Digital Textbook Publisher Boundless Merges With Media Marketplace Valore
Several news sites reported on Monday that Valore, a startup which runs a used and new media marketplace, has acquired the notable pioneering digital publisher startup Boundless.
The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but BostInno reports that Boundless investors have received shares in Valore. Boundless’s staff of 11 will be joining Valore, bringing its total complement to 61, according to Xconomy. Boundless confirmed the acquisition on its blog, noting that they "will continue to focus on creating next generation learning and teaching tools". The newly merged company expects to have combined revenues of over $100 million this year.
When I first read it I got the impression that Boundless had failed and that it was being acquired (that’s the way Pando Daily framed it). That would fit with my assumptions against digital textbooks and it would fit with Boundless’s colorful history.
But that’s not the case. Instead we have a merger of two diverse edtech startups – actually, three startups.
The company now known as Valore got its start in 2005 as SimpleTuition, a startup which helped college students price and compare student aid packages (I wish I’d had it when I was in school). SimpleTuition acquired ten-year-old Valore in 2012, and in 2014 changed its name to Valore.
SimpleTuition/Valore has had a relatively mundane existence, but Boundless has not.
Boundless was founded in 2011 with the goal of publishing open source college textbooks which replicated the organization and structure of existing textbooks. Sadly, Boundless did the job a little too well and was sued in 2012 by Pearson, Cengage, and MacMillan. They alleged copyright infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising.
Boundless probably had the law on its side for the infringement claim, but it didn’t have the resources to match Pearson, Cengage, and MacMillan. Boundless settled the lawsuit in 2013, reportedly paying each of the publishers $200,000.
Since then Boundless has continued to publish replica textbooks, offering both free online versions and paid versions which come with more features. The company also developed original curricula which complemented the textbooks, including an online quiz platform which could be graded automatically.
And now Boundless has merged with another edtech company. It’s hard to say exactly why they merged or what they plan to do next, but Boundless’s founder did sound optimistic. "We share a very similar ultimate goal and vision, which is to disrupt the textbook market and bring affordable prices for students,” said Ariel Diaz, founder and CEO of Boundless, in an interview with BostInno.
Diaz added that the acquisition "will accelerate both of our efforts around the textbook market in a very complimentary way, taking the inefficiencies out of the physical textbook space".
This deal could have been struck with a specific goal in mind, or it could simply be a pooling of resources. All we know for sure at this point is that all parties are saying that Boundless will continue to operate under its own brand within Valore.
If nothing else, this is a company worth watching.
image by LeafLanguages