(English) Mail.Ru and Yandex bet on online platforms to massively train IT specialists

25 декабря 2019

(English) Mail.Ru Group now owns 60.3% of Skillbox, an e-learning platform for digital and IT specialties, Vedomosti reported yesterday, citing the official company register and exchanges with company representatives. The amount of the transaction was not disclosed.

In February, the LSE-listed Russian Internet giant had acquired a 3.6% stake for an undisclosed amount as part of a plan to ultimately acquire 10%.

Launched in 2016, Skillbox generated some 350 million rubles (nearly $5 million) in turnover in 2017. The turnover stagnated in 2018 but the company’s net profit amounted to 39 million rubles (around $622,000).

Skillbox believes its turnover can reach 1 billion rubles in 2020 and 5 billion rubles in 2021.

Mail.Ru Group – which acquired a stake in GeekBrains, an online learning platform for developers, in 2016 – considers such investments to have both a social and a business dimension.

Mail.Ru’s rival Yandex has also has an online education service called Yandex.Practicum and dedicated to digital professions. This past September, Yandex announced a three-year 5 billion ruble investment program ($81 million at the current echange rate) for IT education. The company told Vedomosti it aims to train 100,000 IT specialists (half of them under 18) via the Yandex.Practicum platform.

Among other major investors in the field of online education are PE firm Baring Vostok, which invested in online education platform Skyeng in early 2018, Alexey Mordashov’s Severgroup, which created the TalentTech group of companies after acquiring Netology in 2017, and the state-owned fund of funds RVC, which announced earlier this year a $100 million edtech fund.

The Russian online education market is still embryonic. It amounted to some $20 billion rubles (around $300 million) in 2016, according to a study released with participation from East-West Digital News. It could exceed 50 billion rubles in 2021 (around $770 million at the current exchange rate).

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