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Want some textbooks with that student loan? SimpleTuition acquires ValoreBooks

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 10, 2012 07:00 AM

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Boston-based SimpleTuition, which helps match college students with private student loans, is acquiring a Left Coast company that helps students find the best deal on textbooks. In a cash-and-stock deal that closed just before Labor Day, SimpleTuition bought ValoreBooks of San Diego.

After attaining profitability last year, SimpleTuition CEO Kevin Walker, right, says, "We started to look around for other products and services we could either build or buy. ValoreBooks was the best fit." Students shopping for loans can be introduced to Valore's textbook marketplace, and vice versa, he says.

Given the title of a textbook, Valore serves up numerous options: buying it new, used, or in e-book form, or renting it. "Valore takes a commission on the transaction, but doesn't have to fulfill the books," Walker explains. Purchases of textbooks will also enable students to earn rewards points — SimpleTuition calls them "SmarterBucks" — that can go toward paying off a student loan.

Walker says that seven of Valore's nine employees agreed to move to Boston, and two have already been hired locally to work on the site. "It's a pretty young team, and most people didn't have to uproot their families," he says. And compared to San Diego, Walker says, "they felt there were a lot of things going on here for tech-focused people." (He adds that negotiations were probably helped along by the fact that last winter was especially mild.)

SimpleTuition has 33 employees in Boston's Fort Point Channel neighborhood. The company has raised about $18 million in venture funding, some of it from local firms like Atlas Venture and Flybridge Capital Partners. Walker says he is "actively looking for other acquisitions." Earlier this year, the company launched an online banking service targeting students, SmarterBank, which enables them to accure rewards points (those aforementioned SmarterBucks) that go toward paying down student loans.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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