Transforming the way the world learns
The future is shaped by the way we teach and learn in the present. We’re in the middle of one of the great revolutions in the history of education. New technologies are not only intensifying classroom learning, but creating a world in which any Internet-enabled device can become a classroom on demand.
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Micro-schools transforming the Pre-K through 8th grade experience through personalized learning and dedicated smart technology.Visit Site
A social network for students, teachers and educators.Visit Site
A next-generation campus with coworking, startup incubation, and live-streaming classes, making business school obsolete for those interested in the internet sector.Visit Site
Coursera’s comprehensive education platform combines mastery-based learning principles with video lectures, interactive content and a global community of peers, offering students a unique online learning experience.Visit Site
A reinvented university experience, Minerva provides an extraordinary liberal arts and sciences education to the brightest, most motivated students in the world.Visit Site
Bridge International Academies
Bridge International is building the most scalable, ultra-low cost private school network in the world.Visit Site
BrightBytes delivers tools and services that measure the impact of technology use on learning.Visit Site
A social learning platform that brings live, streaming classes in cable-quality/HD video to creative entrepreneurs.Visit Site
Udemy is a global marketplace for online education that is constantly growing and evolving. The company offers students the ability to learn as they go, on their own terms, while instructors can share their knowledge with the world.Visit Site
Andela is a global talent accelerator that produces world-class remote developers and connects them with your team.Visit Site
Experiment is an online community and a crowdfunding platform for scientific research, providing services to researchers from over 150 institutions and universities around the world.Visit Site
A rapidly growing literacy platform that lets anyone create beautiful, art-inspired stories in seconds.Visit Site
A next generation hiring solution focused on skills demonstration, using technology to target an omnipresent problem for companies and individuals alikeVisit Site
First cross-device music performance, collaboration, and instruction platform.Visit Site
Transforming the graphing calculator into a rich mathematics exploration and journaling tool that is natively social.Visit Site
Increasing clarity and awareness around the factory production process.Visit Site
Industry leading mobile and data solutions company currently partnered with over 140 colleges & universities to improve enrollment and retention.Visit Site
Pioneer of mobile-social educational games for social science classrooms, encompassing subjects with the highest course enrollments in higher educationVisit Site
No Red Ink
A teacher-created writing app that helps students practice their grammar through customized and adaptive online quizzes.Visit Site
Peer-to-peer language tutoring via video. Login and practice with native-language peers from around the world within minutes.Visit Site
A first-ever literacy learning experience combining high-quality curricula with social interactions and innovative Hollywood-style production.Visit Site
A highly flexible, ultra low cost production model for generating Common Core digital curricula that rapidly iterates and improves through use.Visit Site
Brilliant Scholars is a series of academic challenges that surfaces the most gifted young people in the world.Visit Site
Brainly enables students to learn from each other, share knowledge, and network.Visit Site
High quality and engaging math games with integrated student analytics.Visit Site
Brownie Points is a math practice and learning platform that rewards children for improving their math skills.Visit Site
An online community empowering the next generation of scouting, inspiring kids to engage in hands on learning and participate in the maker movement.Visit Site
Collaborative, experimental courses from top universities fostering core competencies.Visit Site
Realtime behavior management tools that help teachers decrease the time they spend dealing with negative behavior so they can focus on teaching.Visit Site
Singularity University educates and accelerates the work of scientists, entrepreneurs, innovators and other leaders.Visit Site
Cloud-based teacher evaluation, data capture and insights platform powering a new generation of professional development.Visit Site
Individual mentoring over video, encouraging individual attention for students across disciplines.Visit Site
Enki is building simple but engaging products to help professionals learn and get better at what they do – every day.Visit Site
Kalibrr is an online platform that helps users apply to and train for BPO jobs across the world.Visit Site
A beginner-friendly, common core aligned computer science curriculum making it easier for schools to teach computer science.Visit Site
Connecting the community of edtech entrepreneurs, educators and investors, edSurge reports on latest news and trends in the edtech industry.Visit Site
An ipad app making it easier for teachers to create and share visual tutorials.Visit Site
A platform to connect Common Core assessments of student progress with classroom practice.Visit Site
Bloc is the first code learning platform that allows you to learn by building and deploying real web apps in the cloud.Visit Site
The college replacement for founders and developers, Make School offers a 2-year, debt-free education in computer technology.Visit Site
Enables classroom teachers to discover iPad apps for personalized learning and individualized skill deliveryVisit Site
The leading video hosting and distribution platform for student-generated video content in schools, already in use at more than 40% of US schools.Visit Site
Students master the English language online at a lower cost to successfully prepare for globalized job markets.Visit Site
Taking a full stack approach to job training and recruiting, Companies evaluate candidates in real-world work scenarios and hire them for internships or jobs.Visit Site
A fundraising platform allowing parents and schools to raise money from local businesses.Visit Site
CourseHorse centralizes learning opportunities for people who want to enrich their lives and never stop discovering.Visit Site
App based undergraduate tutoring, review sessions, and study guides from qualified peers.Visit Site
Mystery Science provides open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.
