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Posts by Jennifer Carolan

Investment Approaches of the Seed Fund- Part II

Last week I shared some of our thinking behind our investments in STEM, relevance and communication, found here. With this post, I’ll share our approach for investing in special education and english language learning.Specialized Tools Can Better Reach Children Outside of the Mainstream While traditional venture capital has backed consumer-oriented english language learning tools like Rosetta Stone, Livemocha and more recently, mobile apps like Duolingo, we take a very different approach. We target tools for […] Read more

Investment Approaches of the Seed Fund- Part I

Our Seed Fund supports high potential entrepreneurs developing technology solutions for the biggest challenges in K-12 education. We look for areas where the power of technology can improve our education system and its ability to maximize the learning potential of every child. We borrow our approach from venture capital¹ in that we develop investment theses informed by listening to educators, researching technology trends, studying student achievement data, and listening closely to the […] Read more

Why Direct-to-Consumer Models Matter in Education

In the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed two great reads on edtech investing, both advocating for a district direct sales approach for growing businesses. 1. Matt Greenfield, There is no Bubble in Educational Technology: Not for Businesses that Actually Make Sense. 2. Michael Feldstein, Why VC’s Usually Get Edtech Wrong.  Silicon Valley VC’s, on the other hand, don’t seem to be buying it, here’s what Marc Andreesen said.   “I wouldn’t want to […] Read more

EdSurge, connector for Edtech and Educators

This weekend Edsurge will bring its Tech for Schools Summit to Baltimore. Acting Deputy Secretary for the US Department of Education, Jim Shelton, will keynote and 900 educators have signed up to learn about new tech tools and digital content. The Baltimore Summit comes on the heels of the wildly successful EdSurge Silicon Valley Summit which drew 600+ educators. Prior to Silicon Valley, EdSurge hosted similar events in Chicago and Rhode Island. Read more

One Giant Step Forward for Education

Today, the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the United States and a political powerhouse, announced a partnership with BetterLesson, an edtech company dedicated to sharing teachers’ best practices and curriculum. The result of this union is the Master Teacher Project, a groundbreaking effort to showcase the brilliant minds of our country’s best teachers. The site launched today at http://cc.betterlesson.com/home showcasing 3,000 Common Core aligned lessons from 130 classroom teachers. By […] Read more

Book Smarts vs Street Smarts: aka Edtech Founders as Action Researchers

Last week I was in Boston visiting two of our portfolio companies, BetterLesson and Socrative. Spending time with entrepreneurs is, by far, the best part of my job. I’m always moved by the passion of our entrepreneurs. As always, Ben Berte (Socrative) and Alex Grodd (BetterLesson) left me inspired by their commitment to supporting teachers. However, in this visit, I took away a new appreciation for how technology products are moving beyond just teacher productivity and into deeper issues of instruction and teacher learning. Read more

Announcing Readworks.org: The Best Kept Secret in Reading Comprehension

We are thrilled to welcome Readworks.org to the Seed Fund portfolio. It’s a humble and hardworking nonprofit, with a maniacal focus on quality. They’ve mostly flown under the radar since their founding in 2010, spending zero dollars on marketing. Even so, they’ve grown organically through teacher word of mouth resulting in 3 million reading lessons downloaded and 270 websites linked to their materials. Read more

Curriculum, the Trojan Horse of School Reform

As a country, we’ve vastly under-appreciated the importance of high-quality content as a key lever to improve teaching and learning. One of my mentors Dr. Denise Pope, lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Education, calls curriculum the “Trojan horse of school reform.” I believe this to be true, now more than ever. The conditions are ripe for a curriculum revolution that has the potential to both improve student achievement and support great teaching.* Read more

Startups Should Prioritize Sustainability over Fundraising

Startup guru and author of The Startup Owner’s Manual, Steve Blank wrote a great blog post this week on raising money titled “Fund raising is a means not an end” and I couldn’t agree more. I worry about this increased focus on raising money over building a sustainable business – for both for-profits and not for profits. The education-oriented endeavors are particularly at risk due to less scrutiny of their business models […] Read more