The newly merged company Keystone Education Group (KEG) will become the leading global online resource for prospective higher education students, with annual unique student user traffic exceeding 110 million.
Keystone Academic Solutions (“Keystone”), a Viking Venture portfolio company, and EMG – Educations Media Group (“EMG”) announced today that they are merging to form the Keystone Education Group (“KEG”), with combined revenues of more than USD $50 million.
The shared mission of Keystone and EMG is to help students make one of the most important decisions of their lifetimes – namely, which higher education degree program or course to attend. Combined, KEG helps more than 110 million students each year, across 460 websites, with their higher education decision-making. Well-known KEG websites include Masterstudies.com, FindAMasters.com, Educations.com, and Studentum.se.
Both Keystone and EMG are leaders in the global market for higher education marketing and student recruitment, with strong customer bases across the UK, Europe, the US, and the Nordics. The newly formed KEG serves a customer base of more than 5500 higher education providers, combining Keystone´s strong study abroad market presence globally and its leading domestic market position in the United Kingdom with EMG’s leading domestic market position in the Nordics.
Current Keystone CEO Erik Harrell will become CEO of KEG, and EMG CEO and co-founder, Fredrik Söderlindh, will serve on KEG’s senior leadership team as Head of M&A and a member of KEG’s board of directors. The new chairman of KEG’s board will be Keith Fransson, who has long and solid experience from the education industry as CEO of Hermods (acquired by Academedia) and as the chairman and investor of Urkund and ILT education. Keith Fransson will also invest and become a shareholder in KEG.
– During the past 12 months, Keystone has successfully implemented a strong organic and inorganic growth strategy, with pro-forma revenue growth expected to be up more than 300% in 2021 versus 2019 after the closing of this merger. The formation of KEG and merger of equals with EMG brings us one step closer to becoming the most trusted and scaled resource for students in the world and a global leader for enrollment generation for higher education institutions, said Harrell.
– Both companies have demonstrated a strong commitment to students and education providers over the years and are now set to bring even better solutions to this market as a combined force, with enhanced competencies delivered at scale, Harrell said.
– This merger is a great way to strengthen the mission of matching students with higher ed institutions. The business of EMG and Keystone are complementary, with EMG’s strong domestic foothold and with Keystone’s international foothold. This is Keystone’s third transaction in the last six months and we are happy to see another great company entering into the Viking Venture familiy, says Jostein Vik, Partner at Viking Venture and Chairman of the board at Keystone Academic Solution.
Moving forward, the new group will focus on four core operating segments, including study abroad, domestic student recruiting, corporate training, and global student recruitment services. According to a recent study completed by a leading tier 1 strategic consulting firm on KEG’s behalf, the total addressable market for KEG in its core geographies – the United States, the United Kingdom, the Nordics, France, Germany, and Spain – is approximately USD $35 billion, with growth estimated to be north of 15% due to a systemic shift towards digital marketing, accelerated by the dampening effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on more traditional offline marketing channels such as physical student fairs and other prospective student events which require travel.
Fredrik Söderlindh, CEO and founder of EMG, said,
– We founded EMG in 2001 as a group of three students based on our own needs – to find the right education. We are very pleased to begin a new chapter with Keystone and to keep our shared vision of helping everyone in the world to find the right education, now on a much wider and global scale.
Both Keystone and EMG have strong backgrounds in M&A, with Keystone recently acquiring UK-based FindAUniversity and US college athletics placement firm CSUSA. EMG has led a similar growth path, acquiring the study abroad agent Blueberry, and UK-based site Floodlight.co.uk and the adult learning segment of Hotcourses.com, as well AllaStudier.se.
Viking Venture and Verdane, both leading growth investors in software companies in the Nordics and the financial investors behind Keystone and EMG, respectively, will remain shareholders of KEG post-merger. The transaction is expected to close no later than July.
About Keystone Academic Solutions (Keystone)
Keystone is trusted by more than 70 million unique prospective students every year to help them make one of the most important decisions of their lifetimes, namely, which higher ed program to attend. In turn, Keystone helps over 5000 higher ed institutions reach and communicate with prospective students in more than 190 countries via its more than 420 websites covering 33 languages and eight core higher education verticals – Master’s, Bachelor’s, PhD, Online, Healthcare, MBA, Law and Academic Courses. Headquartered in Oslo, Norway and backed by Viking Venture, a leading Nordic venture firm, Keystone has an international staff of more than 170 employees.
About Educations Media Group (EMG)
Founded in 2001 and with 20 years of consecutive profitable growth, EMG has pioneered 40 local brands spanning the entire education spectrum and works with over 6000 education providers in 40 different countries across the world. EMG helps 40 million unique prospective students across their sites every year find the right education for their need. Their platform accelerates the growth of educational institutions by providing a one-stop-shop for promoting any type of course or degree programme, using targeted marketing to find the right students. EMG reaches out to students worldwide through its leading online marketing services, comprehensive media partners, higher education recruitment agent, and state of the art virtual events platform. EMG has 180 employees working out of the global head office in Stockholm, and local offices in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Mannheim and Oslo.