At the first-ever Venture Capital in Education Summit, at the end of May, Peter Campbell of private equity firm Generation Partners told the crowd, "A theme you hear from the President is that in the next 12 years, we have to retake our primacy as the most educated nation on earth. As an investor, that's the kind of trend you want to align yourself with." Dozens of investors in attendance seemed to agree. Here are five for-profit education startups that are attracting attention.
Princeton Review founder John Katzman's team has built a Facebook-like multimedia social-learning platform for the online Master of Arts in Teaching program at the University of Southern California. Students use Flip cameras to make their own video content.
Jon Bischke founded this platform for live video teaching and tutoring. He started two earlier education-related companies: 2000Tutor.com Network, which he sold in 2001, and LearnOutLoud.com, billed as the Internet's largest catalog of educational audio, video, and podcasts.
A live online multiplayer game providing test prep is the latest startup from Farbood Nivi, who was the Princeton Review's National Teacher of the Year in 2001. Nivi has gotten more than $10 million in funding from Benchmark Capital and Integral Capital Partners.
"The social Web for education," funded by Facebook's Founder's Fund, is using social media to help colleges with recruiting, retention, and alumni relations. Cofounder and CEO Michael Staton is a former high-school teacher who built Facebook's Courses application.
People at the Venture Capital in Education conference were talking about this "adaptive learning engine" from Kaplan test-prep vet Jose Ferreira. It promises to customize content for each student, down to the concept level, with integrated assessment tools.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.