A content sharing and curation service designed specifically for K12 students and teachers.Visit Site
With the goal of alleviating educational inequity, educents helps teachers, homeschoolers and parents gain access to affordable educational materials.Visit Site
Yoi is reinventing the notion of HR systems directly for busy managers by delivering best practices, assessments and reports to your inbox.Visit Site
Junyo is an adaptive learning analytics platform that makes it easy to measure student learning, analyze data and act on the results.Visit Site
What we're thinking about
Edtech has been experiencing a boom unlike anything the sector has ever witnessed. If you look at the number of edtech startups that are discussed each year in startup digests like Tech Crunch, you’ll find the mentions have exploded. In tracking we do here, the numbers have ballooned from approximately 20 articles in 2008 to over 300 articles in 2012. Here’s our rough and ready TC-EDU index (and we’d welcome it if folks wanted to send us their own indices):
This exponential growth in educational technology startup formation begs an important question. Why is edtech suddenly game on? Many of the important underlying trends — online learning, LMS platforms, mobility, cheap computing, the list goes on and on — have been with us for some time. What makes 2012 such a different year from 2002, or even 2007, just five years back?
It’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to pinpoint the precise reason (markets tend to form and amplify under logics that are so overdetermined that it’s difficult to tease out root causes) but I’d hazard a guess that the most important reason won’t be found in the supply shock laundry list of ubiquitous broadband, wireless data, or long battery lives. Fundamentally, it’s about the emergence of the social paradigm–and the central role it now plays in user experience design patterns–that’s made all the difference.
The reason that social is so important for the edtech market is less about viral growth and network effects on a first order basis and much more about the simple fact that as humans, we’re wired to learn socially. We evolved that spectacularly complex piece of neuroanatomy called the neocortex to cooperate with each other and increase our propensity for survival, and it’s exquisitely sensitive to social phenomena. At the most basic level, social cues and social emphasis patterns drive the deployment of encoding energy in our brains.
What all of this means is that, when possessed with an intent to engage in activity that’s specifically educational, we naturally flock to social settings. Matt Lieberman, who heads up a groundbreaking neuroscience lab at UCLA that studies important learning questions, recently told me that there’s archeological evidence for the first classrooms as far back as ancient Sumeria over 2,000 years ago. Everywhere we look, from the master-apprentice system of medieval guilds to modern medical residencies, there are dedicated social arrangements whenever knowledge of high stakes has needed to be transmitted successfully.
This also explains why the popular critique of today’s education system — that it “hasn’t changed” in (choose your interval) years is both correct and also misleading. It’s not because our educators have a fondness for cramped furniture and the ringing of periodic bells that we still gather in small groups to do learning work. It’s because, over the broad course of history, that has been the only thing that has reliably worked. Even in the heyday of the dot com revolution, when the University of Berkeley Extension School began to offer its first suite of classes online, even here in the middle of Silicon Valley the vast majority of enrollants preferred to take courses live, in the classroom, because they wanted to ensure they’d actually learn what they were paying for.
The rise of the social network paradigm is the inflector. Whether we credit Friendster, Facebook, LinkedIn or even GeoCities as the legitimate pioneer of social computing at scale, there’s no question that the qualia of social is real. By applying it to problems of human learning–and I refer to knowledge bases or skill bases that people wish to intentionally possess–it turns out that the paradigm has the ability to generate outcomes that, for the first time in a legitimate way, appear to close in on the heretofore uncontested primacy of the live venue model.
So the piquant irony of our space is that social isn’t ultimately about distribution efficiency or lowest possible CPA (as it is for many other places where social is the innovative ingredient right now); it’s about the fact that social software designs drive learning productivity, pure and simple. The fact that social design also tends to help with user growth is a pleasant artifact, but this benefit more or less comes along for the ride. In fact, to build a great learning service that’s smartly architected around social you need to put the productivity benefit first and the user growth mechanics second (way second) or you’ll build a high churn contraption that neither produces learning nor creates any enduring value.
Another great thing about today’s edtech moment is that social software doesn’t have to imply everything is virtual. Some of the most powerful applications of today’s social learning architectures are in real (or “realtime”) classrooms. Here too, the larger picture is precisely about blurring the distinction between in person and on network. The confluence of both has proven to be a highly combustible mixture, and it does a great deal to explain the Cambrian explosion of this moment in edtech.
Robert J. Hutter
Robert J. Hutter is Managing Partner of Learn Capital. He was co-founder of Edusoft (acquired by Houghton-Mifflin), one of the most widely used assessment management platforms in US public education. Rob is a patent holder in games-based adaptive learning and is the founder of a tax credits partnership administered by the U.S. Treasury focusing on high performance schools.
