Shauntel Garvey and Jennifer Carolan liked edtech before the sector was cool, so the duo co-founded Reach Capital in 2015 with a $53 million debut fund. The San Francisco-based venture firm has since put checks into education startups including Newsela, Sketchy, ClassDojo and Outschool, landing six exits so far.
Now, after seeing its portfolio accelerate in the wake of the coronavirus, Reach is announcing its third fund aimed at backing edtech startups. Reach Capital III is a $165 million fund, the firm’s biggest to date. Reach’s team, which also includes Chian Gong, Wayee Chu and Esteban Sosnik, started raising the investment vehicle over the summer. New LPs in the fund include Sesame Workshop, National Geographic, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Goldman Sachs.
Reach plans to reserve half of its fund for follow-on investments for its startups, and the other half will go toward net-new investments. The firm intends to back 20 startups through Reach III, targeting about 15% ownership in each deal.
The edtech market raked in more than $10 billion in venture capital investment globally in 2020, but for students, parents and teachers, the past 12 months were defined more by its scramble than its surge. Reach as well as other firms have the opportunity to back startups that could change the broken bits, which is no easy feat.
Carolan, who taught in Chicago public schools for seven years before joining venture, said that the entire education system’s restructure has opened the door for more innovation and opportunities.
“What parents were experiencing with remote learning was the result of underinvestment in edtech for a long time,” she said. “The companies that were adopted to meet the ends were fragmented, many of the products were inoperable and many of them were built for the home school market and repurposed for schools.” Now, Carolan sees opportunity in the fact that more students have digital devices due to 1:1 technology infrastructure in schools.
“There has never been a more exciting time to be investing in education,” she said. Reach plans to back companies across edtech subsectors, from early childhood to K-12 to post-secondary learning. The firm is also joining a number of investors betting on lifelong learning, a term being used to describe education opportunities outside of a traditional classroom context.
Reach is one of the few venture capital firms that specifically back edtech companies. Others in the category include Owl Ventures, which closed $585 million in a pair of investment vehicles in September, and Learn Capital, which closed $132 million in December.
The pandemic has opened the software market in education and we’re just in the beginning of that opening,” Carolan said. “Education has gone from let’s hire 10 instructional coaches to let’s adopt some software to do that.”