El Segundo-based Liminex Inc. envisions a profitable business model behind its socially conscious idea of using educational technology to help prevent adolescent suicides.

The company, which does business as GoGuardian, uses proprietary software to track kindergarten-through-12th-grade students’ internet activity on school-issued electronic devices. The software scans for online activity that could suggest suicidal tendencies.

Liminex charges a licensing fee – roughly $6 per device per year – for the service, which also delivers automatic mental health reports on potentially at-risk students to a school counselor.

A report from Inc. magazine’s August special edition on fast-growing companies listed Liminex’s annual revenue at $14.7 million for 2017, reflecting an estimated 60 percent annual increase – figures the company confirmed.

Liminex’s rapid growth was apparently enough to catch the attention of Foster City-based private equity firm Sumeru Equity Partners Inc., which purchased the firm in May for 10 times the revenue reported to Inc. – or at least $147 million – according to co-founders Advait Shinde and Tyler Shaddix, who hold the titles of chief executive and chief product officer, respectively.

Liminex isn’t the only firm in the educational technology sector getting traction.

Monroe, Wa.-based analyst Metaari Advanced Learning Technology Research reported in January that global ed-tech investments spiked to $9.6 billion dollars in 2017, a 31 percent increase over 2016. Metaari also reported a record 813 ed-tech companies received funding in 2017. Companies that focused on the Pre-K-through-12th grade market saw 13 percent of the total funding in 2017, some $1.2 billion.

Eric Reiter, partner at Brentwood Associates, said his Santa Monica-based private equity firm has seen strong investor interest in ed-tech, particularly in the early childhood sector.

“Recent acquisitions by leading private equity firms at very robust acquisition multiples certainly validates this trend, and with continued scientific support behind the importance of early education, and the growing interest in universal pre-K, we expect this sector to have long term secular growth,” Reiter said in an email.

Brentwood has made several investments in the ed-tech space but is not an investor in Liminex.

The company nonetheless seems to have “disruption and scalability” that “have been key themes that attract investors,” Reiter said.

A trend of schools turning to technology to facilitate learning and boost classroom engagement presents a growing opportunity to identify children who may be contemplating suicide and intervene before they act, Shaddix said.

“One-fifth of students will consider suicide by the time they finish high school, and in this crisis, they need help ...but students growing up in this era aren’t going to people that know them – instead they’re going online,” Shaddix said.

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