by Jennifer Carolan
Reach is investing in Sketchy’s $30M round led by TCG. Sketchy fits neatly into our digital curriculum thesis: bottoms-up, freemium, digital curriculums based on timeless pedagogy that wins the hearts of users. Our investments in Mystery Science, Newsela, Nearpod, and Desmos are other examples of this thesis at work.
Sketchy was founded by medical students Saud Siddiqui, Andrew Berg, Bryan Lemieux and Aaron Lemieux who wanted a better way to learn the vast amount of content needed to prepare for their careers as physicians. …
by Wayee Chu
Today, I am privileged to announce the promotion of James Kim to Principal at Reach Capital. From the minute I met James in 2018 during an interview for our Associate role, I knew James was a standout candidate. What resonated deeply for me was his life journey to date, overcoming personal odds and defying external expectations, even those set by his own family, which is testament to the bold and principled approach in how James has paved his own path forward.
Throughout James’ academic and professional pursuits, he has exemplified a commitment to equity in education. As the son of a law enforcement officer and stay-at-home mom, James attended high-achieving magnet schools within the LAUSD public school system and attributes this early experience as transformative in his journey as a life-long learner. He was the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree, receiving a BS in Astronomy and Physics from Yale. James started his career as a high school math teacher and then helped lead 12+, an education non-profit in Philadelphia aimed at supporting high school students in their college and career preparedness. More recently, James was an Assistant Director of Admissions at Yale, where he focused on advancing the school’s admissions initiatives of equity and access. His efforts contributed to a 22 percent increase in first generation college students and a 43 percent increase in students receiving Pell Grants. In 2018, James joined Reach Capital as an Associate upon graduating from Stanford with a joint MBA and MA in Education. …
by Jennifer Carolan
In 2020, the year that challenged us with the largest racial justice protests in our country’s history, the top high school in New York City Public Schools, Stuyvesant, admitted just ten Black students out of a freshman class of 760. Black students comprise 25 percent of the district’s population.
This blog post provides a high-level narrative and overview of higher education trends and the Work-Integrated Learning space. For a deep dive into our analysis, including specific investment theses, please view our full report here.
For decades, “higher education” was synonymous with career advancement. Higher education represented a platform for socioeconomic mobility, growth, and employment opportunity. Enrollment peaked in 2010, with over 21 million students at degree-granting institutions in the US alone.
But ten years later, higher education is under unprecedented pressure. Only 38% of students who graduated from college in the past decade agree that their higher education was worth the cost. Worse, only 11% of business leaders “strongly agree” that higher ed institutions are graduating students with the necessary competencies, and many have eliminated degrees from their hiring criteria in favor of skills assessment. …
by Jennifer Carolan
“Get Ready for a Teacher Shortage Like We’ve Never Seen Before.” The New York Times is right — it’s happening. A school district outside of Phoenix canceled classes on Monday because they didn’t have enough teachers to staff the classrooms. Utah teachers are resigning in droves, and a New Jersey superintendent recently said “schools will be brought to their knees with staffing needs.”
Our public schools have operated in a precarious, neglected state for decades. Like so many of our underinvested institutions, COVID-19 has pulled back the veil on a crumbling system whose cracks have deepened into crevices perhaps too vast to fill. …
by Jen Wu
The team at Reach Capital has been investing for educational impact for over 11 years. We make bold bets on founders who tackle challenges that are among the most pressing of our times, e.g. economic and education inequality, staying relevant in a rapidly-changing economy, and trauma and mental health. The global pandemic has exposed and amplified these pre-existing challenges like never before. What we believed were forward-looking bets at the time, turned into an urgent here-and-now, as demand for these solutions moved beyond early adopters to the global masses overnight.
This dynamic we’re witnessing confirms why we invest for impact. We have been steadfast and arguably idealistic in our belief that investing for positive change and lifting people up can be a successful engine for capitalism. We see our approach as an antidote to companies that maximize shareholder value with a myopic indifference to the long-term impact of their practices on employees, their communities and the broader world around them. The current crisis has laid bare just how interdependent we all are. Our business decisions are a critical part of how we activate our values. We believe that capitalism does not require a trade-off between social good and financial returns. …
by Taylor Stockton, Reach Fellow and Shauntel Garvey
Reach’s interest in the middle skills sector initially emerged from our broader focus on career pathways. But as we now grapple with the disproportionate impact of the COVID crisis on frontline workers, questions around accessible pathways to middle skills jobs (those that require more education than a high school diploma, but less than a four year bachelor’s degree) have been given new meaning and importance.
Over the course of only two months, over 35 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment, and tens of millions more saw lost hours or income. As we cautiously look towards re-opening the economy, we know that a third of Americans who lost their jobs feel they need more education to re-enter the workforce, 59% of whom would prefer non-degree programs such as occupational licenses or industry credentials. …
Chian Gong is being promoted to Partner at Reach Capital. She is the first investment partner we’ve added since we began working together in 2011. She will join Jennifer, Shauntel, Esteban and Wayee on the investment team.
Chian first joined our team during the summer of 2014 when she interned while finishing her MBA/MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School and Wharton. She was so exceptional that summer that we were ready to hire her on the spot; her graduation couldn’t come soon enough.
Fortunately for us, Chian returned to Reach in January of 2016. She has been the type of colleague that not only is a joy to work with, but makes us all better by pushing our thinking and striving for better. Chian initiated and architected our internal data system, which led to our operating benchmark reports and diversity analyses. She also built our systems around portfolio talent recruitment and quarterly portfolio reviews. …
by Jen Wu, Venture Partner Reach Capital
My level of anxiety has risen steadily as the coronavirus crisis has unfolded in China, around the world, and now in my local community. I worry about my 87-year-old father who struggles fighting a common cold. I stare at empty shelves in Costco and Trader Joe’s. I wonder how our daily lives will be affected by this marathon through uncharted territory that we’ve only just begun. With my limited understanding about this pandemic, I can’t help but feel that we as a country are woefully unprepared for what’s about to hit us.
That said, as a former K-12 educator and current edtech investor, I do feel a sense of comfort knowing that if schools are closed — as they have been in many parts of the world and now even in the US — that the progress schools have made adopting technology in recent years will help soften the blow. Don’t get me wrong. Closing schools will be hugely disruptive for students, families, and educators. However, if schools do close for an extended time, with the help of widely available and adopted technology tools, learning can continue. …
by Jennifer Wu, Venture Partner Reach Capital
Reach Capital invests in early-stage edtech companies. As impact investors, we look for investment opportunities where impact, scale and financial returns are positively correlated: the greater the impact, the greater the adoption, and (with solid unit economics) the greater the financial returns.
Given this investment strategy, we take a tactical approach to measuring impact. Feel-good vanity metrics aren’t sufficient. We need actionable metrics that can help us both achieve our mission of increasing access to opportunity through education and optimize financial returns.
As data-driven edtech investors with deep education experience, we sit in between the worlds of research/evaluation and venture capital, two worlds that frankly, don’t speak the same language. The gold standard measures for those in research and evaluation are results from randomized control trials (RCTs). For those who invest in cloud-based solutions that continually evolve, however, these studies can be impractical given their cost and limited shelf-life. On the other hand, impact investors often default to metrics that are easy to measure and can be aggregated across a diverse portfolio, e.g. number of students served and socio-economic status. These metrics serve a purpose, but aren’t insightful enough to help us as investors determine if a company is a good investment, nor do they help companies achieve or deepen their impact or strengthen their businesses. …