Hi, I'm John Danner, Managing Director of Dunce Capital. Dunce Deals is my look at the most interesting deals and news from edtech and the future of work. In the last four years, I have made over three dozen pre-seed investments in the space including Lambda School, Outschool, GetSetup, and Maven. Before Dunce, I founded three companies, NetGravity (IPO), Rocketship Public Schools (12k students) and Zeal (sold 2018).
This is always an intense time for my k12 companies. Back to school starts August 1 and lots of people make decisions about their schools, tools, enrichment, and lives in August. So this Dunce Deals goes out to all of you working your behinds off to improve the lives of children.
With many vocational schools as portfolio companies, I have spent a lot of time trying to understand both consumer and company behavior around non-traditional job applicants. In my opinion, if we don’t figure out how to massively increase the pool of applicants that can succeed in tech, we are going to cripple the growth of tech because it is talent-limited, and we are going to continue to exacerbate the haves and the have nots in our society. This week’s post is a message to tech companies, especially founder/CEO’s who have the best shot at putting us on the right course.
OK, based on the demand from a couple of weeks ago, it is clear that having the ability to easily co-invest in Dunce deals would be a big value add. The first deal we are going to syndicate is for GetSetup. Thanks so much to Brian Nichols, who is going to put these syndicate together. His team wrote an awesome memo and he did a great interview with Neil the founder. We only have a $500k allocation, but it’s going to be one of the iconic companies this decade so you may want to take a small piece. To join the Dunce Deals syndicate on angellist and get notified of our syndicates, click here. And here is the link to the GetSetup syndicate, hope you enjoy and participate!
Next week, we are working on getting the lancify syndicate together. This is a bit unusual in that I haven’t invested yet, but the demand was high, so we are going to make this syndicate happen.
There is some danger that Dunce Deals turns into a continuous feed of Cohort Based Course competitors over the next year. I have about a dozen coming in every week right now. Maven defined the category and is the early leader, but every bright founder seems to be looking at an angle to enter the space. I am pretty excited about this area, I will admit. Mostly, I am so happy to see Lambda School’s methods applied to areas beyond code. It was truly a magic moment for me a few years ago when I stepped virtually into a Lambda classroom and watched a cohort of eight students work on a coding project together on Zoom and slack. The richness of the exchanges, full of emotion and thoughtfulness, made it clear to me that learning could happen online in small peer groups this way. Now Maven, Reforge, and many others are applying this technique to a huge number of new learning situations.
Description: Clustered is a course builder and facilitation app that provides course creators with everything they need to offer premium, live group courses at scale.
Founder: Rotem Carmely
Current Dunce Investment: No
What I really like about clustered is that they went mobile-first. My guess is that for some types of classes, mobile is going to be the winner. If I am taking a cooking class from my favorite YouTuber, it’s probably better to have this on my phone in the kitchen than finding space for my laptop.
Master Me Up
Description: Master Me Up provides accessible online business training so that business owners and managers in Hispanic SMBs can quickly and efficiently upskill while continuing to make an impact in their communities.
Founder: tomas pando
Current Dunce Investment: No
One of the other areas that I love is focused MBA alternatives. Folks like Section4 and AltMBA have done a great job at slicing off segments for whom an MBA takes too much time and money in the corporate world. Master Me Up is going after LatAm and other Hispanic SMBs around the world.
Description: Clickto is the Cohort-Based Learning platform for enrichment programs, training centers, and more.
Founder: dotan tamir
Current Dunce Investment: No
Surprise! Another CBC platform! What I like about ClickTo is that Dotan is building this as a platform, not a marketplace, just focusing on creating a great private-labeled experience for creators and brands to run their cohort based course. They have folks like Nickelodeon running their courses on them.
Here is the complete list of Dunce Investments:
Mystery Science - purchased by Discovery Education 2020
Swing - on-demand talent for the education market
Epic! - the best children’s books digitally for every classroom and every home
Kunduz - the leader in test prep for Turkey
Erudifi - loans for students going to vocational schools and higher ed in SE Asia.
Outschool - the best marketplace of live small classes for your k-12 student
Juni - Coding, Math, and English instruction 1-1 and small group
Lambda School - teaching students to code and get jobs in great companies
LingoKids - English learning for young children
Padlet - a modern document creation and sharing platform
TinyCare - micro-daycare centers
SV Academy - teaching students tech sales and getting them jobs in great companies
Sora - a better high school, completely online
Prenda - micro-schools to unlock your child’s talent
Galileo - the first online world school
Beanstalk - live classes for young children
GetSetup - live social network for seniors
Primer - live academic and social network for homeschoolers
Contra - social network for freelancers
Fourthrev - run digital bootcamps for universities focused on in-demand job skills
Marketerhire - marketing experts from that you can rent
Abwaab - the best test prep platform in MENA
Supernow - live classes and clubs for elementary and middle schoolers
Maven - the leader in cohort-based courses
Prendea - live classes and social network for students in LatAm
Kritik - peer grading for higher ed
Major League Hacking - hackathons and fellowships for university students
Reforge - live classes on Growth for upskilling professionals
Synthesis School - learn problem-solving by playing video games
AI Camp - AI for ages 13-18 from Stanford pHDs.
Bindr - Silent study groups online.
The Explanation Company - Google for kids.
Omella - payments for schools, non-profits, and small businesses.
Geniebook - a personalized learning platform for Singapore and Vietnam.
Hallo - cohort-based language learning.
StudyStream - Silent study groups online.
This newsletter is not an offer to sell securities nor a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. I am not acting as your financial advisor and I urge you to consult your own advisors before making any investment decision.