Brainly Inc., an online learning platform that saw its popularity rise with students stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, has hired a longtime tech industry lawyer for a legal and business position.
Denise Ho, who spent the past two-and-a-half years as a deputy general counsel at SoftBank Investment Advisers Inc. in San Carlos, Calif., confirmed to Bloomberg Law via email Wednesday that she joined Brainly last week as its first-ever general counsel and head of corporate development.
Ho’s move comes as children across the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere return to classrooms, some for the first time in more than a year amid ongoing lockdown orders and lingering fears over Covid-19.
The privately-held Brainly, which raised $80 million in a Series D financing round in late 2020, has its roots in Poland and its U.S. headquarters in New York. Brainly’s backers include Prosus NV, a Dutch e-commerce giant that has also invested in other education technology companies, Bloomberg News reported in June.
Prior to joining SoftBank in mid-2019, Ho spent nearly five years working at Tesla Inc. She rose to the level of deputy general counsel and head of legal for the Asia Pacific region at the Elon Musk-led electric automobile maker, which initially recruited her in 2014 as an associate general counsel in Hong Kong.
Ho began her career as an accountant at Ernst & Young. She previously spent nearly nine years in private practice at Shearman & Sterling in Hong Kong and London.
Brainly has a “distributed model” for its global workforce, said Ho, adding that for now she has no plans to relocate and will remain based in the Bay Area. She confirmed her new role will include both legal and business responsibilities.
Ho in her new position hopes to “leverage my past experiences in new market expansion, building a team from scratch, interacting with regulators in different jurisdictions,” she wrote in a Sept. 2 post on LinkedIn. She said she also expects to handle audit and assurance and cross-border mergers and acquisitions.
Ho noted that after more than two “action-packed years at SoftBank,” she chose to follow her “passion and head back” to an operating company like Brainly, which was co-founded in 2009 by the company’s current CEO, Michal Borkowski.
Brainly, whose namesake app helps students with their homework, claims to have the world’s largest peer-to-peer learning community. The company is looking to use its most recent fundraising to expand its operations internationally, including in the U.S., where Brainly is in an increasingly competitive virtual learning market.
Bloomberg Law reported last year on Chegg Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based edtech rival to Brainly, bringing on a new general counsel, while other companies, such as education software outfits Panorama Education and Frontline Education Inc., have also been busy recruiting legal talent.
Other notable edtech in-house legal additions of note include:
Grammarly Inc. – The company behind the writing app Grammarly hired Goodwin Procter associate Jonathan Ng in July as a commercial and product counsel after adding former Lyft Inc. senior litigation counsel Gordon Webb in April as head of litigation, employment, and intellectual property. Grammarly’s head of legal is Robin Moore, who was hired in December after serving as vice president of legal for online gaming platform Discord Inc. Grammarly’s first-ever legal chief Virginia Badenhope left last year become general counsel for error tracking software startup Sentry.
Aceable Inc. – The Austin, Texas-based edtech startup, which raised $50 million in December 2020 from private equity firm HGGC LLC, hired Leslie Cleaver in June as its general counsel. Cleaver, a former associate at Paul Hastings, spent nearly the past five years as senior counsel for Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros.
Newsela Inc. – The New York-based edtech startup, which hit unicorn status in February after clinching a $100 million fundraising, hired former Fitbit Inc. deputy general counsel Gloria Lee as its general counsel and corporate secretary in April. Lee, who left Fitbit following its sale to Alphabet Inc.’s Google, joins a company in Newsela that was founded in 2013 by former teacher Matthew Gross.
Cambium Learning Group Inc. – Owned by private equity firm Veritas Capital, Dallas-based Cambium last year completed its nearly $800 million acquisition of Rosetta Stone Ltd., a language and literacy software company. Cambium announced March 3 that Rosetta Stone’s former general counsel, Sean Klein, had joined its ranks as chief legal officer following the closure of that deal.
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