edtech’s interest in an operation with a low number of students.
The plan is, from 2023, to start creating several courses and scaling graduation in areas such as technology, management, psychology, administration, engineering and law (as soon as the online modality is authorized by the Ministry of Education). Other courses should be formatted by Gran Cursos throughout this year. The focus will always be online teaching.
The idea is to offer courses that appeal to the job market, mixing theoretical subjects with a lot of practice. “In the management and administration course, we will bring successful entrepreneurs who have a story to tell and validate the disciplines”, says Calado, who is also vice president and CTO of Gran Cursos Online.
Another example of this vision should be applied in the computer science course, one of the areas that most employs professionals in Brazil and that faces a shortage of manpower. In the last year of the course, the objective is to specialize the student in areas such as DevOPs, developer, architect, management, data engineer, design, security, among other functions that are of interest to the job market.
In higher education, Gran Cursos Online will follow a similar model to that used in its preparatory courses for public competitions and professional tests, such as bar exams and residency in health, areas in which it currently has 462,000 students – in the last 10 years, 1.4 million students went through Gran Cursos Online.
The infrastructure to create these courses in higher education is already in place. edtech has 18 TV studios in Brasília (DF), where the company’s headquarters are located. Also, she has 50 home studios, for teachers to record their homework. The content collection of more than 26 thousand preparatory courses for competitions and professional tests accounts for 142 thousand video classes and more than 33 thousand digital books.
Gran Cursos Online started to offer postgraduate courses in areas such as public law, public health, technology management and governance, in partnership with Unimais, last year. In a short time, it had 20,000 students. With the purchase of UniBagozzi, it will have its own certification.
Upon entering higher education, the company set itself a very daring goal: to reach 1 million students by 2026. In two years, the plan is for this area to be edtech’s second largest business – today, preparatory courses, the origin of company, are the company’s most important source of revenue, followed by graduate studies. Revenue, however, is not disclosed.
It won’t exactly be an easy mission for Gran Cursos Online to get a place in the sun in higher education, despite being one of the fastest growing areas in Brazil. According to the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira (Inep), of the more than 3.7 million people entering higher education in 2020 (most recent data), more than 2 million (53.4%) opted for distance learning courses. .
More than 2 million students opted for distance learning courses in Brazil in 2020 (most recent data), according to Inep
The main competitors are publicly traded institutions on B3. This is the case of Cogna, which had 656,000 online students in its Kroton higher education branch in the first quarter of 2022. Yduqs, owner of Estácio and Ibmec, had 961,000 virtual students (438,000 of which were from QConcursos, a rival of Gran Cursos Online in the area of contests). Uniasselvi/UniCesumar, which merged operations last year, had 755,000 online students. Ser Educacional, in turn, had 194,100 distance learning students. And Anima, 80 thousand.
“The pandemic has accelerated online education, but this is an area that has not stopped growing for 10 years”, says William Klein, CEO of the consultancy Hoper Educação. “There is still room to move forward and the most disputed assets for M&As are university centers because of the ease of creating new courses.”
In order to reach the goal of 1 million students, Gran Cursos believes that part of its base of students who already attend the platform can migrate to higher education. The company will also use the strength of its social networks, which had more than 5 million subscribers, to attract more students. On YouTube alone, there are 1.9 million followers. On Instagram, 2.1 million. The site had 17.1 million hits in March, according to estimates by SimilarWeb
Another point will be the monthly fee. It is estimated that it will be around R$ 150. The market average was R$ 250 in 2021, according to a study by Hoper Educação. “Because of the scale, the value will be super affordable”, justifies Granjeiro. Today, in its preparatory courses for public competitions and professional tests, the average ticket price is R$ 100, which entitles the student to consume as many courses as he wishes.
The challenge of Gran Cursos Online, as well as of its competitors, is to offer quality courses. “There has been an exponential growth in enrollments in distance learning courses, but this does not mean a gain in quality”, says Carlos Monteiro, a partner at the education consultancy CM. “Many offer the same face-to-face course.”
At this point, Gran Cursos Online’s argument is that UniBagozzi has a grade of 5, the maximum of the Ministry of Education, and that 60.5% of its faculty is composed of masters and 7.5% of doctors. In addition, the plan is to use BTG Pactual resources to also invest in technology associated with education.
If edtech does its homework well, it will be able to transfer all of this to higher education. Fighting toe to toe with the big fish in the sector, only time will tell if it will be possible.