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Chinese online tutor Zuoyebang raises $750 million in fresh round

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) - Online tutoring startup Zuoyebang said on Monday it raised $750 million in a fresh funding round, led by investment firms FountainVest Partners and Tiger Global Management, as the COVID-19 crisis spurs investor interest in education technology.

The Chinese company said in a release that its series E funding round also attracted other investors, including SoftBank’s Vision Fund, Qatar Investment Authority, Sequoia Capital China, Tiantu Capital and Xiang He Capital.

Zuoyebang, which was founded by search engine giant Baidu BIDU.O in 2014 and spun off in 2015, says it has more than 50 million daily active users and over 12 million paid users. Its current investors include Goldman Sachs GS.N, Coatue Management and GGV Capital.

Reuters reported earlier this month that the five-year-old company was in talks to raise $600-800 million in a new funding round, at a valuation of $6.5 billion prior to the investment.

The fundraising comes as education technology, known as “edtech”, is one of the few sectors that thrived in the pandemic as students were asked to take online classes from home after China imposed a lockdown.

Students in China can upload their homework questions and search for answers on Zuoyebang’s platform, which uses artificial intelligence. The company has also launched live-streaming courses.

In 2018, the startup raised $350 million at a valuation of less than $3 billion, researcher Hurun said.

Yuanfudao, the main competitor of Zuoyebang in China, said in March it had secured $1 billion in a new round of financing that valued the company at $7.8 billion.

Zuoyebang also competes with other Chinese "edtech" startups, including 17zuoye, Koolearn Technology 1797.HK and TAL Education Group TAL.N.

Reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Yingzhi Yang in Beijing; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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