Our History

NewSchools Venture Fund was created in 1998 by social entrepreneur Kim Smith and venture capitalists John Doerr and Brook Byers, each of whom had witnessed the power visionary entrepreneurs held to create dramatic change in other sectors, such as technology.

NewSchools’ founders believed that education entrepreneurs could similarly bring about much-needed change in public education if they had access to both early-stage capital and strategic, hands-on support to start and grow their organizations. We built NewSchools Venture Fund to enable a new type of capital market that could support the development of entrepreneurial ventures serving high-need students within public education.

In our first 18 years, we invested nearly $260 million in nearly 200 education entrepreneurs. Among their many accomplishments, they started nearly 470 schools with the potential to serve more than 200,000 students around the country and created education technologies reaching more than 60 million students and their teachers worldwide. Throughout our history, we have invested in three key areas: schools, tools and people. The investment focus in each area has evolved over time to address emerging needs and opportunities.


Our work to invest in schools initially focused on driving accountability and enabling choice for families. We were among the first and largest investors in public charter schools and the first to identify and support multi-site charter management organizations, which launch and operate integrated networks of public charter schools.

These nonprofit organizations demonstrated that educational quality at scale is possible, even in low-income communities, while also providing replicable models for how to create and sustain systems of high-performing schools.

Over the years we concentrated some of our investments in key cities. Most recently we wrapped up our work to increase the quality of charter schools in Boston and Washington, DC.

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From 2006-2015, we concentrated some of our investments on key cities, including Boston, Washington DC, Oakland, Newark, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. We chose these communities because of their size, history of underperformance, and potential for transformative change. In each city, we worked to build an influential portfolio of successful, scalable and sustainable entrepreneurial organizations that provide high-quality educational opportunities for underserved children and create momentum for broader reform efforts.

In addition, we invested in a variety of charter school support organizations, which provide charter schools with critical infrastructure such as facilities development, administrative services and academic support.

Today, our investments in schools continue on a nationwide basis, and our current area of focus is innovative school models that transform the learning experience so that it’s student-centered, personalized and supports success in school, career and life.


Reports & Resources

DC Schools Fund End of Fund Report (2016)

Report on the Boston Charter School Replication Fund (2015)

Redesigning School Districts: The Way Forward (2014)

The Role of Charter Restarts in School Reform (2013)

Why Good Authorizers Should Close Bad Schools (2010)

Practices from the Portfolio, Charter Management Organizations (2008)

Charter Management Organizations: Toward Scale with Quality (2006)


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In our first 17 years we invested in over 50 companies and nonprofits building engaging, research-backed tools, applications, content, and services to improve education opportunities for children. This area of investment increased from 2012-2015 with our Seed Fund and co.lab, our partnership with Zynga.org. We helped to catalyze the market for ed tech and channel investment toward products that meet the needs of students in underserved communities.

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The $10 million Seed Fund served as a catalyst, inspiring and enabling traditional and non-traditional tech investors to provide capital to the fast-growing ed tech market.  The startups funded by our Seed Fund now serve over 60 million students and teachers. Following the conclusion of the Seed Fund, NewSchools launched NewSchools Capital, LLC.

We incubated co.lab in partnership with Zynga.org. co.lab is an accelerator that works with startups leveraging the power of digital games to build transformative educational technologies for PreK-12 students and teachers. Following the two year incubation period and the first three cohorts, Zynga.org took over sole management responsibility for co.lab.  For more information please visit www.playcolab.com.

This work to support ed tech continues today with a focus on addressing gaps in the market and ensuring that teachers and students have the most innovative and effective tools they need.

Reports & Resources

ReimaginED: Trends in K12 Education (2015)

Investment Approaches of the Seed Fund (2014)

Alive in the Swamp: Assessing Digital Innovations in Education (2013)

A Closer Look at K12 EdTech Venture Funding (2013)



From the very beginning, talent development has been a critical area of investment and management assistance at NewSchools. The recruitment, training and development of effective teachers and leaders is essential for transforming education. At different points in our history we have invested in focus areas where we identified a particular need or emerging opportunity – including teacher preparation and principal development.

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Our Learning to Teach Fund, for example, involved connecting teachers to outstanding real world practice and holding preparation programs more accountable for their impact on student achievement. We invested in new models, new tools, new organizations, and a new market for talent.

Through a handful of initial exploratory investments in organizations focused on preparing and supporting Black & Latino leaders, we learned about the robust research into the benefits of diverse leadership to organizations in every industry. Our current investments in People now focus on increasing the diversity of the leadership teams and boards in the education sector.

Reports & Resources

From Intention to Action: Building Diverse, Inclusive Teams in Education (2014)

A Highly Effective Teacher in Every Classroom: Creating Talent Development Systems that Drive Instructional Excellence (2010)


Additional Reports & Resources on Entrepreneurship in Education

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Celebrating 20 Years of NewSchools