We are thrilled to announce the close of Reach II, an $82M Fund to invest in exceptional, mission-driven entrepreneurs tackling challenges in education. The general partners for this fund — Jennifer Carolan, Wayee Chu, Shauntel Garvey and Esteban Sosnik — will lead seed through Series B investments in companies spanning early childhood, K-12, higher education and lifelong learning.
Our investment decisions benefit from an extended team that profoundly understands schools, learning and pedagogy. Our team has deep experience at the intersection of education, startups and technology including: 16 years of classroom teaching, 5 advanced degrees in education, founding 3 education companies, and 10+ years in engineering and financial equity research. Reach II marks our 3rd Fund together as an investment team (our first Fund was NSVF Seed). Beyond our GPs, Chian Gong was promoted to principal, we hired James Kim as a new associate and venture partners, Jen Wu and Jim Lobdell are valuable portfolio support leaders.
At Reach Capital, we back founders who are committed to expanding access to opportunity through educational experiences, tools and products. Education has become a necessity for economic engagement and success, and technology has in turn redefined our notion of education. Learning can now happen anytime and anywhere, making it radically more accessible. As a result, education institutions, from preschools to universities, and increasingly corporations, need to reinvent the way they cultivate skills. We believe that in the next ten years, massive global businesses will be built by entrepreneurs tackling this new opportunity.
Reach Capital has its origins in NewSchools Venture Fund, where we launched the NSVF Seed Fund in 2011. When we began investing, the educational technology industry was nascent, so while at NSVF Seed Fund we focused our mission on building the K-12 edtech ecosystem. The 43 investments we made there, including BrightBytes, Newsela, and NoRedInk, showcased the power of technology to fundamentally change teaching and learning in K-12 schools. Those investments became part of the Reach Capital family when we launched in 2015.
The above framework is based on General Partner Esteban Sosnik’s Eight Buckets of Edtech
As Reach I was invested, the market developed, and we expanded our investment scope to include early childhood, higher education and parent-facing companies. Not only did we invest in companies directly impacting learner outcomes, but also those targeted at strengthening our broader educational system by improving instruction and institutions. Drawing from the macro trends we track, we sought out founders who had the ability to spot large market opportunities and develop innovative products to service them.
Through Reach I, we invested $53M in 35 companies across the learning lifecycle from early childhood to lifelong learning.
Below are a few Reach I investments:
- WriteLab uses machine learning to address a critical pain point for both K-12 and higher education — how to increase the rate at which students write and receive customized, timely feedback, a cycle that develops the student’s writing abilities — a pain point that disproportionately affects English-language learners. Born in McAllen, Texas, Matthew Ramirez, developed the idea for WriteLab while a student in UC Berkeley’s English PhD program. When it was acquired by Chegg, over half of WriteLab’s customers identified as Latinx.
- Nearpod is a foundational platform that leverages digital technologies to transform instruction. For example, their product features “virtual field trips,” where students who have never left their neighborhoods can walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or visit the Great Pyramid of Giza, all from their classroom, with a teacher guiding them. Nearpod is beloved by teachers and has emerged as a clear market leader. More than 60% of school districts in the U.S utilize Nearpod’s platform.
- Epic! is “Netflix for e-books,” allowing access to over 25,000 children’s books and other online content for a nominal monthly fee that is waived for all verified educators. Epic! is being used in 95% of all elementary schools and often augments the classroom library — allowing students access to thousands of books across a range of reading levels and interest areas.
- Holberton School creates a project-based alternative to college for software engineers, solving the need for faster, more rigorous technical training to meet the demands of a rapidly changing economy. Their admissions policies and financing options reduce bias in the selection process and enable students to pay for the program through a percentage of their future earnings. By aligning incentives between student success and Holberton’s financial model, they have sparked a paradigm shift that removes cost as a barrier to a student’s enrollment.
With Reach II, we’ll build upon our early investments and broaden our focus to include more consumer-facing solutions, which empower families and students to take control of their learning outside of institutions. We are excited to help these businesses scale by investing from seed up to Series B, as well as across early childhood, K-12, higher education and lifelong learning. This increased breadth is already represented in the first set of investments we have made from Reach II:
- Ellevation is the leading provider of English-language learning (ELL) management software. Ellevation provides a one-stop shop for all of the needs of ELL educators — capturing student data, tracking language proficiency, supporting compliance and providing strategies to meet the unique needs of the fastest growing subpopulation of students in the United States.
- Outschool is a marketplace for synchronous, live, online classes for K-12 learners. Outschool solves a number of problems — high attrition rates of MOOCs, a lack of human connection in online courses (which is essential for learners) and a need for schools to expand content offerings to reach more students and teach 21st century skills such as collaboration and empathy. It has already delivered 100,000 learner hours to over 10,000 students.
- Winnie is a platform to help millennials navigate the world of parenting. Winnie allows users to ask questions to its community of parents and experts, as well as locate kid-friendly restaurants and high-quality childcare — solving real pain points while democratizing access to parenting information that can pay lasting dividends in terms of a child’s academic performance, health and economic achievement.
If you are taking on tough problems in education or the future of work, we want to hear from you. We are actively looking to support extraordinary, mission-aligned founders who are as excited as we are about using technology to change learning and help people meet the next generation of opportunity. More at http://reachcapital.com/.
With warm regards,
Jennifer, Wayee, Shauntel, Esteban and the entire Reach Capital family
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