Dunce Deals #29 - SiliconCFO, Kalam Labs, and Lernico
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).
Last week I drove to San Francisco for a day of meetings. It was the first time since Covid started that I had done what I used to do several times each week. It helped me to put remote work into perspective personally. First of all, I had four meetings in six hours, because it takes half an hour to move around between meetings, and then when you have a meeting, you meet for an hour to justify that movement. It also took me an hour each way to get up and back from San Francisco, so boom eight hours. On Tuesdays, I have fourteen meetings in seven hours, so from an efficiency standpoint, Zoom wins. But, of course, for my founders and co-investors that I work with all of the time, spending time in person really helps with our relationships. So what is the right amount of in-person time to spend with people once this all ends? I will update you with my single data point and perspective as I do this more. For now, once a month trips to SF seem justifiable.
This week I wrote about an issue that keeps coming up in my portfolio. Founders are typically very serious about the academics on their platforms, much more so than their students. The ones that have really succeeded have found a happy medium between pure academics and fun. I called the piece ‘Are you building a library, a coffeehouse, or a bar? ‘
Description: A marketplace for fractional senior execs, starting with CFO's.
Founder: jacob sheldon
Current Dunce Investment: No
Notes: Fractional execs is an idea that goes around a lot. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could have 10 hours a week of a CFO. Clearly, fractional usage of other high-skill folks like marketers on MarketerHire is completely on fire. Will this happen with execs? I think covid and remote work could make that happen. Series A-C companies have a lot of awkwardness with execs because if they are growing fast, they blow through the group size that exec has managed previously in the first year and then they are over their head. Fractional solves that as you keep switching folks and scaling, and fractional remote removes a lot of friction. Let’s see if this is finally the time for this idea.
Description: Live streamed games teaching science
Founder: ahmad faraaz
Current Dunce Investment: No
Notes: Queue the YC Summer21 companies :) If you are ok paying seed prices for pre-seed metrics, there are always some amazing companies in the batch. Kalam pushes down that same path as Synthesis and Ender, using games to help create strong motivation. If you read my blog piece this week, starting with a “bar” (i.e. a 10 year old’s equivalent, a video game) is a pretty good way to drive acquisition and motivation.
Description: Maven for LatAm
Founder: yasaman rajaee
Current Dunce Investment: No
Notes: Maven for X is not going to end any time soon, and LatAm has some of the biggest influencers in the world, HotMart in Brazil has been a huge win in the earlier MOOC creator space, and so CBCs in LatAm seem like they have a good shot. Yasaman is very impressive, she has thought a lot about how to make Lernico’s courses great.
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
CoLearn - K-9 virtual unschooling that’s better than free.
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.
I would love for you to follow me on twitter @jwdanner or read my medium posts medium.com/@johnwdanner