In addition to his background in education, Rob was co-founder of Gazillion, a developer of massively multiplayer online videogames featuring Marvel Entertainment franchises, and was co-founder of SmartDrive, a developer of life saving solutions for fleet vehicle operators that was recently named to the Wall Street Journal Top 50 Venture-Backed Startup List. Earlier in his career, Rob worked at Fundamental Capital and was instrumental in the founding stages of Silicon Spice which sold to Broadcom for $1.2 billion. He is a graduate of Harvard University.
Greg Mauro is a Managing Partner of Learn Capital. Greg was a member of the inaugural foundation board at High Tech High schools in San Diego and is a co-founder of RCV, a facilities financing fund for high achieving schools. As an entrepreneur and investor, Greg has been on the founding team of five ventures that have received over $500M in venture capital. He was founder and CEO of Nextivity, a breakthrough indoor coverage provider with customers including Vodafone and T-Mobile. Nextivity was the 2009 CONNECT Most Innovative Product Award winner and is a Fierce Wireless Top 15 company. He was also founder and President of SmartDrive, a provider of onboard vehicle risk management and a Wall Street Journal Top 50 Startup. Prior to SmartDrive, Greg was founding Vice President of Business Development at Entropic, where he authored the original business plan and led strategic investment efforts. Now public, Entropic (ENTR) includes Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast, and DIRECTV as investors and Entropic technology powers the in-home video networking for each.
Tom Vander Ark
Tom Vander Ark is a Partner at Learn Capital. Previously, he served as President of the X PRIZE Foundation and Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Tom served as a public school superintendent for one of Washington State’s larger school districts that has been recognized for narrowing achievement gaps and reducing administrative costs. Tom also has extensive experience in the private sector serving as a senior executive for retail start up PACE Membership Warehouse that achieved $5 billion in revenue and was sold to K-Mart.
Tom is director of the International Association of K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and advises a number of education reform groups. He’s the author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World and blogs at GettingSmart.com.
Michael Staton is a Partner at Learn Capital, where he has helped lead investments into Coursera, Minerva, and Brilliant. He is the founder and former CEO of Uversity, the pioneer of Social Enrollment Management technology in Higher Education. For Uversity, Michael secured the first venture investment from the Gates Foundation’s US Programs into a private company. Because of his years as a public school teacher and his intuitive understanding of K12 education, Michael served as a Venture Partner and Community Advisor to NewSchools Venture Fund’s Seed Fund, now Reach Capital. Outside of investing, he has had early roles, befriended and advised many EdTech companies, including Dev Bootcamp and Goalbook. Michael was declared a top one hundred innovator by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and he is on the advisory board of SxSW EDU and the Higher Education Working Group of the American Enterprise Institute
Jennifer Lee is a Principal at Learn Capital. Prior to Learn Capital, Jennifer worked with for-profit, impact investment funds in both domestic and emerging markets. She was an independent consultant for ImpactAssets, where she helped establish a platform for their donor-advised funds to invest in seed stage enterprises. Other work experience includes serving as Vice President and Relationship Manager for the Asia and Middle East (AME) region at Developing World Markets, an asset manager and investment bank dedicated to investing in inclusive financial institutions in emerging markets. At DWM, she led investments into 17 countries, was responsible for leading the AME team, helped conceive and executed the firm’s investment strategy for the AME region, conducted due diligence, and managed post-investment relationships. Jennifer started her career at Lehman Brothers, as the strategist for the U.S. Treasury, Treasury Futures, and Swaps markets. Jennifer earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Management Science at MIT, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Global Operations Partner
Luis Pinto is the Global Operations Partner. Previously, he led the internationalization effort at Intel’s biggest worldwide Partner for K12 Classmate PC solutions (JP-IK’s Magellan). In 5 years the initiative reached more than 70 governments, generated business in 30 active countries, created a new channel partner network with 200+ members, impacted 10M+ students, and managed $300M+ yearly revenues. Luis was instrumental in driving sales and managing government relationships in the regional contexts of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
Luis holds a MsC from Cranfield and was Founder of a sustainable development management consulting firm, Sustinova. He also worked for 9 years at Microsoft where he was Director of OEM Sales and Member of Board for Microsoft Portugal. Luis is fluent in four languages and has travelled to more than 60 Countries.
Irina Zavina joined Learn Capital to lead the firm’s Investor Relations efforts, building on two decades of working with institutional investors, wealth managers and family offices across asset classes and industries, including: fund due diligence at Credit Suisse Asset Management division, Global Development and Strategy at Gansevoort Hotel Group, Investor Relations at Starwood Capital Group, and Investment Banking Analyst with Merrill Lynch Global Telecom and Media.
Irina graduated Phi Beta Kappa with BA in Mathematics and Economics from the University of Chicago and holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School. In her spare time Irina volunteers with Junior Achievement and serves on the advisory board of several international development-focused NGOs.
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